Peter Dundas on designing Ciaras's one-of-a-kind wedding dress

In March, Roberto Cavalli designer Peter Dundas received a call from Ciara, a close friend and face of the brand. She was getting married to her fiancé, the football player Russell Wilson, and wanted Dundas would design the dress—in less than four months. While most designers would balk at such a challenge, Dundas was delighted. “I think its good to have a healthy pressure time wise,” the designer said, on the phone from Milan, where he is currently designing his Spring 2017 collection. “You stick more to your original idea, which I always think tends to be the best one.”

After four fittings that took place in three countries, he got the job done, and Mr. and Mrs. Wilson walked down the aisle on July 6th at a ceremony in an English castle. Here, Dundas describes how he created Ciara’s spectacular gown, why he loves when brides wear sleeves, and more.

What was the inspiration for Ciara’s wedding dress?
She told me wanted to get married in a castle, and that she and Russell were planning a fairytale wedding. That played a lot into the kind of shape we were worked on. She wanted to enjoy wearing the dress as much as possible, so I made it into something that transformed--there was a dress base and then there was a half skirt that went on top of it that we took off after the ceremony so she could move and dance. She looked a little bit like a Velasquez painting, so she just wore a simple cross to go with it.

It was so different from her typical look. How would you describe Ciara’s personal style?

She's an R&B star, so she dresses like a rock star.

Were there other wedding dresses that you were thinking of as the inspiration?
Not particularly, because I kind of think more about what I like myself with embroidery and things like that. Maybe a touch Grace Kelly, but just a touch.

The dress had such a classic aesthetic, like Grace Kelly’s.
Ciara didn’t want it to be too va va va voom. It was heavily, heavily embellished with embroidery, appliques, beads, layers of tulle… I mixed Italian baroque patterns with like flying birds, butterflies, French wheat patterns [a symbol of good luck], and their initials on the back. And it had sleeves. I like sleeves in general, and put them on a lot of my dresses. You don’t always want to have your arms on show, and when you cover them with sleeves, it's a nice way to allow you to focus more on the neck, the bust, and things like that. But Ciara’s also somebody who absolutely has a very strong faith, so it was a religious wedding and she wanted something that was appropriate for that.

Looking back, is there anything that you would have changed about the dress?
No, I wouldn't have changed a thing. I made the changes during the process, so there’s nothing left. That's what's so great about when you do couture pieces, you perfect it as you go along so by the time it's finished you've made the adjustments. Knock on wood I haven’t had regrets with any wedding dresses I’ve made so far. On the contrary, very often I find things that inspire me for future work.

What was the wedding like?
It was a great mix between music and sports, with friends and family as well. It was very intimate, and a lot of fun. The ceremony itself was incredible – there was live music, and candles everywhere. I cant remember who performed, but it was a friend of the couple. The pastor—you know, either they talk too long or they don’t talk enough, but I thought what he said was really nice and made you think, and the dinner afterwards was great. It was a really nice event. Earth Wind and Fire performed at the after party.

What was she like on the day of her wedding?
Incredibly calm, despite all the mini crises. She was calm, she was laughing, she was positive. At one point before she walked out, she took a breath but apart from that I saw her being calm all the way through the process. That’s the only side of her I’ve ever seen – just really really incredibly professional.

How long did it take to make Ciara’s dress?
We spoke about it right after my winter show, like early March? A month later I sent her some sketches and we reworked those a little bit. And then we had our first fitting in May when we were both in New York for the Met Ball. We did a second one in New York and then we did one here in Milan, and one in the UK.

Wow, that’s a really condensed timeline.
Yeah, it is. But you know I think its good to have a healthy pressure time wise. It's quite rare that I'd spend longer than that. The results aren't any different - embroideries take a certain amount of time, but then you can go forward, and you’re more focused when you have the date very much in mind. The only time I've spent a lot more time on it was when my sister got married and it was because I couldn’t say to her that we didn’t need so much time, so she forced me to start earlier but I don’t think it made any big difference.

Have you ever worked that fast before?
The first wedding dress I designed was for my cousin while I was still in school. It was a long bias-cut dress ‘30s style she looked great--and I completely underestimated the time it took, so I delivered the dress 14 minutes before the ceremony. I’ve gotten a bit better.