Designer for stars sets up business in Ventura

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
April 1st, 2011

When Amy Michelson moved from Los Angeles to Ventura last summer, the bridal gown and celebrity evening wear designer wanted to expand her brand and business so she could work from her new home.

This spring, she branched out to become a personal style and bridal style expert, as well, launching an online style consulting business called Your Private Designer Eye.

Using the Internet, Skype and Facebook, plus other online marketing and communication tools, Michelson mentors brides through their wedding style decisions involving their gown, jewelry, shoes, hairstyle, cake, wedding décor and other wedding issues. Her online business offers personalized wedding and style help and access to a wider range of style options than what is available in stores. She advises brides by taking into consideration features such as their hairstyle, coloring and facial shape, and she is developing an e-newsletter to send to her contacts and clients.

"It's available for non-brides, as well — real women. It's completely personalized," said Michelson, who also offers shopping tips. Clients can sign up for as many online sessions as they want or begin with a basic style assessment.

"I usually charge $275 for a private online intake and celebrity consultation but as a special through the bridal month of June, for Ventura residents (bride or non-bride) it's $197, which includes Amy's intake photo analysis, one-on-one personal Skype or phone session," she said in an email.

The online business is the next logical step for Michelson, 51, who moved to Ventura from Sherman Oaks. She is engaged for the first time, and her fiancé lives in Ventura, so she said it made sense for her to move.

She joked that she was "always the designer, never the bride," and, of course, she will design her own wedding dress.

"I know what I'm wearing, but that's a secret," Michelson said.

"I'm really interested in living here in Ventura and in this lifestyle. It's more who I am. I love living here. Ventura suits me and my sensibility and my style; it's beautiful, but it's relaxed," she said.

Michelson made her name and style known in the fashion world for her bridal gowns that have an elegant, sleek and breezy style mixed with a bit of old Hollywood glamour and a casual flair, and as an evening dress designer for celebrity clients. She's designed red carpet gowns for a long list of actresses and singers, including Halle Berry, Eva Longoria, Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Kim Basinger, Gladys Knight, Michelle Pfeiffer, Salma Hayek, Geena Davis, Anita Baker, Sandra Bullock and Marie Osmond.

She made many celebrity connections yeas ago while working as an actress and fashion designer, becoming comfortable with glamour, high style and working with stars.

Her design style evolved much the same way. In the mid-1990s, Michelson had a young, hip, assistant who was getting married but didn't like the fancy wedding dresses being shown at the time.

"We ended up buying her a vintage Greta Garbo-style dress and reworking it. A light bulb went off in my head. I said, 'Nobody's doing that look for bridal, and it's classic and timeless, sexy and feminine.' "

Destination and beach weddings were becoming popular at the time, too, creating a market for Michelson's style of bridal dresses, which she describes as "sexy in an appropriate way, effortless, not fussy, fluid, flowing, elegant, chic, classic and timeless."

Michelson said her style just happens to appeal to celebrities.

"I didn't seek them out. They liked my wedding gowns, and we transferred them into color for the red carpet," she said. "Movie stars need to pull focus. They need to show up on the red carpet and look perfect. A bride is in the same position. She is going to be photographed, and she needs to feel confident."

Michelson's dresses have been featured on many wedding, style and reality TV shows such as "Say Yes to the Dress," "She's Got the Look," "Entertainment Tonight," the "Today" show, "Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition," "Hollywood Insider" and "Wedding Day."

Next, she will appear as herself on the reality show "Brides of Beverly Hills," with the episode airing later this year. Her gowns also have graced the covers of wedding magazines including Brides, InStyle, Modern Bride, Inside Weddings, Brides UK, Bridal Guide and Los Angeles Magazine, and her formal gowns have been shown in other magazines such as Vogue and People.

She initially studied fine art at Bard College in New York, but she didn't want to be a painter. She liked fashion and had a summer job one year on Long Island, where she met a lot of people working in New York's garment district.

"I said, 'I can do that,' " she said. "I came from an artistic family. My grandmother was a painter and my mother was an art teacher. I was supported in being creative."

She transferred to Parsons School of Design in New York City and earned a bachelor of arts in fashion design. She moved to Hollywood to work for a designer and also as an actor, appearing on the TV shows "Falcon Crest," "China Beach" and "Head of the Class," and in the John Belushi biographical film, "Wired," among others.

 By:Amy Bently