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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Karen Dornellie

Successful designer and entrepreneur, Karen Dornellie is our Wonder Woman this Wednesday

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Our Wonder Woman this Wednesday - Karen
Our Wonder Woman this Wednesday - Karen

The Karen Dornellie brand was launched in 2009 at the National Wedding Show. Initially specialising in veils, Karen extended her interest to include headpieces and separates. More recently, Karen has set up Rainaway Brides, an innovative concept that’s perfect for our unpredictable British weather. Karen’s hard work and determination has earned her our Wonder Woman title this Wednesday. We met up with the business woman to discuss her history and success within our beloved industry.

Read about our previous Wonder Woman Abigail Neill here.


Tell me about your background. How did you get into bridal?

I was a costume maker at the time that my best friend was planning her wedding. She asked me to make her dress but due to work commitments and logistics I declined. She did, however, convince me to make her veil for her because when we looked at what was available they weren’t very inspiring and extremely expensive for just a basic design.

When I made her veil, it was my first ever, and it motivated me to try to innovate the design of veils by making good quality and unique items.

I had always dreamed of being my own boss as a designer and I felt the timing was right to do so within the bridal industry.

What are your secrets to success?

I am afraid I am still searching for the secret to success but I am doggedly determined and hard work does pay off.

I have the passion to not give up which goes a long way and I hope will get me to where I hope to be one day.

Each day is a joy to be doing what I love and enjoy.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

My greatest achievement is to have created a business I am proud of and is growing each year on my own. I have created not just my design business but Rainaway Bride which is getting more popular as time goes on.

I have also received an SBS award from Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday on Twitter which was fantastic to be recognised by such an influential place. Another achievement was when I did won first prize whilst at Fashion College for a design project set by Courtaulds, and it was on show at a major fabric fair in Olympia.

How does an employee catch your attention, or impress you?

I don’t currently have an employees but any freelance colleagues must have drive, skills and precision to detail… And a very good sense of humour.

What does your typical working day look like?

Every day is different as some days are with clients, others are spent researching and designing, and many more at a sewing machine working on orders or creating new designs. The great thing about my job is no day is the same. Paperwork days are not my favourite, however, but have to be done.

5 Interesting Facts About Karen:

  • As a costume maker I made Jason Donovan’s frilly knickers for his role in ’Priscilla Queen of the Desert’.
  • I also worked on films like ’Elizabeth the Golden Age’ and ’Pirates of the Caribbean’, mostly making the headpieces for the cannibals.
  • I am a massive Agatha Christie fan and have all her books chronologically stored alongside every Poirot DVD and have a bucket list of places to visit related to her and her life. Her house in Devon and the hotel in Harrogate where she allegedly disappeared already ticked off.
  • I moved from Croydon, South London to the Isle of Wight in 2000 on my own and have created from scratch an amazing life on this fabulous island with many friends and my beautiful studio and exciting business.
  • I became the youngest manager at the time, for a well-respected fashion chain before moving to the island.
  • I improved the store in all areas including stock loss, 5% down to 0.5%, and profit from minus £150k to plus £150k in the five years I was there.

Karen’s achievements within our industry have inspired us here at Bridal Buyer, and we hope they’ve done the same to you. If you know an inspiring woman within the bridal business that you’d like us to feature, email me at

If you enjoyed this, read about our previous Wonder Woman, Sandi Toksvig, here.

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