“The focus of our design is to create a beautiful, classic or trendy dress for you with the least amount of stress,” said Susan Mandel, founder and head designer of Custom by Zoe. “We try to make it an easy, enjoyable experience.” And if you think that sounds simple, you’ve never shopped for a bat mitzvah girl, bridal party or your own dress as the mother of a bride or groom.
For women, finding the perfect dress in the right color, style and fabric, with the sleeve length and neckline you desire, is a dream that Zoe fulfills. Girls want the right mix of trendy and pretty, and if it’s a bridal party, there is the added challenge of finding coordinating dresses that are flattering for all. That’s Zoe’s specialty. Mandel’s parents, both Holocaust survivors, went into the garment industry and started Zoe Ltd, a line of exquisite girls’ dresses, in the 1980s. Zoe Ltd dresses have been shown in high-end stores like Neiman’s and Saks for 30 years. Now, Custom by Zoe is part of the company. “Custom design can represent who you are and what you feel like,” said Mandel.
The process of creating a custom dress starts at an initial meeting between Blimi, head of the showroom, and the client. “We listen to the customer and design each dress to who the person is,” said Mandel. “We get a feeling for what she is looking for to design the right dress.” Some come in with preconceived notions and others are completely open to recommendations. The goal is to get an idea of what or who the client wants to look like—sleek and sophisticated or belle of the ball. “We show clients fabrics, colors and styles. We can create sketches on the spot to give an idea of what the dress can look like. From start to finish, we design with you and at the end it is custom made just for you.”
Designing for girls is “fun and easy,” said Mandel. “When a girl or a young woman puts on a Cinderella dress, she doesn’t want to take it off.” Dressing more than one girl, like sisters or a complete bridal party, means blending individual needs into the color scheme. “We design for all ages, sizes and shapes. When a bride wants the same fabric for all dresses, each looks how they should. We present a beautiful picture. If the color is blue, it can be light to medium, and we make all the fabrics and colors come together.”
Multiple fittings at the showroom, located in the Five Towns, ensure a happy result. Custom by Zoe has also perfected the art of custom fitting through online tools, enabling them to make dresses for customers all over the country. Blimi FaceTimes customers and teaches them how to measure. They pick fabric and design together just as in-person clients do, and then the dresses are made and shipped. Either way, start to finish, the process takes about two months. “Fit is the most important part of a dress. And what makes a dress truly gorgeous is when the customer is happy,” said Mandel. Semi-custom for girls and women is another option. Clients can try on a sample in their showroom for size and then the dress can be ordered in many colors with flowers, ribbons or other embellishments. “Our team treats each dress with great care and attention,” Mandel emphasized.
Custom by Zoe follows the trends in designer women’s wear to incorporate into the dresses. The 1980s are influencing today’s fashions with lots of gold and bling. For winter, velvet is always popular. Hunter green and slate blues are most requested. Big shoulders and interesting sleeves are back. Bat mitzvah girls are loving hot pink and rainbow colors. Bridal parties are choosing blues, blushes and metallics.
If you are looking for a special-occasion dress, contact Blimi at Custom by Zoe at 516-857-1256. “We really like to make it an easy, comfortable experience,” said Mandel, “and we look forward to making the most beautiful dress for you.”
Follow at www.instagram.com/custom_by_zoe/.
By Bracha Schwartz