When Alyssa Milano, Ali Landry and Courtney Lopez each walked down the aisle, they chose elaborate items from Maria Elena Headpieces & Accessories to accent their gowns.
And when Monte Durham, a star of Say Yes to the Dress — Atlanta “jacks up”a client at Bridals by Lori, he brings out a Swarovski crystal-embellished sash or sparkly earrings from Maria Elena — to the oohs and aahs of the bride and her entourage.
“I love their stuff,” said Durham, fashion director at the Atlanta store featured on the show. “I just can’t imagine jacking up the bride without Maria Elena.”
Over the past 21 years, Doral-based Maria Elena Headpieces & Accessories, founded by Maria Elena Fuentes, has made a name for itself in the bridal industry, selling its high-end headbands, tiaras, hair combs, belts, jewelry and more to bridal retailers all over the United States and abroad.
“It’s definitely a niche,” said Marile Lopez, Fuentes’ daughter, who helped her start the business. “It’s for the bride that is looking for something unique.”
In all, Maria Elena Headpieces & Accessories sells its creations to 65 accounts that have a total of 80 stores domestically and internationally, said Gisele Del Busto, marketing and sales director.
Among the stores are some of the biggest names in the bridal industry, including Kleinfeld in New York, which is its largest client; Bridals by Lori in Atlanta; Roma Sposa in Birmingham, Mich.; as well as Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Locally, Chic Parisien in Coral Gables and Ever After in Coconut Grove carry the line. Outside the continental United States, Maria Elena also sells to retailers in Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Greece and Switzerland.
“The diversity of the line itself is really one of its best features,” Durham said, “because you have from extravagant to traditional.”
In Coral Gables, Chic Parisien was among Maria Elena’s first clients, and owner Catherine Fox Milian said the collection remains her No. 1 accessories line.
“They are works of art,” she said, “and you can pass them down from generation to generation.”
Plenty of celebrities have chosen to wear the creations, including Mariah Carey, Chris Bosh’s wife Adrienne and Mark Zuckerberg’s wife Priscilla Chan. So have Milano, Landry and Courtney Lopez, who selected Maria Elena earrings and bracelets for herself as well as for her entire bridal party — her mother, mother-in-law, sister and sister-in-law.
“The thing I loved about her jewelry is, it was so beautiful and classy,” said Lopez, who wed Mario Lopez, the television host and actor, in December 2012. “Her jewelry is so light, you can wear it all night.”
She also selected a rosary from Maria Elena’s collection at Lovella Bridal in Glendale, Calif.
With 15 employees in all, Maria Elena Headpieces & Accessories creates two collections a year, designed by Fuentes and made in-house in Doral. The company has also entered into exclusive collaborations with high-end bridal designers, such as Lazaro, Ines Di Santo and Edgardo Bonilla.
Inside Maria Elena’s warehouse on a recent weekday, employees were busy putting together the new fall-winter 2014 collection. Some were attaching Swarovski crystals and pearls to delicate headbands and sashes, while others were making jewelry boxes, jewelry and purses.