By Emma Castleberry
The ability to adapt is important in the fashion world, and Charles Josef excels at adaptation. Over more than 20 years, Josef has designed a variety of fashions from pageant gowns to men’s swimwear before landing on his current specialty—wedding wear. “I relocated to Asheville not for the wedding business but for the dream of living in these beautiful mountains,” he says. “As I see the wedding industry here continue to grow, I know I am in my perfect place.” When Josef began his career, he was a veritable jack-of-all-trades in design, working in a variety of different niches. “As time passed, I was getting more bridal commissions, so I eventually made that a focus,” he says. Narrowing his work to wedding-related attire—brides, grooms, flower girls and mothers—helps to keep his schedule and workload manageable.
Josef moved his atelier, Charles Josef Bridal, to Asheville nearly eight years ago. “As an atelier, I provide a variety of services beyond design, such as alterations, restorations and repairs for all things wedding-related,” he says. “I differ from an actual bridal shop in that the items are designed and made here.” When Josef first started working in Asheville, he was primarily designing high-budget silk gowns. While he still does many of these projects, he has used his design prowess to meet different budgetary needs for the diverse selection of brides in Asheville. “I was faced with the challenge of designing goods with materials that cost less but still looked luxurious,” he says. “By mixing fabrics and having a variety of sources that understand my needs, I have been able to do that quite well. I have a good eye for quality and I know what flatters the body so I am able to sketch out a concept and bring it to life.”
Josef demonstrated this skill with his client Kate Rhiannon Wagner, whom he met at the Center for Spiritual Living in Asheville. “I am a mature woman, and both my husband and I had been married before,” says Wagner. “I wanted something sophisticated and elegant, with a Victorian-like style, and not in traditional white.” Wagner gave her description to Josef and was pleased with his initial designs, then they worked together to choose fabrics. The final product was a dark green gown with a tiger-printed drape. “Charles did a great job in giving me what I desired,” Wagner says. “He is a caring individual and he demonstrates a knowledge of and a delight in his work. He is more than a designer, he is an artist.” Josef also designed outfits for the 11 grandchildren in the wedding and even catered Wagner’s wedding dinner. “He is a man of many talents,” Wagner says.
These talents extend far beyond the design of gowns. Darrin and Tony Embrey discovered Josef at a wedding show in Asheville and hired him to design tuxedo shirts and ties for their ceremony, as well as fabric draping and cake table linens for their reception at the Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain. “We felt Charles best understood our needs and was easy to work with to plan our wedding,” says Tony Embrey. “We enjoyed his professionalism, experience, thoughtful design and sense of humor. Plus, he has a huge heart.”
Client Brielle Cataldo agrees that Josef’s sense of humor and warmth are a vital compliment to his design skill. “He was fun to work with, which is important because wedding planning can be stressful,” she says. Cataldo’s needs were unique, as she brought two dresses to Josef: a dress she had purchased and her mother’s wedding dress. “I really couldn’t decide between the two,” she says. “My mom’s needed a lot of updating. He offered great ideas that would make the dress more modern and more ‘me,’ but I ultimately went with the dress I bought. This dress also needed changes and again, he offered great, realistic ideas that coincided with my vision. Most of all, he made the process easy. He was able to work with my crazy schedule and he made my vision into a beautiful finished product.”
The benefits of locally made wedding attire are many. “Purchasing directly from the designer gives you a level of quality and value that cannot be matched by retailers,” he says. “I am personally invested in everything that I offer because I had a hand in creating it.” This closeness to the designer also allows a lot of flexibility with styles and customization. Additionally, Charles Josef Bridal can accommodate a tighter timeline for brides with a rapidly approaching wedding. “Since we make our gowns locally, lead times for custom dresses can be much shorter than the lead times for manufactured gowns,” says Josef. In the coming year, Charles Josef Bridal will be increasing its selection of one-of-a-kind gowns and ready-to-wear mother of the bride gowns, allowing more possibilities for wedding parties with tight schedules.
Customization is a key part of Josef’s design philosophy. “Whether a client chooses something that I have already designed or commissions me to do a custom design, there are always special touches added to compliment the wearer,” he says. “Most bridal gowns must be altered anyway, so having a person like me who can alter it and add unique touches makes it even more special.” And after all, isn’t bridal fashion all about having something special to wear?
For more information, visit CharlesJosefBridal.com or call 828.678.0196.