Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Bridal Series Sydney: RHONDA HEMMINGWAY

This week’s designer for The Bridal Series Sydney is Darlinghurst’s Rhonda Hemmingway.




And was shot by the multi-talented Angela Rose Photography.


Rhonda Hemmingway truly is Australian couture royalty. With a career spanning decades at the forefront of the Australian fashion and bridal scene I knew interviewing Rhonda would be nothing short of fascinating. Full of surprises and great stories, enjoy getting to know the one and only Rhonda Hemmingway.


Located in Darlinghurst, Rhonda’s new boutique is in a fabulous creative building on Oxford Street shared with the likes of graphic designers, production companies, fashion designers and PR firms. As soon as you step into the beautiful lift (like something out of Narnia!) you know that you’re about to discover something truly special.  Rhonda’s space is intimate, comfortable and very inviting.



Truly blessed to have known her calling from the young age of eight, Rhonda’s story of how she got started in design was a delight to listen to.

“My father worked a second job at The Roxy Theatre in Parramatta and we used to go and watch movies on Saturday afternoons. I was totally mesmerised by that 1960s period of beautiful dresses and gowns.

Mum would come and pick us up when she finished work in the afternoon and by then everyone would start arriving for the evening cinema sessions. And they sure did dress! Women wore fur stoles and great big tulle skirts while the men would come in bowties and suits. It was just gorgeous and I used to love watching that. Then I’d go home and do little sketches as an eight year old and make clothes for my doll.


The art deco Roxy Theatre building in Parramatta in the 1960s. Image courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

I was also the youngest cousin on both sides of the family and attended so many weddings when I was a child and became obsessed. I always knew I wanted to get into it.

We lived in a street that was all girls (only two boys at the bottom of the street- who had runny noses and weren’t very nice!) so we had a little club of girls, all older than me and I used to make them ball gowns.

From a really young age that’s how I found my calling.”


A lecturer at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), a photographer (early on in her career Rhonda used to make the gowns and then photograph the weddings on film!) and gowns now stocked in the prestigious ‘Bridal at David Jones’ suite,  I ask the hard-working Rhonda about her inspirations…

“It comes from everywhere. Like a door handle might inspire me… A tree might inspire me… I’m mostly inspired by Elie Saab. I love Elie Saab.   He does really simple designs, the same shapes every year but he changes his fabrics and I think it’s made me work harder with fabrics.

Obviously you have to experiment with design but he inspires me because he keeps everything simple and I think that’s what it is all about. Really beautifully cut, well-shaped, well-fitted but simple.”


When asked about her favourite part of her job, Rhonda does not hesitate to describe the joy her brides bring her.

“I think creating a gown for a bride who, when starting off doesn’t really know what she wants and when she walks out the door, is overwhelmed at how amazing she looks… It gives you so much joy to see that.”


Rhonda cites Grace Kelly’s wedding dress as her favourite celebrity gown.  She’s not alone there, I remember seeing this actual gown in 2010 at the “Grace Kelly – Style Icon” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.  It truly was a work of art.


Classic beauty: the dress designed by Helen Rose of MGM Studios for Grace Kelly when she married Prince Ranier III, Prince of Monaco, in 1956. Images courtesy of


Featuring 125-year-old Brussels lace, meters of silk taffeta and thousands of tiny hand-sewn pearls, it took six weeks for 36 seamstresses to make the wedding gown. Images courtesy of

I ask about the photo of Carolyn Bessette which Rhonda has on display in her boutique…

“She changed wedding fashion forever. Because when she wore that dress, everyone was having strapless bodices, very boned, with massive beading, crystals and pearls and great big skirts. All of a sudden she came along in something very different and changed everything.”


Carolyn chose (then un-known designer) Narciso Rodriguez, a former Calvin Kelin staffer to design her dress. She walked down the aisle wearing a fluid, bias-cut dress of pearl-white crepe. Image courtesy of

For someone who has seen her fair share of trends come and go, I ask for her favourite style icon and was not at all surprised when she named Edith Head- one of the most revered and idolised costume designers in cinema history.


