CELEBRATING LANCASTER COUNTY'S PEOPLE, SCENERY,

HERITAGE, STYLE & POINT OF VIEW SINCE 1987.

Chatting With Randy Fenoli of Say Yes to the Dress

It seems that women of all ages just can’t help themselves when it comes to a certain reality show. They can’t say no to watching Say Yes to the Dress … over and over and over again!

Admittedly, I am one of them. If nothing is on television, I tune into TLC for what I call comfort viewing. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen an episode five or six times; like a moth drawn to light, I’m in! I’ve become astute at differentiating a Pnina Tornai gown from one by Mark Zunino. Currently, I’m obsessed with designs from Hayley Paige.

When we were given the opportunity to do a telephone interview with the show’s main man, Randy Fenoli, I did a little research on his background. A line of gowns he designed for the Diamond Collection over 20 years ago came up in his resume. That sounded familiar, so I went into Lancaster County magazine’s archives and lo and behold, Diamond Collection did a photo shoot in Lancaster County in the summer of 1993.

It just so happens that during the early ’90s, Lancaster County was a fashion mecca as far as photo shoots went. Magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Spanish Elle used Lancaster’s iconic farmland as a backdrop for fashion features. In that period of minimalism, the Amish were fashion icons to designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander and Donna Karan.

The Vogue shoot was based at the Osceola Mill House Bed & Breakfast in Gordonville. At the time, it was owned by Robin and Sterling Schoen. The magazine was given access to the very hush-hush photo shoot. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to walk into the staging room and see all the fashions that had arrived throughout the week. Thinking back, it looked like a mini-version of the “closet” seen in The Devil Wears Prada. And, to see super model Christy Turlington in the flesh was mind-boggling.

The purpose of Diamond Collection’s visit was to photograph an advertising campaign that was set to appear in Modern Bride magazine. Once again, we were given exclusive access. Originally scheduled to be photographed on Long Island, photographer Jacques Malignon saw the Vogue photos and suggested the shoot be moved to Lancaster. “Amish Country gives us a setting that is very pure, very innocent and very romantic,” he explained during a break in photography. The Schoens once again hosted the crew and, thanks to the cooperation of their Amish neighbors, provided a range of locations for the shots. Randy recalls that the shoot’s location was “innovative and out-of-the box,” especially for the world of bridal fashions. “Nobody was doing that at the time,” he says.

Randy, who had recently graduated from design school, partnered with Robert Legere to design the line that featured ballgowns, halter-style gowns, a style that was a precursor to the mermaid, and something altogether new: short dresses that featured long, detachable tulle skirts. According to Randy, the body-hugging designs signaled the arrival of “an emphasis on physical fitness: women now have bodies to show off,” he remarked. Looking at the photographs now, the collection could be described as timeless.

Our telephone interview was in conjunction with Randy’s November 5 appearance at The Pullo Center in York. Due to a scheduling conflict, the show had to be postponed. It has been rescheduled for March 17.

Randy grew up on a cattle farm in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. He discovered his fashion-related talents at the age of 9, when he began creating his own designs and sewing his own pieces. “Where it comes from, I don’t know,” he says, explaining both his mother and father didn’t have the creative gene. “For me, it just made sense.” One of his first projects was a dress he made — in a day — for his mother. “She wore it to work the next day,” he notes. Randy’s talents eventually took him to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Upon graduating, he accepted a design position with Diamond Collection.

During the course of our interview, I told him about digging out the January 1994 issue and locating the pictures from the shoot. “Oh, my, gosh!” he exclaimed. “I totally forgot about that. You know, all I ever wanted to do is get off the farm and go to New York, and where do I end up for my first ever photo shoot? A farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania! I couldn’t believe it!” Still, he has fond memories of his first shoot, calling it “fun” and “quite the experience.” The person in one of the photos is definitely Randy, but 20+ years ago, he was rocking jeans and a T-shirt and had hair down to his waist.

Ironically, it was a trunk show at Kleinfeld Bridal that put him on the map. He began designing solo, creating two lines for Diamond. Then, he burned out. “I moved to New Orleans and went into real estate,” he recalls. He returned to New York post-Katrina and went to work at Kleinfeld’s.

Kleinfeld Bridal is a story unto itself. Founded in 1941, the Brooklyn-based store became the go-to destination for brides. By the mid-90s, however, the allure had faded. Enter Mara Urshel (a veteran of Saks Fifth Avenue), Ronnie Rothstein (an attorney turned business owner) and Wayne Rogers (who became involved in the world of finance after leaving the television show, MASH), who bought the company in 1999. With the help of investors and a move to a much larger and higher-profile location in Manhattan, Kleinfeld reclaimed its top spot as a destination for bridal fashions. The numbers are astounding: 200+ employees, 20,000+ brides per year and annual sales estimated at approximately $150 million.

