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Wedding Designer Feature: Vatana Watters

If you’re looking for a dreamy, angelic-like gown that fits your vision and your budget, start searching for a Watters gown. Each gown is carefully pieced together with soft, flowy fabrics and beautiful embellishments in the most amazing silhouettes—it’s enough to make any bride swoon.

Now, Watters is partnering with her own mini-me to continue crafting gorgeous designs for years to come.

How It All Began

Vatana Watters was born in Thailand and moved to the U.S. at the age of 7. Her family moved around a bit—she went to school in New York City and Los Angeles and was totally inspired by both cities.

In 1985, Watters graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in L.A. and decided to move to Dallas to pursue her own business—her company is still headquartered there today.

Watters said Dallas was the ideal place to start a new business because of its southern hospitality and thriving fashion industry. Plus, it was central to L.A. and N.Y.C.

Watters spent her nights and weekends designing and producing bridesmaid dresses and worked at the Dallas Mart during the day. Her company started out with just a few handmade designs for family and friends.

Eventually, she started selling to local bridal salons out of the back of her car. By 1986, Watters was getting noticed but she relied heavily on “word of mouth” marketing and tried to make personal connections with her clients.

What made Watters stand out is that she went beyond the cookie-cutter styles for her gowns and realized there was a demand for well-designed special occasion dresses.

After landing a few local stores, she reached out to the big guns—Neiman Marcus. Watters pitched her line to the Neiman’s buyer, saying her designs pushed the envelope and were fresh and new. Neiman’s became the first national retailer to carry Watters’ designs. After creating bridesmaid dresses for nearly a decade, Watters was ready to move into the bridal space.

Getting into the Bridal Industry

Watters Spring 1989 bridesmaid collection Watters bridesmaid dress from the 80s

Watters early 90s bridal collection

Courtesy: dmagazine.com

When Watters looked at the bridal market in the 1990’s, she saw an empty space for affordable wedding dresses. She wanted to create something beautiful and unique, so in 1999 she launched her WTOO line with bridal gowns starting at $5,000.

But Watters soon realized the price tag was only affordable to the top five percent of the market, so she went after brides who wanted a designer dress within their budget. That’s when Watters began creating dresses for the everyday bride, styles ranging between $500-$1000, and found the sweet spot of affordability.

It wasn’t until 2003 when Watters created an upscale division of bridal and bridesmaid dresses, but still kept her gowns under $4,000.

Dramatic, versatile, comfortable and endlessly inspiring—these are just some of the words used to describe Watters’ designs. As CEO of her company, Watters says their focus is to know fashion, pick up on trends and understand how a bride’s wants and needs evolve.

All of her collections evoke romance, whimsy and unique designs full of embroidery, beading, lace and some out-of-the-box colors. Brides that choose Watters know they’re getting something gorgeously detailed and fun.

Her Empire Today

Fast forward to today, Watters’ dresses are still affordable (between $350-$7500) and the design aesthetics haven’t changed. All of her brands feature gowns in a variety of styles from flattering silhouettes to voluminous ball gowns.

There are four brands within the company: Watters, Wtoo, Willowby and By Watters—her latest brand that launched just last year. Today, you can find a Watters gown in major retailers and specialty stores worldwide, 36 countries to be exact.

Her online presence was also given a major boost in 2019 when her website was revamped with all-new logos, photography and select collections only sold at watters.com.

Vatana and Sydney Watters

Courtesy: dmagazine.com

There’s a key player on Watters’ staff that has taken her company to the next level—her daughter Sydney Watters Dunbar. Dunbar joined as Style Director in 2017 and has added millennial insight on how Watters can boost her business operations and appeal to more brides, especially in a digital age.

Watters said her daughter had a strong hand in launching By Watters—the brand focused on versatile, on-trend looks that work beyond a wedding day. The dresses are available for immediate direct-to-consumer delivery for brides who crave convenience and affordability at their fingertips.

Since Watters and Dunbar spend a lot of time together, they try to play off each other’s strengths, look ahead to the company’s future and encourage each other along the way. The mother-daughter duo also tries to step back and enjoy time away from the office.

They love to travel the globe together and use their adventures as a way to stay inspired. Both women go into their trips with an open mindset and immerse themselves in different cultures, often leading to inspiration in unexpected places—whether it’s New York, London, or Milan.