American costume designer Edith Head was nominated for 35 Academy Awards every year from 1948 through to 1966 and won eight times- receiving more Oscars than any other woman. She was a favourite among many of the leading female stars of the 1940s and 1950s such as Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwuck, Shirley MacLaine, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Image courtesy of

And finally, Rhonda’s best advice for a woman deciding on her dress:

“Listen to an expert and add your own touches.

I like people to add their own touches. In fact a lot of the girls come here and say, ‘I like this top and that neckline and can I have it in that fabric’. I’ll sketch it up and guide them as to what will work or what we could do differently.”


Together with Amber our model, Angela Rose behind the camera, Rhonda’s styling and myself on hair and makeup, this is what we created.

For a description of how I styled the hair and makeup as well as an insider’s look at which Indeed Labs, Make Up Forever, Ardell and Label M products I used, click here.

Some highlights…


And now for two minutes of fun with Rhonda Hemmingway…

Sunrise or sunset?


Favourite pizza topping?

Peking duck!  Pizza Moncur- never tasted anything like it!

What is your most used word or phrase?

*Rhonda laughs… “beautiful”.  When I was writing my book my husband did a check on how many times I used the word “beautiful”… It was about 2000 times.  He said, “we’ve got to go back and find other words!”.

What fictional character do you wish was real and why?

Woody from Toy Story, he seems like a lovely guy.

After our interview, Rhonda kindly gave me a signed copy of her book Secrets and Confessions of a Wedding Dress Designer and it was full of great stories and anecdotes. If you’re after a great read, I highly recommend it!


Thank you Rhonda for taking part in this blog series.  The joy you have for your work is contagious and your accomplishments are nothing short of inspirational.  Your vivacious personality is so much fun to be around and I wish you every continued success.


You can follow Rhonda Hemmingway on Facebook and Pinterest as well as visit the website for more information.  The boutique is located at Studio 23 (second floor), 94 Oxford Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010.

If you are looking for a wonderful wedding photographer, get following Angela Rose on Instagram and Facebook or check out her website.

I hope you enjoyed this post and be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of the designers profiled in The Bridal Series Sydney!  Last week we showcased Karen Willis Holmes and talked about the hair and makeup in a behind-the-scenes post.  As always, feel free to leave comments and questions below.


© 2016 Sonia Allen Make Up.  Do not copy, reprint or republish content and/or photos without author’s written permission.
Share and like this:

Rhonda Hemmingway: THE HAIR AND MAKEUP by Sonia Allen

In this post I will talk through how I created the hair and makeup for Amber, our model when I profiled Rhonda Hemmingway for The Bridal Series Sydney.


Hair and makeup by Sonia Allen using Make Up Forever, Indeed Labs and Label M. as photographed by Angela Rose Photography.


I was inspired by the symbiotic relationships you see growing in nature…  The beautiful shapes that vines make when they wrap and twist, the bends of wild ivy growing on trees…


I wanted to incorporate these shapes into my design but at the same time, I wanted Amber’s hair to look effortless.  Perfect for a boho-luxe outdoor bride or for brides without a lot of length to their hair as the shapes create interest and the illusion of full hair.

Et voila…



To create this style I had to create a matte texture to the hair to bulk it up, allowing for the structure of the design.  I  started with the Heat Protection Spray to dampen the hair and spritzed with Sea Salt Spray from mid-lengths (for texture and separation) down while at the roots I massaged in the Volume Mousse (to volumise and hold) and blasted dry with my hairdryer before tonging into loose waves.

Once Amber’s hair  had cooled I brushed out the curls and backcombed the crown and sprayed with the Texturising Volume Spray at the roots and a light dusting of the Resurrection Style Dust for added oomph. Twisting and pinning Amber’s hair was a process of ensuring visual interest, placement and hold. I used a combination of interwoven twists and small braids to create the shape. To finish I sprayed some more of the Texturising Volume Spray and away we went.


