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Meet the Bridal Designer Who Knows What Millennials Want

In a year when crop tops, floor-length capes, and jumpsuits were considered on-trend for a modern bride, Houghton — the New York–based brand created in 2012 by designer Katharine Polk — has forged its own path in offering alternatives to traditional bridalwear. Or, as the designer herself calls it, “ready-to-wear you can get married in.”

Named as a tribute to Katharine Hepburn — whose middle name was Houghton — the brand draws inspiration from the Hollywood icon's nonchalant aesthetic. At Houghton’s gypsy-inspired April bridal show, highlights included a floral wide-leg jumpsuit (worn with a shearling gilet), a sleeveless metallic sequined sheath, and a dreamy fluted pink halter-neck gown. There were even a few oversize, minimal men's looks in the mix, for the groom who loves Public School. The collection was bold, radical, even, in the context of New York Bridal Week, usually the province of floaty, hyperfeminine white gowns.

A Badgley Mischka alum, Polk launched bridalwear after Houghton's debut ready-to-wear collection for Fall 2012 — filled with understated ivory gowns — caught on with bridal clients. The brand has produced twin lines since then, with styles from its ready-to-wear collection often appearing in white or ivory for bridal season. Polk's past bridal offerings have ranged from minimalist separates, Rihanna-esque sheer-mesh gowns, trapeze jumpsuits, floor-length Chantilly lace capes, and filmy T-shirt styles paired with fuchsia heels. Though Houghton is not the first brand to integrate ready-to-wear elements into its bridal collections, it's tastefully defied the basic poufy wedding dress in a way that speaks directly to a younger generation of women. As the New York Times noted, brides are increasingly veering from tradition in favor of bridalwear that's more in line with their personal style, like crop tops and drop-crotch trousers.

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Houghton's growing influence in the bridal sphere has been duly noted by fashion editors, and its clothes have developed a loyal following among celebrities such as Lily Collins,Kate Mara, and Zosia Mamet. While some stars wear Houghton’s bridal gowns on the red carpet, other clients marry in its ready-to-wear. This blurry divide between ready-to-wear and bridal — "Why should people have to label it?” said Polk — is why the designer will drop the title “Bride” completely as of this season, lumping both collections under one name. For September's Fashion Week, the designer has promised "Summer of '69"–inspired beachy whites and is teaming up with M.A.C for the nail and beauty selections. For October's bridal market, she has more up her sleeve: Think lingerie and menswear.

A self-described '90s girl, Polk draws inspiration from the strong women she admired growing up, like No Doubt–era Gwen Stefani. On her Instagram, you’ll find photos of '90s Kate Moss, T.L.C., and Sarah Jessica Parker. Polk's uncontested favorite "Houghton girl," though, is the founder of Milk's Made program, Jenne Lombardo. "She gets how I would style it, taking the lace and putting it with a cargo jacket and crazy suede platforms. Or dirty old Converses, or dirty Doc Martens.”

Though Polk loves to see how people interpret her clothes, Lombardo's pared-down style speaks to the Houghton aesthetic Polk envisions when she designs. “Sometimes the clothes get misinterpreted as super-feminine and a little too ladylike,” Polk says. “I see it styled as more grungy, which is the fun part about it. You can wear it to work or some dirty dive bar.”

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Why an anime character can be openly gay in Japan

"I just kind of said it quickly, 'Hey, I’m gay,'" he recalls.

“Stop it. That’s disgusting,” she said, according to Hayshi. That really hurt.

Japan — unlike the US — doesn't have a Puritan history that says homosexuality is some kind of cardinal sin. And for years it wasn't uncommon to see a cross-dresser on TV giving fashion advice or a Japanese cartoon with gay characters.

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But while being openly gay has been OK for famous people or anime characters, on an individual level, it’s been really hard to be out in Japan. Schoolyard bullying and discrimination are known problems. And LGBT individuals often feel isolated.

In college, Hayashi was doing research on the untapped LGBT market in Japan. One day a friend — the only other friend he had who was openly gay — said he wanted to start a company to do same-sex weddings. Hayashi jumped at the idea.

