What bride doesn’t dream of that perfect one-of-a-kind gown that’s made just for her?
That dream is within reach at En Vogue in Main Street Village on Hilton Head Island, where designer/consultant Patricia Hufenbecher creates affordable yet unique dresses for brides, mothers-of-the-bride, bridesmaids, flower girls, proms, First Communion, cotillion and Quinceañera, among others.
Hufenbecher, who hails from Berlin, Germany, and speaks five languages, opened the shop about six months ago after many years of designing show-stopping dresses in Europe, New York City and Palm Beach, Fla.
Despite being a self-described tomboy as a child, Hufenbecher’s future in the world of the arts seemed predestined. Her mother was an opera singer and a lyrics/poetry writer. Her father was a nuclear engineer who also was and artist and poet, and at one time a poet laureate.
As a young girl, Hufenbecher had her heart set on being an architect. But she always loved art. “I’ve always painted and loved doing watercolors,” she said. “And I hated playing with dolls. But my sister had Barbies and I started designing clothes for them as a child. Then, my oldest sister didn’t like the prom dresses she was seeing at the stores, so I created one for her … a beautiful, gold Grecian A-line with very simple lines. She looked beautiful.”
But Hufenbecher still was set on architecture as a career. Then her father was transferred to New York City and she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology. She took some fashion design classes where top designers would come in and teach. One of those designers was Pauline Trigere, who the New York Times called “an elegant and chic symbol of the American fashion industry for more than half a century.”
Trigere told Hufenbecher that she had to pursue fashion or she would “waste her talents.” So, her career choice changed. Within six months she was assisting Hungarian haute couture designer Eva Haynal, who was at one time an assistant to Coco Chanel. Hufenbecher credits Haynal with “teaching me everything.” During her time with Haynal, they designed clothes for various soap operas, including “All My Children.” After a couple of years, she went to work for a fashion house on Broadway in New York City.
At that time, Hufenbecher married a fellow Berliner and moved back to Germany, where she designed one-of-a-kind clothes for ambassadors’ wives and celebrities.
She later moved to Palm Beach, where a family tragedy struck. Her daughter was living in New York City, and Hufenbecher returned to the city to be with her. In 2008, she moved to Hilton Head Island. “It’s between Palm Beach and New York, and I had friends here and loved it here.”
Those friends encouraged her to open En Vogue, seeing a need on the island for a designer who could create special occasion dresses.
“This really is a special events boutique,” Hufenbecher said. “Every dress is one-of-a-kind. That’s an art that just is not found anymore.”
She loves the fact that she can give her clients exactly what they want. “I can make dreams come true!” she said.
Creating designs also gives Hufenbecher the ability to work on price with the client. “While my bridal gowns are unique, they are also very affordable. The most expensive is $3,000, but they can go as low as $700.”
She does all the work herself, including elaborate or simple hand-beading. She’s also fast. An elaborate gown can take only a month.
Hufenbecher obviously takes great delight in her art. “I absolutely, totally enjoy my work. And I love working with clients. En Vogue means ‘in style,’ and that’s what I try to give my clients.”