Hair styling products from LabelM.


Amber’s skin had a wonderful natural luminosity which I really wanted to incorporate into the makeup design.  I used the water-activated Indeed Labs Facial Powdered Exfoliator (containing bamboo extract, rice bran powder, okinawa red algae, hyaluronic acid & bromelain) to gently resurface the skin while hydrating at the same time.  I followed with Snoxin, a peptide-rich serum that helps with fine lines and the Eysilix eye cream around the orbital bone. After a few minutes, I massaged the the Fillume moisturiser for a gorgeous volumising finish to the skin.


Skincare using Indeed Laboratories. More on this great brand here.


Rhonda Hemmingway’s designs are so beautiful and diverse (there really is something to suit all tastes!) so I knew the makeup had to translate across the different styles of her gowns.


Beautiful gowns from our shoot with Rhonda Hemmingway as photographed by Angela Rose Photography.

I opted to design a feminine yet bold look with the key being the ability to achieve balance between the shading on the eyes and the colour on the lips.  I went for bold matte shades of berry and red for the lips because they made a great contrast against the location where we shot (we all love a bit of drama on editorials!).  However the modern bride could use a more sheer textured lipstick to achieve the same balance without the intensity.


My key makeup products from Make Up Forever:

Base: My tried and tested favourite, the Ultra HD Foundation was my base of choice and I only needed slight amounts of the Ultra HD Concealer to correct discolouration.

Blush: Using my fingers I gently patted the HD Blush in “Rosy Plum” and set lightly with loose powder.  I wanted this to look like a natural flush to the face.

Highlighter: On the high points of Amber’s face I used a lighter shade of the Ultra HD Concealer and then dusted the Shine On Powder in “Flesh” to luminise the skin.

Brows: Aqua Brow was used to shape the brows and I then worked some of the Eyebrow Pencil in a slightly lighter shade throughout to create texture and keep them looking as natural as possible.

Eyes: The Eye Prime eyeshadow base went down first, followed by eyeshadow shades from the Spring 2016 Palette and a small winged liner using the Ink Liner on the upper lashline for that classic matte finish. For the lower lashline, I smudged some of the Artist Liner in “Iridescent Taupe Grey” and set with shadow.

Make Up Forever

Tools of the trade with Make Up Forever.

Lashes:  I emphasised Amber’s lashes with the Smoky Lash Mascara and carefully added some Ardell Double Individual lashes in small and medium near the centre of the lashline.


And it came together like this…


I hope this post has left you inspired to try something new!  Be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of the designers profiled and behind-the-scenes hair & makeup posts in this Bridal Series Sydney.

The Bridal Series Sydney: KAREN WILLIS HOLMES

Karen Willis Holmes: THE HAIR AND MAKEUP by Sonia Allen

And as always, feel free to leave comments and questions below!


© 2016 Sonia Allen Make Up.  Do not copy, reprint or republish content and/or photos without author’s written permission.
Share and like this:

The Bridal Series Sydney: KAREN WILLIS HOLMES

In every profession, there are always people you look to for inspiration.  Leaders in their field and great at what they do. For me, this was meeting Australian designer Karen Willis Holmes.


Accomplished, driven and fun; stepping into Karen Willis Holmes’ beautiful Paddington boutique was a re-affirmation of just how much this designer has to offer and is captured beautifully by the photography of Angela Rose.

Get to know Karen Willis Holmes, in her words as told to me…


Always interested in fashion, Karen studied fashion design and manufacture at Bentley TAFE in Perth. She worked for herself and another company before moving to London. It was her years in London working for companies specialising in evening and special occasion day wear that she really honed her skills.

“One particular person I met while I worked for Arabella Pollen in London taught me some of the best lessons. We would make the sample patterns in the studio and after the shows I took the patterns to this older gentleman (there was no other word for him) and he would tweak them and turn them into production patterns which were masterpieces, he had such love & passion for his work and showed me so much.”


