My background is in fashion marketing. Being in a job I hated and having two colleagues who were both engaged meant we spent most of our time doing research for their weddings. As we did, I realised there wasn’t a single dress out there that resonated with me. I’m not the girl who’s always dreamt of getting married, and all that research made me realised how antiquated the market was.
It felt like everything was embellished or had lots of lace – there just didn’t seem to be anywhere for girls like me. After starting to dig deeper, however, I discovered so many international designers who just didn’t have a retail presence over here. That was the penny drop moment.
I don’t believe in buying an expensive dress only to box it up forever. Our store is for brides who feel the same way – those who have looked at everything else and can’t find anything that feels like them or that doesn’t come with an enormous price tag. They love the Khaite and Totême aesthetic – they just want to look like the best versions of themselves.
Our aesthetic is best described as contemporary and minimalist, although we do have a few designers making more embellished designs, like Anne For Love, who creates 100% sequin pieces. Regardless, each of our designers has a really unique approach to design. Everything is comfortable and ethically produced and all of our designers produce by hand to order, so the whole process is really controlled and sustainable. For example, Lola Varma developed their last collection by purchasing deadstock fabric from luxury fashion houses.
We’ve also just launched something called ReCycle, where brides can bring us their worn wedding dresses and we’ll sell them on. Many brides haven’t been able to wear their original choice of dress due to the pandemic, and have bought something simpler for their smaller ceremonies, so the service really has been invaluable.
The price of a dress largely depends on the fabric being used. For instance, a silk piece is always going to cost more than a synthetic, recycled polyester crepe. That said, we so try to subvert the assumption that synthetic fibres aren’t sustainable – we do all the due diligence with the designers to understand where the fabric comes from and how it’s been produced. People associate silk with better quality, but silk isn’t vegan, so it depends on your priorities. Our general rule is not to charge above £3,000 for a dress, and we’re also trying to expand below the £1,000 mark, especially now that so many brides want a second look or a fun party dress.
Our store opened two months before the first lockdown. It would be easy to say we should have waited, but actually, the pandemic has accelerated the trend towards more relaxed bridal fashion and more sustainable choices.
In response, we panic-built an online shop. Almost the entire industry is made to order, but plenty of brides-to-be don’t understand the lead-times involved, so we wanted to showcase some ready-to-wear styles that could work for those last-minute legal ceremonies. We were also one of, if not the first store to offer a home try-on service – you can’t pack an enormous ballgown into a box and ship it all that efficiently, but the relaxed styles we stock make it easier.
Our brides are usually surprised at how much they enjoy one of our appointments. Many dread the process, and I’ve heard so many bad stories – some stores won’t even allow you to touch the dresses, and you can be made to feel inferior. For us, it’s super chilled – we want to get to know the customer – the more we know them, the more we can help recommend the right dress. We also went for a warehouse style space to help the experience be as relaxed and as unassuming as possible – there’s no intimidation.
Shopping without a vision can be really difficult. It’s worth doing some research and starting with a visit to two or three stores – you have to pay for appointments, so you may as well be selective. Then, when it comes to dresses, think about what you like to wear every day and try to find dresses with similar details. Also be open to suggestions – sometimes the most unexpected choice can end up being the one. Bring a pair of heels with you, too – all bridal samples are really long, so even if you don’t plan on wearing them, they’ll give you a better idea of how the fabric will hang once it’s made for you. Also – wear skin-coloured underwear.
It seems the changes prompted by the pandemic are here to stay. Naturally, people care about what their friends – and mothers – think when it comes to a wedding dress. But over the past year, we’ve all realised how short life is, and people are now more concerned with what they want first and foremost. We expect the smaller wedding trend to survive long term, too.
Traditionally, bridalwear has been siloed. You’ve had to have bridal shoes, bridal jewellery, a bridal hairpiece… but actually, you don’t. Remember, you can do whatever you want – you can incorporate pieces from everyday designers into your look and create something that’s really unique to you.