In styles ranging from fitted mermaid silhouettes to hoop skirts, Bethune designs dramatic custom gowns, including the ruffled wedding dress pictured above. The New Orleans native combines opulent textiles with classic tailoring for unique looks.
How did you get into design?
I’m the middle child of seven and would help my mom sew clothing for my siblings. I also attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) where I learned how to tell a story with fashion. In 2008, my husband (Micah Bethune) and I started designing a collection called The Wild Life Reserve. When my husband started the brand, he wanted me to join him, so he built a 700-square-foot atelier for me and said, ”OK, honey, here’s your space. Now let’s create.” I’m forever grateful for his support and encouragement.
How would you describe your signature look?
I enjoy bold fabric paired with simple design and classic silhouettes. I use vintage and opulent textiles. ... From princess seams and dolman sleeves, I simply adore classic tailoring.
Can you describe your design process?
I design around the personality of my client. I like to say I create beautiful clothing for beautiful women. I consider where she’s going, what style would look best on her body type, who’s there (at the event), what type of event she’ll be attending and what she wants to accomplish in this dress.
What has been a surprising aspect of the design business?
My husband and I owned a shop on St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street (The Wildlife Reserve). It was a great business, yet a great business is not always a happy business. We missed our family, friends and our real life. ...We made the hard decision to close the shop and focus on the best for me — to be a true designer.
I came to the realization that I didn’t want to create amazing gowns and clothing for thousands of women. Instead, I just wanted to create for a handful of amazing women. I now have found my joy and balance. I have a smaller clientele consisting of everyday women, performers and women in film. ... (Now), I have more time to be creative and to give my clients wearable art.
Is there any one person or fictional character who would be your dream client?
I try not to dream much. Instead, I like to focus on my present happiness. One of my local clients is jazz vocalist Quiana Lynell. I design and curate her wardrobe. Every time she performs at the Monteleone, the Roosevelt or Jazz Fest, I feel like a part of me is on stage with her. She has an amazing voice, so I create gowns and clothing that complement her voice, her presence.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
My husband and I are Jehovah’s Witness, and we volunteer more than 70 hours a month in service.Read more at:www.marieaustralia.com/one-shoulder-formal-dresses