Karen- “I have always been interested in, and focused on a high level of workmanship and focused on job opportunities that involved this craftsmanship.”

Upon her return to Australia, Karen started a store designing eveningwear. During this time people started asking her to make wedding gowns for them. When the lease finished on her store, Karen’s husband Geoff suggested she change direction and specialise in fashionable wedding couture. And that’s just what she has been doing ever since, both in Australia and New York.


“I love my job and all of the different levels of what it entails to run and grow a business. It is my full time commitment and love affair. Luckily my husband works in the business and supports me fully in this.”

A hard-working woman, Karen is driven to create a bigger and better business.  She can be found either in the workroom designing and sampling the new collections, or in the office planning trade shows, overseeing the boutiques and working on the new designs and paperwork.

Having an overseas presence means travel is also part of Karen’s work.

“I travel not only between the four Australian boutiques (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth) but I now also travel overseas a few times a year to visit the boutique in New York and to show at bridal market in New York and London. I consider all my trips working holidays so I like to try and block out a few days to go and explore – especially in the US!”

And together with my photographer Angela Rose and our model Renata, Karen styling and myself on hair and makeup, this is what we created…

For a description of how I styled the hair and makeup as well as an insider’s look at which Indeed Labs, Make Up Forever, Ardell and Label M products I used, click HERE for a dedicated behind-the-scenes post.

Some of the highlights:







Asking any artist what inspires them can be one of the most challenging questions to answer. However Karen’s passion really shines through when she shares with me her design process and from where she draws inspiration.

I always draw reference from the fashion period of the 1940’s. In particular, Christian Dior’s revolutionary ‘New Look’ in 1947, following the Second World War. The construction, fit and hourglass silhouette – cinching in and defining the waist, of the collection is always a source of inspiration.

Designing is not just for the outer aesthetics of a gown, you also have to consider how the design is going to work internally – on a structural level. I also take inspiration from the history and the art of making corsets, how they manipulate the body and how they work within a wedding gown.”

Sonia_Allen_Make_Up_The_Blog-KWH-13 Sonia_Allen_Make_Up_The_Blog-KWH-32

And now take a quick five with Karen Willis Holmes…

What special touches are signature of a Karen Willis Holmes gown?

Gowns from the BESPOKE Collection and the WILD HEARTS Collection are made in Australia. This is something I am extremely proud of, as it is becoming rare to have beautiful product made here. We also sew a blue bow into our gowns – it is our ‘something blue’ for our brides!

What trends can we expect to see in bridal couture?

I don’t believe lace will completely vanish and everyone is loving the bohemian trend at the moment, but I do believe that lace is slowly making way for luxurious simpler fabrics incorporated in to beautiful structured and flattering dramatic silhouettes. Think clean, tailored lines in fitted dramatic shapes or full ball gowns.

Who was your favourite celebrity wedding gown and why?

Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) – I do love a Royal and I love the work Sarah Burton does with Alexander McQueen. This was a win for me, fashionable, it had to be so classical but then not boring. It was a perfect gown for a Royal Wedding.

What would you name your autobiography?

“Live the life you dream of and try and make it happen!”

Thank you Karen for collaborating on this project and for sharing your journey so far with us.  We can’t wait to see what’s next for Karen Willis Holmes!

You can follow Karen Willis Holmes on Instagram and Facebook as well as visit her website for more information.  The boutique is located on 13 Glenmore Road, Paddington NSW 2021.

If you are looking for a wonderful wedding photographer, get following Angela Rose on Instagram and Facebook or check out her website.

Many thanks also to The Print Room for allowing us to shoot in your space and for being so accommodating. I definitely recommend a visit to this restaurant/bar if you’re on the lookout for a unique drinking/dining experience. And if you find yourself there, be sure to let me know if you find this beautiful inscription…


I hope you enjoyed this post and be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of the designers profiled in this Bridal Series as well as the behind-the-scenes hair & makeup post to learn more about which products I used for our model.  As always, feel free to leave comments and questions below.