Kleinfeld’s owners couldn’t help but notice Randy’s rapport with the customers. His “Hello, beautiful” greeting made women feel all the more special and put them at ease. “Oh, I guess you could say I’m part therapist and part style guide,” he says of working with brides. In 2007, he was promoted, becoming the store’s fashion director.

That same year, TLC and Half Yard Productions came calling with an idea for a reality show about the process a woman goes through in choosing the most important dress she will ever wear. The show was an instant success. Soon, brides from Main Street America were being joined by celebrities, professional athletes and international jet setters. Of course, tears, drama and unlimited budgets play key roles in keeping viewers riveted to the screen. Because it’s seen in 150 countries, Kleinfeld has become a bona-fide tourist attraction. “Visitors are welcome to come into the lobby and get a view of the salon,” Randy reports, adding that many of the consultants have their own fan clubs, as well. Vera, who heads up the alterations department appears on nearly every show. “You can tell what kind of day she is having by her hair,” Randy says of her loose bun.

Randy is of the opinion that Say Yes to the Dress is the closest thing to “real” reality on television. “TLC and Half Yard really put the applicants through a tough screening process,” he explains. The vetting process ensures that an applicant is truly getting married and is not someone who is simply trying to get her 15 minutes of fame. “There’s no money, no compensation, no discounts” he points out. According to Randy, a Kleinfeld appointment is usually scheduled for two hours; however, if filming is involved, three hours is typically allotted. If a bride walks out of the store empty-handed, that is how the appointment ended.

That brought me to point out to Randy that he has another Lancaster connection that was made through the show. In December 2011, Jacy Good appeared on the show. Randy remembered her immediately and grew quiet. “That was a very emotional story, appointment and show,” he says. Jacy’s consultant, Diane, was determined to provide her with the best service possible.

Jacy, as many of you probably remember, was on her way back to Lititz, following her graduation from Muhlenberg College in May 2008. At a traffic light on Route 222 near Allentown, a young man, who was talking on his cell phone, drove through a red light, prompting a truck to swerve and hit the Good family’s car. Jacy’s parents, Jay and Jean were killed. Jacy was clinging to life; she remained in a coma for the next two months. Through it all, her future husband, Steve Johnson, supported her efforts to recover from the tragedy. Today, the two are dedicated advocates for a program called Just Hang Up and Drive. Her show appears periodically.

While Randy is still associated with Say Yes to the Dress, he left Kleinfeld’s in 2012 in order to pursue other ventures, including a spin-off show, Randy to the Rescue. His speaking engagements and appearances take him all over the world. “I’m really excited about Season 15,” he says. Set to begin airing in January, he holds the opinion that “it is the best season yet.” Two episodes in particular may qualify as his all-time favorites.

Before saying goodbye, he had one question: “How far will I be from Lancaster when I’m in York.” When told he would be 30 minutes away, we could hear the wheels spinning in his head. So, if you see someone who looks familiar checking out market or dining in a restaurant in mid-March, you never know … it could be Randy Fenoli.


An Evening with Randy Fenoli will be held March 17 (7:30 p.m.) at the Pullo Center on the campus of Penn State York. For ticket information, call 505-8900 or visit pullocenter.york.psu.edu.

 

 

Randy’s Tips for Selecting the Perfect Wedding Gown from his book, It’s All About the Dress:

Establish a Budget

First, establish a budget for the wedding. Then, key in on the dress. This will help during the shopping process. However, if you find something beyond that figure, hopefully you’ll be able to “borrow” from the overall budget.

Establish Your Story

The dress sets the tone for the wedding and represents your style, i.e. modern, vintage, traditional, etc.

Start Shopping Immediately

Keep in mind that it typically takes six to eight months for a gown to be ordered and delivered.

Opinions Matter

Bring people to the appointment who love and support you and who are aware of the big picture (i.e., budget, etc.).

Say Yes to a Veil

As Randy often says on the show, “Without a veil, you’re just a pretty girl in a white dress.” The veil is the finishing touch that makes you feel and look like a bride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply to Karin Johnson Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Comments

  1. I am searching for a certain dress. At the beginning of the show, the two sales accociates Man and women would seat side by side and talk about What was coming up next. But they had a dress off to the side that I LOVE!!!! Do y’all have it still?? 9012771100

  2. Dear Randy,
    I like to ask you something, is it possible to make a blueprint for full ladies. The models on the blueprint are slim /small.

