Rivini, Anne Barge, Rosa Clara among lines at new boutique.
By Cissy Yu
Growing up in Lebanon, Suzanne Komari dreamed of dresses. Ball gowns and mermaid gowns, lace and bohemian — the fashion industry enthralled her, but soon, family called. She married young and moved to East Greenwich with her husband, where she settled for eighteen years to raise her three children.
But the vision never left her. In 2015, Komari finally realized her decades-long dream to open a bridal boutique. She hired her long-time friend and tennis partner, Irina Ryjykh, to turn a shuttered, gray building on Cliff Street into a trim, black-and-white boutique called Estee Bridal. “People were shocked,” she says. “They kept asking, ‘What have you done to this building?’”
Quite a lot, it seems. To the outside, she’s added sleek lettering, arching lamps and flowers in white window boxes. Inside are European flourishes: candleholders, French settees and marble tabletops as rich as white chocolate. “It’s very organized. You see each dress showcased by itself. I didn’t want racks or stacks, so I designed it to look like an open closet.”
Komari says brides often overstay their ninety-minute consultations, reluctant to leave a place that feels so impossibly gorgeous, it’s like their personal dream closet. They linger, sipping tea, asking questions, touching the dresses. This is Komari’s business secret: to create an experience first, and sell dresses second. What matters is that the bride remembers the day she bought that wedding dress, even years after she’s married.
“It means a lot to me,” she says. “It’s a huge step in any girl’s life. I talk to women sometimes, in their sixties and seventies, and they still have memories of shopping for their wedding dress.”
Many brides come to Komari with strong ideas about the perfect dress, only to decide on a look that’s entirely different. This doesn’t surprise Komari, who notes the large matter of ‘connection’ while picking a wedding gown.
“It’s not just about the body silhouette, it’s about the personality,” she observes. “You have to have the two meet.” A dress that flatters a magazine model might fit the bride’s body type, but not her personality. To guide her customers towards the right fit, Komari relies on her special sense for people. She prides herself on connecting well with people, on knowing what they’ll warm to. When a bride feels great, says Komari, that’s when she’ll look her prettiest.
Since the store opened in April, brides have traveled to Estee from as far Maine and Boston to find designers unobtainable elsewhere. When asked how she selects her lines, Komari laughs. “It’s a mixed collection. I didn’t know anything about the market coming in. I would study a designer for weeks, I would pick and re-pick. It takes me weeks to make an order.”
Komari favors the elusive French quality of la simplicité — simplicity — in her dresses. “When I was buying, salespeople would tell me, ‘that’s such a European look. You’re not going to sell that.’ And believe it or not, people did like the look, once they tried it.”
So long as brides continue to love fresh looks, Komari will keep introducing things. Estee gowns are priced from $800 to $7,500. The boutique is open Monday through Friday, by appointment only.
Estee Bridal, 50 Cliff St., East Greenwich, 885-4670, esteebridal.com.