Together they planned a wedding and life services company for the queer community. And they won a huge student business competition. At first they were doing it mostly for fun, but then they started learning about the high suicide rate of sexual minorities in Japan. And then a friend committed suicide. And their sense of purpose changed.

"Say someone like me comes out to their parents in five years, and they’re also told that’s disgusting," Hayashi says. "That’s unacceptable. If we don't do something, the next generation will suffer just as much."

Today Hayashi is the CEO of Letibee — meant to sound like Let it be.

The company runs Letibee Life. It’s a media site featuring everything from news to stories on trans- and gay-friendly hair salons to people writing about their own coming out experiences. It’s the first of its kind in Japan.

They do corporate consulting, teaching companies about sexuality, sexual minorities — and how to respond to LGBT as customers and employees. And they’re about to launch an app they hope will provide a safe space for LGBT to connect and build community.

It hasn’t been easy. On top of the ups and downs of running a startup, Hayashi has been a running a startup aimed at a community no one thought was important.

And then in April, everything changed. Shibuya, one of the most well-known districts in Tokyo — think — Times Square mashed up with the West Village, but with more governing power — recognized same-sex marriage. Hayashi says until that moment, seeing LGBT rights splashed across the front page of the newspaper was unimaginable.

"We went from, 'Can you really be a company providing services to the LGBT community?' To: Letibee, your time has come," Hayashi says.

In July, Setagaya, another influential district in Tokyo, recognized same-sex marriage.

James Welker, a professor who studies gender and sexuality in Japan, says although neither district’s decision is legally binding it’s created a certain momentum about same-sex partnership and LGBT rights in a really short period of time.

The Japanese Parliament now also has a committee looking into how to end discrimination. And Yokohama, Japan’s second biggest city, adjacent to Tokyo, recently announced a city-supported LGBT festival for this fall.

"Because of the more positive normalizing — and normal is a problematic word in media discourse — ... more people are open to the idea that, hey, some people are gay or lesbian or bisexual. It’s not as big of a deal any more," Welker says.

One big way to tell perceptions are shifting is by looking at what’s happening to Tokyo’s gay pride festival. In 2014, 15,000 people participated in the festival. In 2015, the number was 55,000.

Since coming, Hayashi and his mom have made amends.

On a societal scale, Hayashi says Japan really is getting better. But on an individual level, there’s still a long way to go. But Letibee, Hayashi says, will play a part in changing that.

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Sooraj Sits For Marriage While Sandhya Follows Chandu

Diya Aur Baati Hum's August 18th episode: The Boss comforts Sandhya when she breaks down after seeing her family. He tells her to concentrate on the mission. She regains her composure and becomes determined to catch Chandu, the mastermind of Garjana. Boss gives her a secret communication device. Shekhar sits for a secret meeting with his comrades, before going to the stage.

Diya Aur Baati Hum: Sooraj Sits For Marriage While Sandhya Follows Chandu

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Sandhya sees that the drama costume is changed just before the show. The artists are given luminous jackets; Sandhya thinks it must be for some special purpose. She sees her boss promoting a pizza brand on the function ground. The Independence Day program starts with an announcement of a special power project to solve the present power issues in Rajasthan. The Minister gives a speech on the same. Shekhar’s team performs a masked show with the luminous suits. Sandhya keeps close watch on the situation. Shekhar keeps looking for an opportunity to escape from the function hall. He secretly leaves the hall just after the show is over. Sandhya sees someone escaping; she follows him without knowing it is Shekhar.

Bhabho carefully makes the last minute preparations for Sooraj’s wedding. Ved helps Sooraj get dressed in his wedding suit. Sooraj notices Ved’s grim face. Bhabho explains that Ved is upset because his special suit has not been delivered by the tailor. Meenakshi thinks she will never let Sooraj get married to Lalima. As Sooraj is afraid of fire, Bhabho wets the pieces of firewood, so that they can never get ignited during the marriage ceremony. Meenakshi cleverly changes the wet pieces of firewood with dry ones, so that they easily catch fire and Sooraj’s condition can be revealed before Lalima. Sooraj and Lalima are taken to the wedding ground as per the schedule.

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