Around Dallas, Watters and Dunbar grab inspiration through multiple visits to the Nasher Sculpture Center, Wyly Theatre and SMU’s Meadows Museum. Watters says their brides are also a constant source of inspiration through their unique perspectives and it fuels their creativity even more.

Our Fave Watters Looks

Hawthorne gown from Watters Fall 2021 Bridal collection Wisteria gown from Watters Fall 2021 Bridal collection

Spruce gown from Watters Fall 2021 Bridal collection

Many of Watters’ designs are based on delicate silhouettes, and the designer definitely nailed an intimate floral vibe with her Fall 2021 bridal collection “Le Fleur”. The collection, hitting stores next month, balances delicate fabrics with romantic details.

Each gown above is less than $3,000 and crafted with thicket lace, dreamy embroidery and feminine accents. We seriously love all of them!

Moran gown from the By Watters collection Marmelade gown from the By Watters collection

Barton gown from the By Watters collection

Courtesy: watters.com

We couldn’t talk about the newest brand without showing off some of our fave styles. These ready-to-wear bridal gowns from the By Watters brand are just as stunning as the regular Watters bridal gowns and even more affordable!

The gowns are a great mix of sexy and romantic. We especially love the sweetheart tulle dress that will literally have you dancing in the street. The silhouettes on the other two gowns are super sleek and true to Watters’ usual designs.

Jordi gown from the WTOO bridesmaid collection Rue gown from the WTOO bridesmaid collection Isabella gown from the WTOO bridesmaid collection

Courtesy: watters.com

Don’t forget about the bridesmaids! These styles from the Wtoo bridesmaid collection are so fun and flirty. We’re swept up in the dramatic skirts, the sweet sleeves and gorgeous necklines. If we had to pick a favorite, it would be the Isabella dress on the far right in mint green. The flowy gown is super flattering and honestly, we’re a sucker for off-the-shoulder.

Tessa Gräfin von Walderdorff's custom Watters wedding dress

Bachelorette Jojo Fletcher in a Watters bridesmaid dress Vanderpump Rules' Brittany Cartwright's wedding party
Alison McCord's wedding dress on Madam Secretary Back of Alison McCord's wedding dress on Madam Secretary

Courtesy: parade.com, people.com, theknotnews.com, bravotv.com

A few celebrities have also chosen the Watters brands for their big day. When Paris and Nicky Hilton’s brother Barron said “I do” in St. Bart’s, his bride Tessa Grafin von Walderdorff wore a custom wedding dress by Watters. The New York City socialite looked stunning in a long-sleeve illusion ivory gown full of tulle and beading.

Reality TV stars are also familiar with Watters’ stunning bridesmaid dresses. Bachelorette star Jojo Fletcher walked down the aisle as a bridesmaid (pictured here with fiancé Jordan Rogers) in a rented pale apricot Watters gown.

Brittany Cartwright, star of Vanderpump Rules, chose blue off-the-shoulder Wtoo dresses for her 12-person bridal party—many of whom were fellow cast mates.

The series finale of the CBS drama Madam Secretary aired last December with a big wedding day and an even bigger problem. President Elizabeth McCord’s daughter Alison was preparing for her upcoming nuptials when she learned the wedding venue burned down.

In a quick change of plans, the White House courtyard was deemed the best (and fastest) place to get married on short notice. Alison’s gown was simply sweet with the lace halter neckline and delicate strands on the open back of the dress.

Surprise proposal at the Watters Spring 2019 bridal show Watters model Nicole Kaspar with her fiancé

Courtesy: theknotnews.com

She may not be deemed a “celebrity”, but we had to include this beautiful moment with Watters model Nicole Kaspar. At the end of the Spring 2019 Bridal fashion week show, Kaspar’s boyfriend Chad Stapleton got down on one knee in the middle of the runway.

Kaspar was completely surprised and the moment was totally adorable. The couple was super lucky that so many cameras were around to capture the proposal. (Just kidding, that was definitely planned and obviously the picture-perfect time to do it!)

We love all the creativity coming out of the Watters brands, with two incredibly smart and passionate women behind the company. With Dunbar already diving into the wedding world at the young age of 25, we can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for Watters.

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