By Kaitlin Candelaria
Heidi Elnora is all about defying expectations.
Most people wouldn’t expect a wedding dress designer to achieve fame out of Birmingham, but Elnora has. Most people also wouldn’t expect a designer who specializes in couture gowns to live in the middle of a hayfield, but again, Elnora is full of surprises.
“I was told growing up it couldn’t be done in Alabama, and when someone tells me I can’t do something, it fires me up, and I will,” Elnora said. “I was determined to make it happen in Alabama – why couldn’t it happen here? I’m very proud to be in Birmingham, and I want to continue to bring a positive light to our city.”
Elnora, who is from Morris, said she’s always known she wanted to be a designer. She describes design as something that’s in her blood. Elnora received a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art of Art and Design, where she honed her craft, she said.
After college, Elnora abruptly returned to Birmingham after being injured in a car accident. While recuperating, she called Alabama Wedding Magazine.
“I said ‘Hi, I’m Heidi Elnora, and I want to design a wedding dress,’” Elnora said.
Elnora credits her attraction to the wedding niche to her desire to create something special and cherished.
“What do you cherish more than a wedding dress?” Elnora said. “It’s a piece of artwork to me. My customer appreciates it just like I do, and they hand it down to their daughter. That’s precious to me.”
Elnora founded her company in 2006. Since then, she has been featured in New York Bridal Fashion Week, sold dresses in stores such as Nordstrom, been a contestant on TLC’s Project Runway and has become a mother to two little boys.
She also founded Birmingham Fashion Week in 2012 and last month starred in her own reality show on TLC, “Bride By Design.” She still has an atelier at Pepper Place in Birmingham where she regularly meets with clients.
“I’ve just been going 100 miles an hour,” Elnora said. “I’m constantly working on the next big thing. I’m never just settled.”
In October 2014, Elnora defined her brand into three separate lines — Build-a-Bride, Hello Darling and heidi elnora. Each brand targets different price points and aesthetics for different types of brides, she said.
“When it comes to my dresses, I try to explore different parts of myself,” Elnora said. “With Hello Darling, I’m showing parts of my childhood, like growing up in our pasture and going down to the river to play with rocks. Build-a-Bride is the part of my childhood where I was in high school being a cheerleader, playing softball and getting a scholarship — living the American dream. heidi elnora is kind of the future of me – more couture.”
Despite her fame as a designer and reality show star, Elnora said she doesn’t feel she’s changed. Family members have commented on how true to her personality she stays even while being filmed, she said.
“My daddy said, ‘You are so you on television. You’re the same Heidi on TV as you are here at home,’” Elnora said. “I told him I don’t know how else to be. It’s nice because I can stay true to who I am. It can be awkward seeing myself on television, but it hasn’t changed me. It’s an opportunity and blessing that God has given me.”
Elnora is tightlipped about the future except for saying she’s constantly looking for ways to grow. She is already planning a new line that will be released in October and is also always looking for ways to expand Birmingham Fashion Week as well as her company and creating new fashion job opportunities in Birmingham.
“I have lots of plans,” Elnora said. “I can’t talk about a lot of them yet because they’re still traveling in my head.”
And when it all gets to be too much?
“That’s why I live in my hayfield,” Elnora said. “My hayfield helps me to check myself. My husband and my family keep me very grounded and focused and so does a lot of laundry. That helps me to stay normal.”
For more information on Elnora’s designs, visit www.heidielnora.com.