When she was busy studying away at Sydney’s renowned Fashion Design Studio, Prea James had no idea she’d one day move into bridal design – but dang are we glad she did! She’s been serving up pure gold to relaxed modern brides in spades since she kicked things off in 2012 and the designer-extraordinaire-slash-creator-of-our-dream-dresses now heads up the hugely successful Prea James Bridal.

From humble beginnings crafting gorg gowns from home, Prea is now the proud owner of her very own flagship store (which is a downright dream to visit, fyi) and has her unique, modern yet timeless styles stocked in close to 30 stockists worldwide. We chatted to this brilliant lady about the evolution of her label, what it’s like to have her very own store and her top tips for gown shopping.

Let’s start with your flagship store. Exciting! It is exciting! We opened in May 2021, in a dream space in Sydney’s Paddington. It has always been on the cards for me – I roughly planned to open a flagship store in Sydney five years in and that is how it worked out. Time is going so fast, it will be one year soon enough and it has been so lovely having our first lot of PJB brides starting to get married.

Let’s go back to where it all began – what inspired you to create Prea James Bridal?
I studied fashion design and after graduating and working in the fashion industry for a short time, I then began working in bridal. I worked for four years at Karen Willis Holmes and I loved working with wedding dresses, which is so focused on quality fabrics and finishes compared to fast fashion. After leaving Karen’s on maternity leave with my son, I had been making dresses for friends and friends of friends, and I noticed a small gap in the market for more relaxed yet elegant and fashionable wedding dresses. I was creating custom gowns from home at the time and was asked by a store to create a small collection. It was only a five-piece collection but it did well and from there I just kept pushing. Two years on I had my first international stockist in Belgium and then it just kept growing from there.

Who is the Prea James bride and how has she evolved over the years? The Prea James bride is relaxed, modern, fashion-conscious and has a love of quality fit and fabrics. I can see she has evolved a little over the five years I have been doing this, but not strayed too far from her original ethos. I really try to create pieces that are wearable and timeless while still having a modern edge. We still have the Arielle gown from the very first collection, which brides love because she is so elegant and comfortable.

Why do you love what you do? Ahh, so many reasons! Firstly, working with brides who are so excited to be marrying their special someone is a very beautiful time. Brides are excited and it is very rewarding because it is generally the most special outfit they will ever wear. The industry is also incredibly supportive and we work with a majority of women in business, which is so inspiring! Our stockists in Australia and around the world are very special and have become like family.

What are your favourite materials and techniques to use? I don’t have any lace gowns, but I love working with lace because it is so easy to work with. Obviously, I love working with silks! They sew and press beautifully and catch the light like nothing else. You can truly see the quality with silk. It drapes and falls in a way only silk can. 

What trends are you loving in bridal gowns right now? Separates! More and more, our brides are wanting separates. It allows them to create their own look because we could have one top that can be worn with five different skirts. I also love (and know that our brides love) that they can get one skirt and two tops to create different ceremony and reception looks without having to purchase two full gowns.

What is your number-one tip for brides when dress shopping? Block out all the noise! I say this all the time but will keep saying it. It is your day, not your mum’s or sister’s or your best friend’s or stylist’s. When those women got (or get) married, they wore or will wear what they wanted – you need to be true to yourself because it only matters what you feel good in. If you feel good, you will look good! Of course, you can get some opinions, but only ask people who you know will support you and not push you into what they like. So many times we see brides feeling great in something and their guests say, “Oh no I liked the other one better,” and their heart sinks. Come on your own, if you can, at least to one of your appointments.

Talk to us about the price range of your gowns… Our civil ceremony collection falls mostly just under $2000. In our main bridal line, a full look starts from $3500 to $7000, with most between $4000 and $5000. 

And sizing? Our general size range is 6-18, though we have recently created a few styles in a size 22 for stockists. We offer split sizing, too, so if a bride is a 10 bust, 12 waist and 14 hip, we can make the dress in that split size. This doesn’t eliminate alterations but does help minimise them while keeping the integrity of the style.

Where can we find your stunning pieces? In our Sydney flagship, which carries all available styles, as well as a great selection at our four other Australian stockists. Internationally, the brand is available in the USA, Canada, the UK, Europe and Asia. 

We know it’s like choosing a favourite child… but can you name your all-time fave gown? It really is like choosing a favourite child! I think it is hard for me to go past Cara because I am such a T-shirt girl and it has been such a winning style – so many brides love her still!

Check out the rest of our interview with the fab Prea James in issue 35 of Hello May mag, available on our online store (along with plenty more back issues and wedding inspo).

CREDITS Photos Matt Godkin Earrings Christie Nicolaides via Prea James Bridal