    With love Corrie

  3. Hi Randy. My name is Denise. I live in Annapolis Maryland i watch the show every day i was wondering how i could get on the show and pick out the gown i love. I want to stay under200 i would like to meet you and the crew

  4. Hello Randy. I watch the show all the time. I have never worn a bride dress before. My husband and I were married 23 years ago. Since that time I was in a car wreck that left me in a wheelchair. My two piece outfit that I wore burned up in a house that we lived in. Now I am on a fixed income and hope you will find it in your heart to help me.

  5. Randy I am a 57 year old mother of three and divorced after 28 plus years. My youngest son is getting married in June and I want to look elegant. I have lost 100lbs and my ex married before our divorce papers were dry. I want to look awesome and you help your brides look the way I want to feel. Can you help me? I live in Mississippi but my oldest son lives in New York. I understand you are so busy.

  6. I’m a big fan of Say Yes To The Dress and I just wanted to ask if Randy Fenoli would have any dresses in or around $1,000.00 range for my daughter that is getting married on July 17th, 2020. We have gone to one boutique shop so far and we are going to another one on February 8th, 2020, but I would love to have my daughter to see what kind of dresses that Randy has to offer. I have always wanted to have my Mamma and my mother-in-law involved with this decision but they passed away and I know that my daughter dreamed of her grandmother’s seeing her walking down the aisle. I know that they will be looking down on her and they will be there spiritually. This would mean a lot to me and my daughter to have this opportunity to be able to get the chance to meet Randy with the possibility of purchasing a dress from him!
    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Dollie Bishop

    • Hi Randy. It is so nice to see you once again on Say Yes to the Dress this Saturday evening July 11th 2020. I have watched your show for as long as it has been on and my husband, who died in 2013, watch it always with me. He was my second husband and the best man on earth. I so miss him so his name was Mike. I watch your show till this day sitting here as a 74 year-old Widow don’t drive no more bored to death and you make me smile. Capital letters you are the best. It would be so wonderful to hear your voice or see you on video. SI ready to start cry cuz I’d love you and the shows so much. I’ve just a sucker for brides. Randy you are the best God love you and keep you and stay safe in this crazy world we have. Evelyn

  7. Love your empathy with people! You are so kind. BTW love the black and white tie you had on in the Sky/california show Great job. I wish we could meet!

  8. I love ur show I have had cancer twice and I’m ready for my funeral i am getting cremated but i rented a coffin just to go into the church in my wedding dress I would love for him to make my dress

  9. story to share about Covid 19 I raised my daughter telling her everyday she was a princess and never to settle for a man until she found the one who treated her like a princess she truly found her prince. There are people in love and then there are people who are truly soulmates. I couldn’t be more proud of both of them. however their wedding was stripped away from them because of Covid 19.
    My daughter was to get married on 4/24/20 in Lake Tahoe, her fiancée is an RPA pilot in the Air force they are stationed in cold North Dakota. Wedding was to be in Lake Tahoe, CA. they spent 2 years planning with Venue, Air Bnbs, hotels etc. they had people coming from California, Texas, Minnesota, Guam, Germany etc.. it was a 3 day venue with an meet greet on 4/23, wedding 4/24 sit down reception, smores over the beautiful views of lake Tahoe. ending with a champagne brunch on 4/25. they spent years budgeting and planning and putting together venues reserving all the AIRBNBS hotels, assisting friends and family with travel to have it all taken from her because of Covid 19. They tried to reschedule with all vendors and guest. airlines etc. to 11/8 the nice thing is most vendors were accommodating them, however some the AIRBNBS would not work with them on reschedule or refunds. They had a honeymoon planned to Paris and then to Mauritius .. They love to travel. They had planned on trying to conceive child while in Mauritus (she loves children so does he and they truly wanted to start their family). Just this week the military put another ban on travel until 7-1 .worried they would have to cancel everything again on 11/8 because they may not have the virus under control, concerned of travel restrictions not being lifted and elderly family possibly being exposed if there is not a vaccination. They ARE now thinking of canceling the wedding they tried to move it to 2021 but with the Airbnb’s not refunding them and letting them out of contracts and new venue prices for 2021 increasing it has just gotten financially out of their reach and frustration has set in. Please someone help her save her dream wedding she is now talking about eloping with only 20 people there immediate family. Her grandmother has dimension and they want to do something while she can make it there. As a child she as most young girls dreamed of being a princess on their wedding day. Please save my daughters wedding help us figure away she is the most deserving person she even nanny’s for a an ER doctor first responder so he can go to work and help save lives. She has nanny her way all through college never asking a dime from us they both truly love children and getting tired of putting their life on hold.

  10. Have you ever aired an allure Bridals 9300? And if so which episode was it? I never fail to watch this show but I don’t remember seeing this one.

    Thank you

  11. I bought the Allure Bridal style 9300 in silver/ivory and I am looking for a veil that will go with it. Any suggestions? Also has that dress even been shown on the show?