© 2016 Sonia Allen Make Up.  Do not copy, reprint or republish content and/or photos without author’s written permission.
Share and like this:

Karen Willis Holmes: THE HAIR AND MAKEUP by Sonia Allen

In this post I will talk through how I created the hair and makeup for Renata, our model when I profiled wedding gown designer Karen Willis Holmes for The Bridal Series Sydney.


Hair and makeup by Sonia Allen using Make Up Forever, Indeed Labs and Label M.


My inspiration for the hair I designed for Renata came from 1940s siren Veronica Lake. I wanted to create loose yet polished waves that looked effortless, feminine and great in every shot.


1940s Hollywood star and style icon Veronica Lake.

First I prepped the hair with Protein Spray, completely saturating to smooth the hair and protect against heat. I then worked in the Volume Foam and Blow Out Spray before blowdrying with volume.

Renata’s hair was then tonged with a curling wand, pin-curling each section using pin curl clips. Once the hair cooled I used a wide tooth comb to separate curls and to relax into loose fluid waves.

I brushed the hair smooth, backcombed the crown and sprayed with Texturising Volume Spray (benefits of a dry shampoo with the hold of a hairspray!) for the ultimate root lift.


Tools of the trade with Label M hairstyling products.

To finish I used the Hold & Gloss Spray (sparingly) for all over hold and shine as well as the Frizz Control Serum (on the ends only) for a polished finish.

Et voila…




Renata’s skin was cleansed with the Indeed Labs Facial Powdered Exfoliator, to remove any dead skin while delivering moisture at the same time.

We followed with my all time favourite serum, the Hydraluron Moisture Booster for it’s hydrating properties and for the fact it increases the skin’s ability to retain moisture over time (so important when you need the makeup to keep looking fresh).

For the eyes we used a rice grain amount of Eysilix around the orbital bone to create a smoother and more rejuvenated looking eye area.

For the face we massaged Fillume Volumising Moisturiser to keep skin volumised and plump. The perfect canvas for makeup!


If you want to know more about the Indeed Labs brand, you can read one of my earlier posts here.



When designing this look, I wanted to demonstrate how a darker and well-defined eye could still work with a bold lip without feeling like “too much makeup”. This is a perfect timeless look for a winter wedding or for the bride who isn’t afraid to make a statement.


In action with designer Karen Willis Holmes and our model Renata.

I kept the coverage on Renata’s face as light as possible using the Make Up Forever Ultra HD Foundation and only concealing in areas where needed using the HD Invisible Cover Concealer. Shading and dimension was introduced using the Sculpting Kit.

I used the Aqua Black waterproof cream eyeshadow as a liner for it’s ability to be as fluid as I needed it to be when building the “drama” on the eyes as well as the Aqua Smoky Extravagant Mascara for those gorgeous lashes.


For the first look, lips were lined with the Aqua Lip “Vintage Coral” lip liner before working in the Rouge Artist Natural lipstick in “Orange” (a beautiful sheer orange) with a lip brush and following with a light layer of the Artist Plexi-Gloss in “Golden Pink” to the centre of the lips (to add a touch of pink). The second more dramatic look was achieved using the Aqua Lip “Orange Red” lip liner followed by the Rouge Artist Intense lipstick in “Matte Bright Red”.


Renata also wears the Ardell Natural Lashes 120 (Demi Black). I curled the Ardell lashes along with Renata’s natural lashes and then coated again with mascara for that extra high gloss finish.


The final result…




I hope this post has left you inspired to try something new!  Be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of the designers profiled in this Bridal Series.  And as always, feel free to leave comments and questions below.


© 2016 Sonia Allen Make Up.  Do not copy, reprint or republish content and/or photos without author’s written permission.
Share and like this:

Sonia Allen MakeUp Artist launches THE BRIDAL SERIES SYDNEY

A few posts ago I announced that I had something exciting to share and I am so thrilled to be finally be able to reveal what I have been working on.



