Behind the Brand: Affordable, Ethereal Bridal Gowns by Katie May
No one understands the modern bride like Katie May Neu, the designer and founder of Katie May Bridal and the Nordstrom-exclusive capsule collection Noel and Jean. Her entrée into the bridal industry happened in 2012 when her sister was getting married and couldn’t find the right dress to fit both her budget and her style. Katie May decided to make her sister’s fairy tale come true and designed the perfect gown for her. “For months I just walked around the Los Angeles garment district, searching. I found a patternmaker and I was able to find beautiful silk and the finest lace—I was just figuring it out,” says the designer. The gown her little sister wore on her wedding day is the now highly sought-after Princeville gown, a piece that defined the Katie May Bridal aesthetic. It launched a new career for the designer, whose sexy signature style appeals to soon-to-be brides searching for a gown that’s current, affordable and backless.
Katie May’s Noel and Jean capsule collection for Nordstrom maintains her feminine aesthetic, but what excites the designer most is its affordable price point. “It’s an opportunity to make bridal more accessible,” she says of the capsule. “I wanted to create gowns that won’t break the bank and are still really special.”
Here’s what else she had to say about these exclusive designs and what’s in store for the future of bridal.
Describe the Noel and Jean woman in three words.
Feminine—she’s beautiful and wants to accentuate her form. Sexy—she’s not scared to turn heads and she’s confident in her skin. Bold—she doesn’t want to look like an ordinary bride.
What’s most important to her when shopping for bridal?
Today’s bride is savvy. She’s spending a lot of time on the computer—getting inspired on Pinterest and Instagram and just searching to see what’s out there. She’s on trend, strict with her budget and she knows quality when she sees it. She’s grown up scouring through choices online and doesn’t settle for just anything.
She wants a brand she can trust.
Exactly. Noel and Jean as well as Katie May Bridal are known for consistent, luxury quality and gorgeous, modern designs. We’ve been able to produce the highest-caliber bridal and bridesmaid gowns because of our quality assurance—every piece that leaves our showroom, or is tried on in Nordstrom’s Wedding Suite, has been proudly made in Los Angeles with the utmost care and attention to detail.
Tell me about the designs.
With the Noel and Jean pieces, we wanted to create styles with a modern twist and that are relevant to today’s trends, but are still considered timeless and elegant. Noel and Jean takes the Katie May Bridal sexiness to a slightly heightened level and really accentuates the female silhouette and highlights curves. And all four gowns are backless.
We spend a lot of time patterning each dress correctly and picking the correct fabrics to ensure that each gown is going to hang well on each bride and be flattering above all. Each dress in the capsule has been produced by the same artisans who have created the Katie May brand.
What is exciting you most in bridal right now?
When I first started, what made my product special and what I became known for were backless, ultra-fitted lace gowns—which, at the time, really weren’t available to brides below a certain price point. I offered mine at more reasonable prices, which helped me make a name for myself in the industry.
But bridal has changed dramatically in the last five years, and I think it’s great for brides. There’s so much more choice—in style, but also in value. It’s what has allowed me to create Noel and Jean by Katie May and to open more doors for the nontraditional bride.
What advice would you offer soon-to-be brides shopping for their perfect dress? It’s an emotional decision.
It certainly is. I always tell brides to take notes and a lot of pictures—really digest the information. Opinions are helpful, but they can also impair your ability to make the best decision for you, so know when to invite opinions and when it is best not to.
Also, know the difference between something you like right now and something that aligns with your true style. Your dress can be on trend without being “trendy.” Take your time with the decision and then make sure that whatever you pick is aligned with your style, through and through.
What does the future hold for Noel and Jean?
We’ll keep listening to our customers and staying ahead of the game, offering her exquisite products at a price point that she can be excited about. That’s how we plan to continuously grow this category with Nordstrom, by offering more style range, adjusting and redesigning to always offer her what she’s looking for.
SHOP: Noel and Jean