With new dress’ arrival, local bridal shop circles back to its origins and honors a dear friend

With new dress’ arrival, local bridal shop circles back to its origins and honors a dear friend
Susan Finale, co-owner of The Wedding Salon of Manhasset, with the A101 dress that arrived this week. (Photo by Teri West)

When groundbreaking bridal dress designer Amsale Aberra died in April, Susan Finale, co-owner of The Wedding Salon of Manhasset, made sure to attend “every single thing for her funeral.”

The two had been close since the beginning of their careers, when Aberra approached Finale, then a buyer at Kleinfeld in Brooklyn, with her first dress, the A101.

Aberra went on to become one of the top wedding dress designers in the U.S., credited with inventing the modern wedding dress. Her company, Amsale, reintroduced the A101 in April in her honor. Finale made sure that her store ordered it right away, and it arrived this week.

“We were so part of it when it first came out that we wanted to have it as soon as possible,” Finale said.

Finale and Kleinfeld colleague Nancy Aucone started their Long Island venture in 1996. What is now a destination stop for upscale New York brides began as a much smaller store in Munsey Park. Amsale dresses have always been a part of it.

The Wedding Salon of Manhasset The store doesn’t currently run advertisements, Finale said. All of its business is through referrals. (Photo by Teri West)

Before Amsale, brides tended to wear high-neck, long-sleeve dresses, Finale said.

Now, a sleek, fewer frills look is popular that also may also be strapless or include sheer components.

“Right now the plain look is a very big portion of our business … if you can see the girl in the mirror,” Finale said, pointing to a woman trying on a strapless dress across the store, “She has on a very plain Carolina Herrera dress.”

Aberra moved to the U.S. for college after spending her childhood in Ethiopia, where she would make clothing for both herself and her dolls, according to The New York Times.

It was during free time from her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology when a career in bridal fashion took root. Aberra was planning her own wedding, and as she prepared for it she found herself dissatisfied with all of the dresses stores had to offer. She wanted simple, and none of them were. She made her own.

After her marriage, she started a wedding dress business from her home, and when she was eventually ready to launch into stores in the 1990s, she took it to Kleinfeld.

“She was young and very aggressive and just aiming to be successful,” Finale said. “And she was.”

Aberra died of cancer 12 days before Bridal Fashion Week, where her final designs were shown. Among those on the runway was the A101, in her honor.

“Amsale’s legacy began with her first collection design, A101,” said Margo Lafontaine, design director at Amsale New York, in a statement. “We are honored to re-introduce this timeless dress, recently shown on the runway with our Spring 2019 collection, to The Wedding Salon of Manhasset for the Amsale bride.”

The A101 has a sheer sleeveless neckline that continues down the back, studded with a vertical column of white buttons. A wide, cape-like layer emerges at the back of the waist, pinned by a horizontal bouquet of rose-shaped pieces. From the front, the bride’s body looks thinly framed, while accentuated by a billowing, wider dimension of fabric framing the legs from behind.

When Amsale reintroduced it on the runway, several users posted to the company’s Instagram account, sharing memories of their own weddings in that dress.

“Hoping maybe one of my daughters will wear it on their wedding day,” one user, who wore the A101 in 1997, wrote.

For Finale, of course, the dress’ arrival at her store is both a stunning addition to her collection and a physical memory of a dear friend.

“She was a true professional, a fabulous designer and a wonderful mother,” Finale said. “She was every plus that there was.”

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