Never was there a reality television show with a more apt name than Randy Knows Best. (Bad Girls Club is close, but they aren't very clubby.) A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and the former fashion director at Kleinfelds in New York, since 2007 Randy Fenoli has served as fashion expert and bride whisperer on TLC's Say Yes to the Dress, eventually spinning off his charming yet on-point wedding advice on three other bridal reality shows.
Bridal Extravaganza Show
Jan 10 & 11
George R. Brown Convention Center
This weekend Fenoli is the special guest star at the Bridal Extravaganza Show, a massive two-day annual event that gathers 350 vendors, 700 displays, and 17,000 future brides and grooms. He talked to Houstonia in advance of his appearance about his journey to fashion, his favorite wedding trends for 2015 and how an engaged couple can navigate the world of weddings without losing their minds.
Houstonia: Tell me a little bit about the difference between bridal shows like this and what we see at Kleinfeld on Say Yes to the Dress.
Randy Fenoli: The brides that come to Kleinfeld, they're going to be the brides that have bigger budgets. They fly in because [Kleinfeld] carries more expensive brands. Anywhere between New York and LA you have the real brides where the average price for a wedding dress is $800 to $1,000, which most people don't know. At Kleinfeld the average dress is $2,500 to $3,500, up to $45,000.
So brides who are looking for a more practical wedding, does that mean they can still find a dream dress at that price?
Definitely. Today there is such a saturation of bridal gowns and designers in all price points and styles and looks. A bride really can find anything she's looking for in any price point—not a silk gown from a designer at that price point but something that looks like it in synthetic. Synthetics are looking better now, all the time they're getting better at imitating those fabrics. Synthetic lace, beading, it's all much better than it used to be.
What will you be talking about during your appearance?
A lot about my history, my past, and how I got where I am today. I'm not just a TV personality; I was a bridal gown designer for many years. I've been in the industry on all sides for 20 years, and I go through the process of how they should find their perfect wedding dress. It's a really simple process, the way I break it down—it's so much easier than what people think.
Which is worse when starting a wedding dress search: to come to an appointment with a very specific idea or with no idea what you want?
I think both can be challenging. When you don't have any idea what you want, you have to start from scratch: ballgown, mermaid, trumpet, lace, beading ... it will take several appointments to figure it all out. If she knows too much sometimes she expects too much. Maybe something's not in her price point, or if she comes in looking for a designer, a salon can only carry so many dresses, so even if you carry the designer you're not going to carry the entire collection.
The best is to be somwehat prepared but with an open mind. I always compare it to finding a guy. You kinda know what you're looking for, but until you meet up you don't really know. It's the same with the dress: she comes in and doesn't want anything strapless or lace or beaded and ends up with a lace, beaded, strapless dress.
The challenge is you've never done it before unless you're Elizabeth Taylor. Thats why brides get so overwhelmed—it's uncharted territory. It's not like buying a pair of jeans where you know your waist size. That why you need a good salon and a good consultant.
Who should brides bring with them to their appointment? Based on watching the show it seems like who you bring can make or break your appointment.
This is where I give brides tough love. If you are mature enough to get married, you're mature enough for a bridal appointment. You need to communicate [with your friends and family] before you step in to the salon: "Look, you're my guest but I only want to spend $1,000 so please dont pull $10,000 dresses unless you are volunterring to pay the rest;" or "I'm really sensitive about my hips so please don't say 'Boy, that makes your hips look wide!'" Set some ground rules before and you'll have a much better appointment. Of course you want people to tell you if you look hideous in dress, and you know who those people are that you can trust, but they have to remember its about the bride being happy.
What bridal trends do you think we should leave in 2014, and what trends are you hoping to see more of this year?
I think really long trains we should leave behind, and most designers are because you're going to wear it down the aisle for half an hour and then have it bustled up all night, so it's really uncomfortable. Most brides now are more concentrated on their reception than the ceremony and a long train restricts you from being able to move about.
I feel like a long train only works if you have a second dress for the reception...
I'm the type of person that, unless you have lots and lots of money, one wedding dress should be enough. Most weddings happen in a hotel setting so when you're done with the ceremony to change into the second dress you have to go up to the elevator, powder your nose, change into the dress, change jewelry, put on new lipstick, check your breath, chit chat, and use restrooms.... How long is a reception, four to six hours? Now you've missed an hour of it. You've got a limited amount of time and you're not spending it at the event, its not fair to your husband or your guests.
As for trends I like, I think anything that personalizes your wedding. Weddings are about tradition and they tell a story about your and your fiance, so I like anything that makes it more personal, unique and different.
I know you have a background in designing wedding dresses, are we going to see more designs from Randy Fenoli in the future?
You never know. I never say never to anything. I said I wouldn't be on reality TV and I've done four [shows] now. Right now there's nothing in the works, but never say never!