“It took my breath away—I was so fascinated with this dress that I couldn’t leave the store,” says Olga Yermoloff, the founder of and designer for Olvi’s Lace. She is describing the moment she fell in love with lace and decided to make it her life’s work.
Roughly 12 years ago, Yermoloff found herself wandering inside a vintage store as she often did, only this time her attention was grabbed by a 19th-century, handmade black lace dress. The sleeves had hundreds of tiny buttons running down the side until they opened into a bell sleeve. The full-length A-line skirt was transparent from the hip down and had a nude lining below the black lace from this point upwards. She’d never seen anything like it before.
“It was calling me, so I spent the last of my money on it.” Even though it was expensive, she couldn’t leave the piece behind.
This is where the inspiration for her brand began.
The beginning of a fairy tale
Growing up, Yermoloff was always interested in fashion and envisioned herself designing grand dresses, fit for a princess. These dreams became a reality when she created Olvi’s Lace. The small, whimsical atelier based in Amsterdam has since expanded its reach to more than 30 countries worldwide. The first garment Yermoloff ever designed was her own wedding dress. This was before her line existed, more than a decade ago. She took a trip to Collet, a city known for its lace, where she found some beautiful fabric and trimmings. Using three different lace materials, she created a full-length V-neck gown with an A-line skirt and a low, transparent back.
It was simple but elegant, and the feeling she got when she wore it was hard to describe. At the time, she had no idea she would go on to have her own bridal collection.
“My bridal gowns give me a lot of happiness,” she now says. “I get really excited knowing how a woman will feel in a wedding dress that I designed.”
A love of lace
Yermoloff thinks lace is the most feminine and sophisticated fabric—from the way it’s traditionally made by hand using an intricate process, to its wide variety of delicate patterns.
Over the years, she has challenged herself to find new ways to use the fabric in a more contemporary style. Beyond gowns and bridal, Yermoloff designs skirts, blouses and cocktail dresses for her prêt-à-porter collections.
Sometimes, Yermoloff encounters retailers or consumers who feel that lace dresses are only appropriate for young adults or thin women, but she hopes her designs will break the age and body type barriers associated with this fabric. Since many of her pieces are custom-made, she and her team of sewers are able to design each dress to flatter any figure.
Her mom, who is now 80 and has been Yermoloff’s main sewing teacher, often uses her daughter’s lace to create custom pieces of her own as well. Yermoloff also designs a children’s line of lace dresses.
Each Olvi’s Lace design is handmade from fine French stretch lace. The sewers maintain a strong connection to every piece they work on, as each is responsible for an individual design from start to finish. It can take anywhere from three to seven hours to make and cut a pattern, depending on its difficulty. But, surprisingly, it only takes about one day to then sew and hand-finish the dress. For more complicated designs—for example, a dress with an exaggerated train, a special neckline or intricate detailing on the back—the timeline is closer to two days.
“I think it is very special for a woman to feel that, in a way, she was part of the design process,” says Yermoloff.
The bespoke aspect allows customers to collaborate with the Olvi’s team and help create the perfect dress themselves by blending different elements. This can involve choosing the length, sleeve, hemline, neckline, back, colour and lace pattern. Yermoloff explains that this collaborative process gives way for new or unexpected designs to be born and gives each dress a unique story.