Think high-romance, high-impact wedding dresses, think Dubai-based couturier Ezra Santos. With 90 per cent of his business now dedicated to bridal gowns, the Filipino designer-to-the-stars takes us inside his sparkling atelier of lace and crystals.

Pictures: cheap formal dresses

In the beginning

“The majority of my clients are modern, educated, well-travelled young ladies, mainly UAE nationals. During the first of our three appointments and four fittings, I’ll sit with the bride for an hour at least to understand her specific tastes, personality and imagined gown. I’ll then draw five sketches for her to choose from and make her dreams a reality. A dress takes between three to six months to make. Wedding dresses are my forte and my absolute favourite things to create.

Bridal couture trends

“It’s all about voluminosity, bouffant, big skirts and long trains. Of course, dentelle – French lace – is always classic, but trends in the past 20 years, since I began, have evolved to become far simpler and more elegant. Beadwork and embellishments are subtler, too, and we use a lot of transparent crystals so the gowns do not appear too blingy. The dresses may catch the light or sparkle, but in a softer way.

Delicacy is in the detail

“On any given gown we might use three types of dentelle. A dress’s structure may involve a petticoat, crinoline, a lace lining, a tulle layer and another layer of delicate lace on top – all of which I source from Paris. Every dress is unique and personalised. We’ll also do a sample of the gown’s beadwork for the bride to approve before we start. Favoured techniques are Indian embroidery like zardosi with ‘invisible’ thread.

Labour of love

“Anywhere from 25 to 100 people will work on one dress, by hand. That’s couture. Even 90 per cent of the stitching and construction of the gown is done by hand, because once the embroidery is complete, it’s impossible to put the dress on a machine. Trains and veils can also be personalised and I’ve had requests for interlocking initials of the bride and groom in the past.

Fashionable facts and figures

“We’re used to many brides sticking to a strict regime ahead of their wedding, and gowns might be altered drastically from a size 12 to a 5 in just three months. The minimum start price of dresses would be approximately Dh50,000 and a full lace dress might start from Dh80,000. We always work to a client’s budget and for some, who want the absolute best of everything, the money is often no problem. An average total wedding spend for some of my brides, inclusive of jewellery, tiara, the venue and flowers, could be Dh700,000 and above.

The grand entrance

“On the wedding day, we will personally deliver the gown, re-steam it and place it on a mannequin. When the time comes, our ladies will help dress the bride and tend to her until she walks down the aisle. Afterwards, we’ll clean and pack the dress to avoid any discolouration or damage.”

Ezra’s list

  • Celebrities he has dressed
  • Jennifer Lopez, Priyanka Chopra, Haifa Wehbe, Lady Gaga, Nicole Scherzinger and Paris Hilton.

    Angelina Jolie in a slinky 1920s-inspired gown.

    The wedding dress of Grace Kelly, the American actress who married Prince Rainer III of Monaco in April 1956.

    See more at celebrity dresses

  • Dream client
  • Favourite gown