Like many Brooklyn brides, when Myridith
McCormack was searching for a wedding gown in 1999, she had no
choice but to shop at the venerable Kleinfeld’s in Bay Ridge.
"It was a beautiful dress, but I still felt like I was settling," she says. "If I’d known then what I know now, I would have designed my own."
So McCormack, 35, did just that. On June 5, she celebrated the grand opening of MyrJan, the first full-service bridal salon in Prospect Heights, showcasing her own dresses along with a few select designers. MyrJan offers wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, custom suits and tuxedos, along with all the accessories, and a "soup-to-nuts" wedding planning service, bringing bridal business to central Brooklyn.
Born in Haiti, McCormack said that growing up, hers was the only black family on an all-Italian Carroll Gardens block. Her mother encouraged her drawing, and her Italian neighbors taught her to sew. Though she majored in business at John Dewey High School, fashion was always in her blood, and her multi-ethnic childhood would eventually make its way into her designs.
McCormack was a manicurist at a Vanderbilt Avenue salon in 1991 when an editor at a leading women’s magazine stopped in. The editor was so pleased with McCormack’s work that she hired her for photo shoots in magazines from Essence to Glamour. This new career funded McCormack’s studies in design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and at the New York City College of Technology, where she’s finishing a degree in fashion merchandising.
In the two years since her business began (she started in a Harlem storefront before moving back to Brooklyn), McCormack has dressed and coordinated more than 20 weddings, many of her clients referred by her contacts from the magazine world.
McCormack’s Haitian background and her fascination with Asian culture have fused in her designs, which mix classic and modern. She often chooses brightly colored silks or Chinese brocade - not the most common bridal materials - for her traditionally shaped dresses.
"These are not your gramma’s gowns," she says.
Inspiration for the dresses comes from the glamorous women McCormack grew up watching on television.
"When I think of a dress, I think of the women I loved looking at on TV, like Lucille Ball, Sophia Loren, Diahann Carroll and Ava Gardner."
Her newest collection is inspired by two American icons, Jackie Onassis and Dorothy Dandridge. The Jackie O dresses have cinched waists and a shorter flounce, while the Dandridge dresses are longer and sleeker. McCormack says her designs tend to be classic, while her design partner, 20-year-old Molly Hanna, creates edgier dresses, with deeper necklines and longer trains.
"She’s my balance," McCormack says of her partner.
Besides wedding gowns, MyrJan designs a full line of bridesmaid dresses that double as cocktail dresses, in the same array of colors and patterns.
"If you’re going to ask someone to spend $200 on a dress, they should be able to wear it again," says McCormack.
While MyrJan carries high design, they also work with a bride’s budget. MyrJan’s line runs between $750 and $5,000, and they carry a few select designers like Angelina and Mori Lee, costing between $2,000 and $8,000 (mere pennies when you consider the $20,000 price tag of your average Vera Wang).
And McCormack is the consummate wedding professional. She knows the secret to selling wedding gowns is not the hard sell but patience. It’s all about consulting and customer service.
"It’s a big investment. I don’t expect someone to come into a store, look at a dress and say ’OK. That’s it, and I’m leaving.’"
Instead, McCormack expects to spend as many as four or five visits with a patron, up to 20 hours, as they consult their mothers, sisters and checkbooks before selecting a dress. McCormack makes sure they’re choosing not just a dress they like, but one that flatters the bride-to-be.
"If it doesn’t look good, I don’t let them walk out with it," she says.
The 1,000-square-foot showroom with cream and apricot-colored walls occupies the top floor of an old factory on this sleepy block, above a stained-glass store on the first floor and a music studio two doors down. It joins the long-anticipated Prospect Heights renaissance, now well underway.
McCormack has partnered with local businesses in the area such as Reason Florist on Fulton Street and Vanderbilt Avenue’s Asase Salon to keep clients in the neighborhood. Local businesses like the card shops and coffee shops have sent clients to MyrJan and vice versa. For the first time, brides can have a full-on, Brooklyn wedding, right in their own neighborhood.
"Come with a dream," says McCormack, "and we’ll design a dress for you."
MyrJan Bridal Salon is open 11 am7 pm, Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 am-6 pm, Saturdays; and noon-5 pm, Sundays. Appointments are recommended. MyrJan Bridal Salon is located at 235 St. Marks Ave. at Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights. For more information, call (718) 623-3848 or visit the Web site at www.myrjan.com.