Meet the designer behind Naomi Biden’s pre-wedding look

After working for designer Vera Wang for three years, Danielle Frankel debuted her own Atelier line of wedding wear in 2017 with a focus on hand-sewn garments and a keen eye for draping and intricate details. She quickly became a coveted label, dressing celebrities such as Zoë Kravitz, Julia Garner and Alexandra Daddario for their weddings.

Most recently, she designed the outfit that Naomi Biden, President Biden’s granddaughter, wore to her wedding rehearsal and dinner on Friday. Mrs. Biden will later marry Peter Neal on the South Lawn of the White House today.

“This is a national wedding that most Americans will see a portion of on their TVs or phones,” Ms. Frankel said. “How the White House is doing this wedding is going to be a global conversation. I don’t know if there will be another one in my lifetime. Knowing that I was a part of it feels historic and meaningful.”

In the past five years, Ms. Frankel, 33, has launched six collections, built an e-commerce component, designed pajamas and a jewelry line, and collaborated with Manolo Blahnik on a footwear collection. She also expanded her studio in New York City’s Garment District, taking up an entire floor.

We spoke to Ms. Frankel from her studio about working with Ms. Biden, the process of creating her pre-wedding look and her love of handmade garments. (As always, our conversation has been edited and shortened.)

We wanted a transitional look as the rehearsal portion is on the White House lawn and then she goes to dinner. There is a top bustier; a tailored jacket and trousers made from the same fabric; and a pleated tulle cape covered in lace flowers.

The bustier is a cotton base with offset boning and a draped tulle overlay. The cloak is made from a honeycomb fabric called Malfroy, a French tulle that has a draped, soft and flowing movement – almost like water, if water were a fabric. Each flower is made from three types of lace that are hand appliqued to the tulle and then pleated, capturing the floral motif in the fold. Pants and jacket are made from Italian silk wool. The wonderful thing about this fabric is that it has two sides, so we can use both the matte side that looks like wool and the shiny side that looks like silk.

After completing the sketches, we recreated Naomi’s measurements and body on a mannequin, which is part of our bespoke, handcrafted process. We’re basically recreating the character of that person. Then we built the foundation and interior of the garment by incorporating boning, cups and wire. On top of that we laid fabric that was shaped, cut and patterned onto the mannequin.

Over the next few months, a team of employees crafted the final garments, including personal adjustments and adjustments. The final steps were small but important design touches, like concealed buttons on the back of the bustier or an extra dainty veil so she could practice her husband-to-be exposing her. I did the draping myself because I’m very keen on pleating and not making it look too perfect.

Seven: the studio and operations manager; the pattern maker, who is responsible for the correct fit; the tailor; the sewing team, which consisted of a lace applique specialist and a stitching specialist; and myself.

The first look sets a visual tone for the wedding. And it’s the look that will spark the wedding events. It’s also an introduction to the person wearing the outfit and reflects who they are. It’s a sublime moment to have fun with because you’re not performing the actual ceremony; rather it is a rehearsal. You can play with trends more and there is a feeling of lightness and comfort because you are not sitting in your wedding dress.

This is a White House wedding, so respect the White House and our country, but also the sacredness of the wedding. We wanted to pay tribute to all of these components while showing who Naomi is, respectful but sophisticated with a touch of femininity.

She is young and cool. Wearing the cape and tulle is reminiscent of wearing a dress but has an ethereal quality that creates something grand and a sense of importance in that moment. For the rehearsal dinner, she swaps out the cape for the jacket, which has a more fitted, confident, clean look. We wanted to create another moment and move it into the evening.

It is a historical, cultural and celebratory White House event that is not political. The White House is the closest thing to the cultural glue that brings everyone together. Dressing someone from this family for a significant event in their life is a great honor as a designer. And it brings the wedding and fashion worlds together in a story that I’m proud to be a part of.

We are ethereal but bespoke. It is the combination of these two qualities. I’m very silhouetted which means my designs are sculptural. I am inspired by architecture, ceramics and 3D art. I’m also a very tactile designer, so I like textures – fuzzy, bony, spiky.

You are happy when you touch something strange and visually pleasing. That triggers an emotion in people, and I like to arouse it. When you look at what we did for Naomi, it’s very visual. I want guests to feel like they want to touch what we’ve created. This is part of the haptic experience. I create not only for the bride, but also for the guests.

We still believe in the art, engineering, quality and visual fit that creates an artisanal brand like ours. It’s the handcrafted, tactile details that make this type of garment spectacular. Offering a mix of handmade, hand-sewn and machine-sewn garments creates a more upscale product. If not, the garment tends to be flat.

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