In the fashion industry, the idea of inner beauty has often been underrepresented. Recently, brands have been paying more attention to a woman’s inner worth and there has been less focus on outward appearances. This is a welcome trend.
Some designers are pioneers in this area. Levana Eidlisz, founder and designer of Powder Couture, is a designer who champions inner beauty. Powder Couture is based on the idea that a gown or dress should be a reflection of a woman’s personality and lifestyle and a true form of self-expression. This idea influences her custom creations, ready-to-wear line, bridesmaid dresses, and eveningwear.
Powder Couture gowns and dresses are available for purchase online at www.powdercouture.com. (Use code POWDER10 for a 10% off sitewide (online only) discount which expires in one month.) Women, teens, and girls can also try on Levana’s vast array of gowns at her boutique located in Monsey, NY. The brand offers a curated collection of high-end designer gowns that can be modified to a client’s specifications.
Michal Goldfein: What inspired you to start your brand, Powder Couture?
Levana Eidlisz: I was always really passionate about fashion. I can recall sitting in third grade drawing with colored pencils. I didn’t think at that time that I would be able to have a career in fashion – I didn’t see it as an option to work in the industry and make gowns. In university, I went for an unrelated degree, but I was able to minor in fashion at FIT.
After graduating, I decided to make my own dress for [a friend’s] wedding. I said to myself, “Wow, I loved the end result, and it was pretty easy and enjoyable.” I started to make gowns for other friends’ weddings, and slowly I began to make dresses for other people. Someone then approached me to be an assistant designer for a womenswear brand that sold dresses to Bloomingdale’s and Saks.
As an assistant designer, I really learned so much, from fitting to creating to patternmaking. I also learned about merchandising and production. Afterwards, I went on to be a childrenswear designer. When I got married, I went back to gowns and I designed the gown for my wedding and my sisters’ gowns as well. I absolutely love designing gowns, and I am so thankful that I get to do what I love every day. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband who told me to find a location, go to shows, and pursue my dream.
Do you feel it was harder growing up in a Jewish community to break into the design world?
I’ve never seen my religion as an obstacle in my career path. I have an uncle who sold dresses, and I’m originally from France, where “Le Sentier,” the main fashion wholesale hub in Paris, is mostly Jewish, much like the Garment District in Manhattan. It might be a bit more unconventional, but the fashion community has some strong Jewish ties, and by staying true to who you are, you can really make it work nicely.
You grew up in Montreal, Canada and Paris, France. How did that shape who you are today and the direction you have taken with your brand?
In terms of fashion, living in both those places ingrained in me the strong European influence you can see in my designs. Living in several places, I didn’t want to be a chameleon and change who I was along with where I was. It’s always been very important to me to stay true to myself and stick to my roots and beliefs. I like to think of myself as a strong individual – I have a clear vision of what I want to show to the world and create, and I always want to stay true to that.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your gowns?
The aesthetic of my gowns is timeless and beautiful. Since I was born in Paris and then moved to Montreal when I was 14, French style and culture definitely shaped me and my aesthetic. The French woman is always classic and elegant. If you Google “French style,” you will see that they love taking a few pieces that are classic, and reusing, mixing, and matching them, with maybe an added accessory.
For my gowns, my goal has always been to create elegant, simple silhouettes that can be worn again. My gowns are not over-the-top in terms of design. When I make a gown, I always tell people, “It needs to be visually pleasing, have one focal point, and it needs to have a clean silhouette.” That means that if you want beading on the waist, I’m not also going to put beading on the hem and on the sleeves. With gowns, there has to be one special, eye-grabbing feature.
My goal is to have people focus on the person wearing the gown. You can really tell when a person wears a gown that is not too overwhelming or distracting with too many elements of design or embellishment – then the individual shines through. One can truly say, “This dress represents who you are and your face is glowing in it.” Growing up, if you asked my grandmother, “Is my dress pretty?” her response would always be, “Your dress is gorgeous, but it’s the hanger that is even more beautiful.” The person inside the dress is what is important – inner beauty is vital.
You have a comprehensive collection that includes custom gowns, designer dresses, rental pieces, and a ready-to-wear collection. Can you describe the different aspects of your brand and how you cater to different clientele?
There’s an order to the madness; people come to me looking for very different things. They will say, “It’s for my son’s bar mitzvah, but I’m making a small event” or “It’s for my daughter’s wedding and she is my only daughter – the gown must be one-of-a-kind.” We have designers that we work closely with who are top-of-the-line boutique designers. They make everything modest for us so we do not need to build anything up to make it modest, and these are designer, couture pieces.
My custom gowns are very high-end, and I usually bring in about one to three samples. I can remake those samples in different colors and sizes and play around with the silhouettes. For example, if someone likes the top of one gown and the bottom of another, we can mix and match them to make the client satisfied.
My latest collection is the ready-to-wear collection. The price point for that collection is more affordable, but you are still getting high-end, quality garments. I’ve had clients come in and say that they have a friend’s, aunt’s, or cousin’s wedding, but they are not looking for something that is heavily beaded, puffy, or expensive. Most of these pieces are under $1,000 and are pieces that you can wear again to another occasion.
Another aspect of our collection is our rentals. The rentals work well for children and teens. We really play around and have great innovative designs for children and teens. We also do custom gowns as well, so if the client has her own idea for a gown, we can work from that as well. We create for everyone. It’s such a good feeling when you are able to pinpoint someone’s personality and have their gown or dress reflect that.
I love an elegant piece that has one statement-making detail. Your Gabrielle gown with pearled sleeves in black is so chic and timeless. What was the inspiration behind this piece?