For the last eight months I have been working on a project for this blog. A big one! I set out to profile Sydney’s top wedding gown designers in a bid to learn more about these Australian icons and for the opportunity to create some beautiful imagery alongside them. Together with photographers Angela Rose and Natasha Foster supporting me behind the lens, the Sonia Allen Makeup Bridal Series Sydney comes to life.

Featuring the stellar line up of…









JR Logo Broken Horizontal copy




Here’s a teaser of what to expect…

The Bridal Series will run over the next six weeks on the blog. Each week I will be featuring one designer and showcasing their boutique and couture creations. There will also be a supporting post dedicated to the hair and make-up design where I talk through how I created the look for each model in this series. I will showcase the products used, as well share my inspiration behind the hair and make-up looks.


If you’re getting married, this Bridal Series is like your direct link to some of Australia’s finest talent. If you love make-up or want to learn more about skincare and hairstyling, read the make-up posts- they are full of my tips and advice. And if like me, you are passionate about supporting Australian designers, enjoy getting to know each one, just as I did.

I’d like to thank Angela and Natasha for your wonderful photography, I couldn’t have shot this without you (literally!).  I’d also like to thank all the beautiful models along with my sponsors Make Up Forever, Ardell, Indeed Labs & Label M for supporting this project and whose products we used throughout the shoots.  As a working makeup artist and hairstylist, these are brands that you will most definitely find in my kit and it was great to collaborate for this project.

It was a privilege to work alongside these designers and I can’t wait to share this project with you all!


© 2016 Sonia Allen Make Up.  Do not copy, reprint or republish content and/or photos without author’s written permission.
Share and like this:

A young old-Hollywood

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to work with young up and coming talent.  Damon from London Model Management was no exception.  Together with photographer Patrick Mackey, we shot Damon in a variety of light setups and kept the styling minimal.


This one was my favourite from the series.  I’m always a sucker for a good black and white and the lighting here is spot on!

People often ask me if I do make-up for men too. Yes. I do. Pretty much any male you see photographed or appearing on TV (unless they are playing sport!) are wearing make-up. The purpose isn’t to make them look like they’re wearing make-up the way you might when working with a female, instead it’s to ensure that they are “camera ready” and don’t look washed out under the studio lights.

At only 18 years of age, there was something about Damon that reminded me of the old Hollywood classics.

The youth of Farley Granger…

Sonia_Allen_Make_Up_The_Blog-Farley Granger 1943

Farley Granger for ‘The North Star’, Samuel Goldwyn Company. Photographed by Margaret Bourke-White, 1943.

The confidence of Marlon Brando…

Sonia_Allen_Make_Up_The_Blog-Marlon Brando-1950

Marlon Brando for ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, Warner Brothers. Photographed by John Engstead, 1950.

The intensity of Rock Hudson…

Sonia_Allen_Make_Up_The_Blog-Rock Hudson-1961

Rock Hudson for ‘Lover Come Back’, Universal. Photographed by Leo Fuchs, 1961.

And the broodiness (and awesome hair!) of Clint Eastwood…

Sonia_Allen_Make_Up_The_Blog-Clint Eastwood-1956

Clint Eastwood, RKO. Photographed by Ernest A. Bachrach, 1956.

We really tried to channel that in this series of images and I love the final result.  From a make-up perspective, it was all about working with the light to add more angular dimensions to Damon’s face.  For his hair, I worked with his natural body and switched it up from slick Clint Eastwood-style to more relaxed for the colour shots.

Some of my other favourite shots…




While shooting, Damon told me he’d given up going to schoolies with his friends in Fiji to stay back and work on building his book.  With an attitude like that Damon, you’ll no doubt go far!

Please feel free to leave me any questions or comments below if you want to know more about this shoot.


© 2016 Sonia Allen Make Up.  Do not copy, reprint or republish content and/or photos without author’s written permission.
Share and like this: