I was born and bred in Southern Ontario. My parents and grandparents all grew up in Toronto, so I have very strong ties to this city. I grew up listening to stories about the CNE in the 20s, when Maple Leaf Gardens was built and when my Mother took the inaugural ride on the subway. The day after school finished for the summer my parents would drive me to my grandparents' cottage in Muskoka and I would live there until school started in the fall. I try to bring this through in my brand ? with the photo shoots, which take place in cottage country, and the names of the collections on my website: Segwun, Algonquin, Muskoka, Niagara, and Hiawatha. My look is simple, classic and natural - I think it's a very Canadian look.
People are attracted to my collection for its natural beauty and comfort. Each gown we create is entirely reverse-stitched and fully lined in silk, so the fabric touching the bride's skin during the most important day of her life is as fine and soft as the fabric her dress was crafted in - she could literally wear it inside out if she wanted to. Brides always comment on how our gowns are 'real gowns,' not costumes.
Do You Remember the Day You Decided to Design?
There was never one day when I started designing. I have always been creating things. I do remember the inspiration for designing wedding gowns. The first job I got when I graduated from fashion school was to make my brother's fiancé's gown. Everyone loved it and started asking me to make gowns for them, and it just grew from there.
There has never been a breakthrough, it has been a slow and steady climb to where I am now. I am thrilled with where the brand is today and I never imagined having this much success. I started Lea-Ann Belter Bridal 21 years ago with a $7,500 New Ventures loan from the government, which paid first and last month's rent on my first shop on Yorkville Ave. I still remember the day I moved in. I pulled up in front of the shop with my sewing machine and dress form in the back of my red and white pickup truck. I felt like I was in the Beverly Hillbillies.