Randy Fenoli has that Midas touch when it comes to filtering through the infamous bridezilla meltdowns to produce some tear-jerking moments in TLC’s hit series Say Yes to the Dress. Debashine Thangevelo chatted with him about the success of the series…
WHEN it comes to prepping for that big day, Randy Fenoli has one important goal – to help the bride find the perfect dress. But the journey is often punctured by drama, with the tear ducts getting an extreme mascara-scaring workout after those spur- of-the-moment angry outbursts.
Ten seasons in, Fenoli has seen it all. That he has retained his sanity is a wonder.
The epitome of ele- gance, Fenoli says: “I’m sure that my childhood definitely influenced me. I was born and raised on a farm and ran away three times. I used to sew dresses for my mother when I was nine. So the family environment definitely moulded me in dealing with those dynamics.
“So as far as family coming in and me wanting to strangle them, that doesn’t happen too often with me. I really feel that even though it seems that the family is being mean, when you cut through that core, I truly believe that the mother, grandmother or father or whom- ever is in that group, really loves that bride and wants her to look good on her wedding day.
“They think they are looking out for her best interests. But they are often not. For me, it is more about putting common sense where sometimes there is not.”
Expanding on his finesse when it comes to handling brides, Fenoli shares: “It is interesting – a kind of sixth sense. You know, I’m doing a speech at a conference in two weeks and they want me to put this down – how I work with different types of brides.
“To explain it is like asking a heart surgeon to explain open heart surgery. It is just something that you do. I can literally spot a bride and say ‘You have another dress, don’t you?’. She would be like ‘How do you know?’. I just know these things. Like some would say their budget is $5 000 (R53 600) but, really, it is $3 000. These are things they don’t have to explain to me. I pick up on body language and I don’t even think I’m aware of it.”
As a fashion designer, Fenoli could have branched into any sphere, but he chose wedding dresses.
”I think the wedding dress is the most important garment a woman will ever wear. Walking down the aisle, towards the man she loves more than anyone on the planet, she is probably at the prime of her life where she wants to look and feel beautiful. She has dreamt of this day forever. But she has no preparation for it. It’s not like going into a store for a pair of jeans or a blouse,” he says.
His style philosophy?
“The bride needs to be true to who they are. When you feel beautiful in the dress, your shoulders go back, your smile grows wider, you stand tall and when you enter the room, there is this aura about you, and everybody sits back and goes ‘Oh my God, she is the most beautiful bride I have seen’.”
That Fenoli is a walking advertisement for what he preaches – from a style perspective – goes without saying.
He nods: “Before you start preaching, you need to live the life. You lead by example. My ex-partner used to have a dog and I wouldn’t even walk the dog without a jacket and pocket square. I know my French lace from one manufactured elsewhere. Bottom line – I know my business. I’m here to guide a bride through the process.”
Although he is no longer at Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan, he goes in to shoot the show.
As someone raised in the fashion industry, he is also tactful and, when the occasion calls for it, would go as far as lying to a bride.
He justifies: “If a bride is standing in a dress in tears and says ‘I have never felt more beautiful’, I’m not going to say that dress is wrong, take it off. I will say, ‘Then that’s your dress’.”
Of the moments that stand out this season, he offers: “I have some brides who have been very special. I had one whose father was wheelchair-bound and she was so determined to have him be a part of the appointment that she skyped him. There was another father who was struck by lightning and didn’t have long to live. He wanted to be there and see her dressed up. It’s things like that that tug at the heart.”
And that explains why the show is such a hit with viewers.
The new season retains its trademark entertaining elements with a fresh batch of on-edge brides.
• Say Yes to the Dress season 10 airs on TLC (DStv channel 172) on June 22 at 6.10pm.