Avril’s journey in the world of fashion began at birth, as her mother, then the womenswear buyer for Smith and Caughey in Auckland, would take her baby with her on her buying trips for the department store. By the age of 6 she had a miniature English sewing machine and was sewing clothes for her dolls. Soon thereafter she began making her own clothes and continued her hobby throughout the 1960’s. She spent every school holiday working in her Mother’s clothing shop, and at 17 began her studies at The NZ College of Fashion Design in Auckland. She worked in the womenswear apparel industry through the 1970’s. Relocation to London, England, in 1980 saw the opening of clothing and accessory boutiques over the next 5 years. Marriage in 1987 took her to the USA, where she started her first bridal business, Simply Chic Bridal in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In 1992 she and her husband moved to Miami, Florida, where she continued with custom wedding gown dressmaking for 3 years.
After the birth of their first daughter, Astra, Avril and her husband decided it was time to move to Auckland to raise a family, and to reunite with her elderly parents. She was inspired to open New Zealand’s first “ready-to-wear” full-service bridal salon. Named after their daughter, Astra Bridal, opened in early 1996 on Symonds Street, where it still stands today. An instant success, it offered brides a new concept from the prevailing made-to-measure option. In 2000 a second store was opened in Wellington, and after another 3 years of steady growth at both locations the business was sold, as the family decided to move back to the USA, settling in Honolulu, Hawaii.
After 6 years in the sun New Zealand beckoned again, and the family purchased Highden Manor, a 120 year-old mansion house outside Palmerston North, which they renovated and turned into a venue and boutique hotel. The renovation completed they returned to Auckland and opened their elegant French-inspired bridal salon, Aurora Bridal in Newmarket named after their second daughter. Aurora Bridal was relocated to the Chapel at Highden Manor Estate when the family returned in 2013.
It is here that brides from all over the lower North Island can enjoy the 30+ years of Avril’s experience in all aspects of bridal, and choose from a selection of hundreds of elegant and affordable gowns, bridesmaids and accessories in this beautiful showroom.