This gown was originally a custom gown for a client. The original was puffier, all black, and very simple. In a collaborative decision, we decided to add a unique element to the gown, so we added the pearled sleeves, which the client loved. Someone else saw it and wanted it made in navy, and then by word of mouth this dress became very popular. I always loved the sleeve detail, and I took that detail and applied it to a simpler silhouette for my ready-to-wear collection. The gown does not have a waist and has full princess seams, making it very flattering on all silhouettes and sizes. Devora Schwartz in the music video for Bonei Olam wore it – it fit her like a glove, and she looked beautiful. Eishes Style also wore it and it looked absolutely fabulous.
What are your favorite gowns from your collection?
It’s so hard to choose! As time goes on there are pieces that I continuously gravitate towards. One of my favorites is from my Powder Collection, and it’s called the Black and White High-Waist gown. It’s from the higher-end collection I design. It’s a simple crepe skirt that’s high-waisted and features a beautiful French lace top and scallop on the neck. It has a pleated tulle ruffle across the bust and a small beaded detail and ribbon on the shoulder. It’s light and dramatic but not over-designed.
My second-favorite is from my Gabrielle Collection. It’s the Porcelain print, with blue flowers on a white background. I created the print, chose the colors, and picked the fabric. It encapsulates the entire collection and reminds me of my childhood summers in the South of France. This gown has a Mediterranean and soft vibe.
From the other designers that I carry, I love the Rick Rhe dresses – his pieces are so soft, feminine, and timeless.
The Gabrielle Porcelain Print Gown is fresh, and I think it’s ideal for a beach, garden, or event hall ceremony. To what kind of event or occasion do you see someone wearing this gown?
I see this gown as timeless and classic, so it can be really worn anywhere. I also created it in short and long so it can be worn to weddings, a cocktail event, as a bridesmaid gown, or for a sister-/aunt-of-the-bride. It has a softness and a unique pop to it that enables the gown to be quite versatile.
Your Gabrielle ready-to-wear Black Gown with Sleeves, Pearls, and Side-Pleated Insert has such unique details. I especially love the left side insert in pleated tulle. What inspired this piece from your collection?
I actually created something a little similar for my sister’s wedding last year. It had a sleeve with a huge pleated insert. I took the idea of the pleated insert and placed it on the side of the bodice to add intrigue to a simple silhouette.
All your ready-to-wear dresses go up to size 16 – for example, the side ruffle crepe dress, which is elegant and suited for any size. You also make custom gowns and dresses that can be done in any size and style. How important is size inclusivity?
I don’t see women as sizes and I just want to make women feel beautiful. I see women’s different personalities, and I want their inner beauty and personality to shine through when they are wearing my gowns. It’s very hard when someone sits there and looks beautiful but they say, “I just need to lose weight.” In that moment, I am thinking, “You don’t need to lose weight – you can look beautiful in a gown if we find the right silhouette.” I don’t mind making any size, as long as the woman feels beautiful in what she is wearing.
I also try to place embroidery and cut the bodice at different angles to draw the eye inward and highlight the most beautiful parts of a woman’s body. For example, my Gabrielle Navy Pleated Chiffon and Lace Gown has lace cutouts on the sides of the waist, so it really brings in your waist and creates a flattering look. That gown also goes up to size 16.
Can you describe the custom gown service you provide?
There are two types of people who will come in and request a custom gown. Some women want to change around the color but don’t want to make a unique, one-of-a-kind gown for themselves. They prefer to do semi-custom, where we take something in the store and modify it for them. Then you have clients who have a vision and inspiration. I am so happy to sit down with a client and hear their ideas, and I will sketch things for them, play around with the colors, show them swatches against their skin, and we will really create that vision and make a dress from scratch.
Nowadays, women and men are accomplishing so much, regardless of their age. Do you think that age should define a woman’s style?
Never! I think that age should never define your style but that your personality should dictate style. Some older women have a fun, outgoing, and bold personality, while some younger women have a more low-key personality. It really is about the individual wearing the gown.
What does modesty mean to you, and how do you create a balance between style and modesty?
For me, it’s always been about design first and modesty second. Modesty isn’t an afterthought; I would never design a garment and then stick on a shell underneath. I want a person to see our gowns and say, “Wow, that gown is so special and beautiful” and then do a double-take and say, “Oh, my gosh, and it’s modest too!” At my brand, style and modesty go hand in hand. A woman should always look and feel gorgeous while at the same time sticking to her principles of modesty.
Do you think that if a woman feels great in what she is wearing that it can positively affect her self-confidence?
Self-confidence is the first step to a woman feeling and looking her best. Women need to accept themselves as they are. That is not going to come necessarily from getting a nice dress, so when women stand in my store, I try to focus on their inner beauty and their personality. I try to see what we can take out, what’s on the inside, and use that as a springboard for their dress or gown. Gaining self-confidence is lifelong work, and it first comes from accepting oneself. Start by telling yourself that you are beautiful and a person of worth, and if you can’t do that, then at least tell that to the women around you.
What would you like women to know about Powder Couture that they may not be aware of?
My goal is to reveal clients’ inner beauty, and I try to offer many different silhouettes and fabrics to cater to different clientele. We offer custom services and carry samples in bigger sizes so that anyone can try them on.
What are your goals for the future of your brand?
I have been working hard on our website, where you can find the majority of our designs and collections. I have also started selling our ready-to-wear collection, Gabrielle, to other stores. I really want to reach more people, and to bring beauty further in the modest world. I want to show women that beauty can be about being yourself, unrestricted.