  12. Dear Randy, I love your dresses! I was wondering if you would ever consider designing regular gowns for maybe the older ladies or something like that. I love you and your brides are amazing!

  13. Randy is such a wonderful person ! His personality is amazing! His style has been helpful to me and many all around the world.

  14. Randy can you make me a dress that I want so bad in red. I want it in long sleeves. Need a size 18 Can you make me a carbon copy of it. I will pay whatever it cost. It’s from Badgey Mischka red dress one shoulder crepe gown with structure neckline.

  15. On may 21 2021 I will be married 40years to a wonderful man.we married in a courthouse &never had a gown but thanks to randy fenoli and his sweet &kind personality I can dream.i binge watch say yes to the dress just to watch him
    He is adorable.if the world were full of randy fenoli ‘s it would be a better place! Randy keep being you .I love to watch you make dreams come true. Your precious!!!!

  16. Love Randy’s dresses! My daughter is getting married on October. She lives in Texas and I (mom) live in Michigan. She loves the “Bernadette” style dress. Where can we see the Fenoli collection, either in Michigan or Texas (Dallas area)?

  17. Randy you are amazing, I love your work!! You rock as a wedding designer as well as a person. I hope one day you could officiate my wedding.

  18. Randy. Were so proud of you!! God bless you for what you have accomplished . I related to your unhappy abusive childhood. But..look at you now!!!!! Yahoo Young man your a phenomenal guy!! Best wishes to you always

  19. Having a BIG problem with David’s Bridal. My daughter ordered her dress in October 2020, picked it up first weekend in March, took it back March 27th for alterations to sew flowers on the body of the dress along with the material to sew onto the top part of the dress. Was told to pick up on 4-30-21 at 7pm. Dress was NOT ready. Flowers were tacked on, which should have been sewn on, they never once said the word tacked on in the previous 3 visits. We were told the person that tacked on the flowers didn’t understand what was suppose to be done with the material and we were suppose to get a call to clarify the instructions, NEVER received a call. We had pictures scheduled for the 2nd, so they said they would fix everything and could pick up on 5-1. Get there and still not done. They even wanted to charge more the flowers to be sewn on not tacked. Told them we were not paying for anything else because we were told one thing and nothing has been done right. They said they would fix it and have it ready for 5-5. NOT done right again. The material for the top wasn’t centered and the seam was showing when it should be in the inside. All in all my daughter hasn’t had the oh I’m picking up my dress moment which sucks. She has received some refunds, but that doesn’t compensate for the stress and anxiety and heart ache. I was just wondering if maybe you could talk to the owner of David’s Bridal and give him a piece of your mind and let him know how unprofessional his workers have been to their client whose wedding is on 5-29-21 and doesn’t need the added stress. I’m sorry I’m just venting, but they are suppose to make it a great experience not make the bride sick to her stomach and cry.

  20. Hi Randy
    You are Miracle Worker. I have watched Say Yes To The Dress for many years. You have helped many first time brides and re-vow brides.
    You are blessed with an eye for design as well.
    Thank You, Randy.

  21. dear, randy my name is JESICA KATHLEEN DAWES I’VE WATCHED YOU ON SAY YES TO THE DRESS AND I HAVE A WEDDING DRESS THAT I HAD BOUGHT FOR MY WEDDING BACK IN FEBURARY 23,2013 BUT I WAS NOT ABLE TO WEAR IT BECAUSE I WAS 6 MONTHS PREGNANT WITH MY DAUGHTER IF WOULD LIKE IT I’M WILLING TO SELL IT

  22. Mr. Randy I have always loved you you are so awesome and funny but that one show were you were looking for a dress for this gorgeous little girl who had cancer and the love you gave her you really touched my heart I will always love you no matter were you are

  23. Randy,
    My love, my best friend and I want to get married. I have pancreatic Cancer, he has prostate Cancer. I want a very simple straight lined dress with a bling belt. Can you make our last dream come true?
    Thank you Karin

  24. Randy, you are amazing. I have watched every show I can find with you in it. Congratulations on your many designs which are always lovely. I have an unusual problem. I am a 66 year old plus-sized woman. Small boobs (or maybe they are caught in my waist band again) large trunk, big belly, and bird legs. My shape is almost like an egg. I am due to be married soon and have no clue what will fit this body. I wear a 14-16w. I ordered a dress on-line (first mistake). I sent my measurements but cannot get the zipper even halfway up. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated

  25. HELLO RANDY,
    MY NAME IS JENNY I NEED YOUR HELP I NEED TO LOOK FOR A BRIDAL GOWN FOR ME AND MY HUSBAND’S 10 YEAR WEDDING VOWELS RENEWAL OVERSEAS FOR THE YEAR 2024