Early Saturday morning on August 20, 2011, I stood in a cool, dimly lit room constructed of shimmering silver and crisp black rod-pocket curtains. With a white leather couch, a chair, a table of fresh pastries and a warm coffee pot, this backstage area served as the green room of Bridal Spectacular’s bridal show in Las Vegas’ Cashman Convention Center.
Sounds echoed from beyond the makeshift walls—high heels pacing along the concrete floor, laughter from brides mingling at the convention center entrance, and the grind of equipment as a few final touches were made to the stage’s lighting in preparation of Bridal Spectacular’s special 10:00 a.m. presentation. In the green room, I stood face-to-face with the presenter: star of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and renowned Fashion Director of Kleinfeld Bridal NYC, Randy Fenoli.
Dressed in a sharp gray suit, complemented by a raspberry-colored pocket handkerchief and a bright violet-and-raspberry necktie, Randy Fenoli had just stepped backstage. He had taken a leisurely walk around bridal show displays with Bridal Spectacular’s customer service coordinator, Laura Covington. Now as Randy settled in the green room before his presentation, he allowed me a full fifteen-minute interview.
He’d only slept two hours the previous night, due to a frightening storm that delayed his plane on the runway of an East Coast airport and a humorous encounter with his Vegas hotel’s zealous wake-up service. Nonetheless, Randy maintained high spirits. He invited me to help myself to the plate of pastries, and he introduced me to his manager, Dennis.
Then with a genuine smile and a strong sense of composure, he invited me to begin my interview. I began by asking him to please state and spell his name, a tick I’ve developed as an interviewer to ensure I get the facts right. Kindly, he obliged me. Then the real interview began.
Allyson: “Randy, first I just wanted to thank you so much for coming and joining us today at Bridal Spectacular.”
Randy: “Yes, thank you.”
Allyson: “So I was wondering: What does your role look like as the Fashion Director at Kleinfeld Bridal?”
Randy: “Well, I actually walk around the floor and work with brides. I really work for the bride. I don’t sell dresses. I don’t work on commission. … My position there really is to work with a bride, find out what her story is, how she wants to look, what her budget is, and help her find the perfect dress.”
Allyson: “Nice. Well, thank you so much for doing that for so many brides. It’s really inspiring.”
Randy: “I love doing it. Let me tell you, I love doing it!”
Allyson: “That’s exciting! … So how did you find yourself in this line of work?”
Randy: “I actually started sewing when I was nine years old. I got into my mother’s sewing machine and made her a dress, which she wore to work the next day. … I was raised on a farm, so that was the best way for me to get off the farm and out of the fields. So I started sewing. I went into costume design for about nine years, and became a hairdresser, make-up artist, and saved my money and went to school at F.I.T. [Fashion Institute of Technology], graduated and designed bridal for about fifteen years. I … ended up in New Orleans after 9/11, and then went through Hurricane Katrina and said, ‘Let me go back to New York.’ And this was a way for me to get back into the industry.”
Randy: “Because I think there’s enough designers out there. … I thought: There’s really no spokesperson for the bride. They’re either trying to sell her a dress, make her a dress, or sell her something. … I really just love being able to be that guide and that voice for her to stand up and make sure she feels confident in the choices she makes.”
Allyson: “Okay. Thank you. … You were talking about how you can be that spokesperson for the bride. What is it that goes into that process? … What does a bride need in order to say yes to the dress?”
Randy: “Well, the first thing that I notice with every single bride—the emotion that every single bride shares—when she walks through the door is anxiety. It’s common. It’s whether they’re anxious that they’re not going to find the dress … their budget won’t be big enough … how their family is going to behave … how their body looks. Everyone shares some form of anxiety. So it’s my position to kind of determine what that anxiety is and to relieve it, first of all. ‘Cause we’re shopping for wedding gowns. It should be fun!”
[Allyson laughs, nods.]
Randy: “So I try to make fun out of it, with it … to make her realize that there’s not much pressure involved. We’re going to find the right dress, and if we don’t, she’ll come back and we’ll do it another day or she’ll find it somewhere else. It’s out there. It’s just like the guy. He’s out there.”
Allyson: “Right. … So I heard you speak just a little bit there about looking into the body image issues that maybe a bride walks into the store with.”
Allyson: “Obviously, the wedding dress is something that’s going to be immortalized forever. So how do you go about recommending some advice to brides of how they can walk in and feel confident in that store, no matter the situation?”
Randy: “Well, I really believe that almost every single human being has body image issues. … I don’t think it’s any different for a bride who’s petite or a bride who’s full-figured or maybe tall. … So I think it’s my job to make them feel comfortable in their skin and to help them realize their own beauty. And I think that’s something that a lot of women don’t realize is that with the right dress, hair, make-up, and accessories, that every bride is beautiful. … Every single one of them has their own look, and their own beauty really comes through.” …
Allyson: “Thank you so much. I think that’s so great you’re able to support women in that.” …
To read the next part of Bridal Spectacular’s interview with bridal gown expert Randy Fenoli, please check back tomorrow for “Interview with Randy Fenoli: Part Two.”
Written by Allyson Siwajian © 2011
Photographs by Alex Mo Photography © 2011