The creative director of Truvelle and Laudae has put bridal design on the map€”and brought Vancouver's fashion reputation with her.

Growing up, Gaby Bayona didn’t just lend a hand at her single mother’s custom dress shop; she picked up cheques, made bank deposits, set up accounts and was heavily involved in running the business from the age of 12 on (and would own it by age 18). She also learned how to sew and make patterns, and soon she started her first solo venture, the handmade, non-traditional bridal line Truvelle.

A lot has changed since Bayona stepped out into the entrepreneurial stage. For starters, she no longer works out of her apartment, and her signature minimalist chiffon-skirt gowns (which were turning half a million in profit by year two) are sold around the world—from the U.S. to Singapore—and have made it onto the pages of Flare, British Vogue, Elle UK, New York Weddings and more.

GET TICKETS TO THE WL DESIGNERS OF THE YEAR 2018 The Halsey, from the Laudae Numinous collection, pairs long bell sleeves in artful lace with flirty details like an open back, deep-V neckline and a sexy, hip-hugging fit. (Photo: Brian Van Wyk)

Five years in, the now-25-year-old creative director is running two bridal lines—in 2016 she joined her mother to launch eco-conscious Laudae, which celebrates unique laces and sexy silhouettes—and has clinched Western Living’s Fashion Designer of the Year title for the second time. “I can only imagine the sigh of relief after a young bride-to-be discovers Truvelle’s beauty and tasteful simplicity, aspiring to truly what a modern-fashion woman desires,” says DOTY judge Richard Simons, VP of Buying for Simons. On the surface, her meteoric rise seems as effortlessly cool as her non-traditional gowns, but Bayona laughs when she recounts her growing pains. “I just didn’t know about PST, but I’m never going to make that mistake again,” she says. But the self-described data geek researches hard and adapts quickly, pulling info  from retailers’ reports, sales numbers on the best-selling styles and sizes, and even feedback from one-on-ones with brides themselves.

Here, the Lupine, from Laudae, features a plush Spanish velvet bodice with a floral lace centre-slit skirt. (Photo: Brian Van Wyk)

In Truvelle’s 2018 collection, the Kim dress (one of eight new dresses named for special people in Bayona’s life) has a long train and gorgeous beaded Spanish lace, which is the direct result of requests from brides. With Laudae’s second collection, Numinous, Bayona reeled in the brand’s designs and gave the whole look a major edit. “There were a lot of ideas, a lot of colour, a lot of shapes and fits—but with Numinous it’s more focused, which I’m really proud of,” she says. “We really dialed in on what kind of shape people want—things that are a little bit more sexy.” So in addition to Laudae’s signature sweeping ornate lace and figure-hugging fits, the line grew to include elegant leg slits, eye-catching open backs and plunging necklines.

Truvelle’s 2018 collection, including this backless chiffon gown with a lace-illusion neckline, called the Julie, was inspired by and named after women on Bayona’s team. (Photo: Brian Van Wyk) All gowns are hand-sewn in Truvelle’s East Vancouver garment studio. From the Truvelle 2018 collection is Alix, an embroidered boho. (Photo: Brian Van Wyk)

In 2016, Bayona moved to her current 10,000-square-foot garment studio in Mount Pleasant, where everything is cut, sewn, manufactured and shipped within its walls. Controlling production is a big reason why they’ve managed to maintain that sub-$3,000 price point. Her team will hand-sew more than 1,500 dresses before the year is done.

Bayona has perfectly captured what it looks like to be a modern bride, but it’s just a part of why she loves heading into work every day. “Running a business is just as creative as designing a dress: you have an idea and you make it, but you can’t keep on adding things to that one dress without it becoming really overwhelming,” she explains. “You have to stop and move on to something else. Whereas with this business, that idea is ever-evolving. And for me that’s super-exciting, knowing I can keep adding to this idea, with all its possibilities.”

Watch this space, as Bayona is already working on her third bridal venture, expected to launch in 2019, which will be a whole new line of curve-focused silhouettes—but it doesn’t stop there. “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it, but I want to start a rooftop bar on top of Truvelle,” she says. “I know it needs to happen.” And if Bayona has anything to do with it, it will.   

“I really like elevating Vancouver and knowing that anything that we do that ends up getting worldwide notice is going to bring up the city that I love so dearly,” says Bayona. (Photo: Carlo Ricci)

2018 Designers of the Year ▸▸▸