South Philly bridal shop offers designer diversity, sustainability and demi-couture luxury


Mayana Carter knew she wanted to create a different kind of bridal salon. Before opening Kinfolk Bride, Carter had worked in the bridal industry for 10 years in various capacities. “I found myself longing to see more designers of color, more women designers and more small makers,” she says, “and I wanted the people in my community to feel comfortable and catered to in a luxe bridal environment.”

When you walk into Kinfolk Bride’s fifth-floor salon in the Bok Building, you’re met with high ceilings, industrial chic design and tastefully arranged racks of gowns and attire in a space overlooking South Philadelphia and the Delaware River. On the surface, it feels like an upscale boutique, but owner Mayana Carter’s curated collections also focus on diverse women designers and sustainability.

“I aimed to create a bridal salon experience that highlights independent designers and allows me to offer Kinfolk Bride clients lots of really special, customizable options when it comes to personal style, body size and shape, and gender expression,” Carter writes in an email. She points to Philadelphia designer Megan Lawrence and her studio, The LAW, as an example. “It’s her and one other person, and they create every single piece beautifully by hand,” Carter says.

Carter searches for wedding designers who use deadstock, or surplus fabrics and recycle scraps. “It’s really important to me that the designers that I choose to work with are not generating massive amounts of waste.” Instead of discarding leftover materials, many of the designers donate to FABSCRAP, which also has a location at BOK and one in Brooklyn.

As a child, Carter had watched her mother, Safiya Carter, run a natural foods business. As an adult, she decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “I created the business I wanted to see,” she says. The formula appears to be working. Kinfolk Bride opened in January, and Carter has customers coming from New York, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut.

“Until I discovered Kinfolk, I was dreading the dress search, to be honest,” writes client Annie Brag in an email. “The studio itself has such a calm and beautiful energy, and Mayana was so patient, helpful and kind from start to finish. She has curated an incredible selection of unique and timeless pieces.”

Kinfolk Bride’s attire ranges in cost from $1,500 to $6,000 for the demi-couture gowns such as the handmade pieces from Chicago designer Varca. “A lot of the pieces that are more … modular, like tops and skirts or tops and pants, can definitely be worn again … I encourage my brides, once the wedding is over, to find a way to repurpose or re-gift so it doesn’t have to be this once [worn] item that goes in the box and sits in a closet forever,” Carter says.

Carter credits the South Philadelphia community as another influence. It shows in her collaborations with other BOK creatives, like the salon rugs from Sarah Naji’s Minimal Chaos. She serves beverages in vessels from Remark Glass, and she’s working with her BOK neighbors, Franklin & Whitman, “to create a signature Kinfolk Bride candle scent.”

Education is another part of Carter’s mission. The clients that I’ve had who didn’t come to me for the sustainability aspect of my business, they really are shocked by the level of quality in the fabrics and the difference they see in the products that are created in small batches and made to order as opposed to mass produced,” she says. “So, they really see the value of having a piece that’s handmade when they walk away from this experience.”

Mayana Carter helps make the “big day” more sustainable. Photograph by Troy Bynum.

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Latest from #171 August 2023