- 3 years ago
- Wedding: March 2013
Hi Bees! forgive what is about to be a very long post. I’m really just externalising some things I’ve been thinking about for ages, so if you have a short attention span, I’ll add a poll to keep you amused!
Short version – I’ve been trying to build a small fashion label but I am thinking of changing direction and turning it into a bridal label.
So my background is fashion design – I did my bachelor of design at a very modern university with a great reputation for design and have since been plodding along running my own small business, which so far has been a bit all over the place. The first collection was casual daywear & accessories, including some bags which were really popular. I was advised to focus on bags, because they were the strongest part of the collection. So I did that, and struggled horribly until I realised that making only bags was boring me to tears. I might be good at it, but I’m also good at making clothes and I enjoy that much more.
At the same time I was working for another fashion designer as an assistant designer, but after working there for three years, she closed her business to concentrate on her family and I was left without a stable job. I panicked and applied for a bunch of retail jobs, and applied to do a masters degree in education cause I’m a big fan of backup plans. I planned out a small winter collection and had barely started producing it when I got accepted into the masters and got a retail job for weekends. So, the next 18 months was spent studying, working, prac teaching and picking up any custom dressmaking work I could.
Right as I was getting to the end of my masters, my then boyfriend/now husband was offered a move to the Philippines with his work. As I would be on a dependent’s visa, I wouldn’t be able to work and wouldn’t need to due to a low cost of living here, so I was really excited to be able to work on my own business full time again. Once we got here, I designed and produced a small summer collection and worked on my own wedding dress, all the while keeping up steady custom work – bridesmaid dresses, costumes, etc. I designed a second collection and have been really slow getting around to finishing it.
Now, bear in mind that I have made hardly any money from this label. The thing that keeps me going is custom work – that’s where I make my money. Because it’s guaranteed pay and on a deadline, it always ends up being my priority and my other work sits in the corner looking sad and making me feel guilty for not finishing it. Through this custom work I have made two wedding dresses (three if you count my own) and lots of bridesmaid dresses. Bridal work gets me the best pay and is great for business because you always end up with fantastic photos of your work. I enjoy it and I think I’m good at it.
BORING BACKGROUND PART OVER IF YOU TUNED OUT AND WANT TO TUNE BACK IN
so. lately I’ve been thinking more and more about giving up on the other stuff and just doing bridal. turning my fashion label into a bridal label. When I was shopping for wedding dresses (I was always going to make my own but mum wanted the dress shopping experience), we found a designer who just made me think ‘I want to be her’. She had a lovely little shop front right near all the other bridal stores, with her studio at the back. She had a buzzer on the door and a number to call through and make appointments. The shop was filled with samples to try on, but she’s really a custom dressmaker – the samples are just a starting point for girls to try on and get an idea of what they want. then she designs a dress with the customer and works on it in her studio, popping her head into the shop whenever she has a customer. I can’t imagine she’s making a killing, but she definitely seems to get enough work to keep the business going.
I think I want that. My design style is very retro inspired and I LOVE vintage wedding dresses, especially 50s-60s, even 70s. I would do wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, veils, sashes, accessories etc. As well as the shop front I would have an online store (this is how I have always run my business previously). I think vintage style wedding dresses are a niche market and so there is a likelihood of people trawling for 60s wedding dresses online as they can be harder to find locally. Bridesmaid dresses are especially easy to sell online. As for local customers, in Sydney, I think there is just enough of a market for it to keep me busy.
We have 15 months left in the Philippines before we head home (not that I’m counting…), which is a good amount of time to just spend designing and making lots and lots of samples. Obviously I won’t be able to open a brick and mortar store the minute we get home, but the goal would be to get started as soon as possible, and to do that I’d need enough samples to fill a store.
Is this a good plan? I feel kind of crap about having to abandon the business I’ve been struggling to get off the ground for the last three years, but then if it’s not working, it’s not working. I just think if I want to do the bridal thing I need to decide soon and commit to it. but I’m worried that I’m only thinking all theses things because I’m winding down from my own wedding and maybe I miss being in wedding mode all the time. argh!
Would you buy from an independent designer, or do you prefer the security of an established bridal store? Even though I have only made three real wedding dresses so far, I am very experienced and skilled, if I do say so myself! I think as long as there are plenty of dresses for girls to try on, it will still feel like a real store – just a more niche store with a distinct style, rather than a ‘something for everyone’ type emporium. Having said that, the vintagey thing is just my preferred style. I’ll make anything! Thank you so much if you’ve made it to the end. I really just needed to write all this out to sort out my thoughts. I figured if I post it here, maybe others will have some insight or questions that I haven’t yet considered.
If you did get a dress made, tell me all about your experience please! what sort of business practice does the dressmaker use? what services did they offer? did they do anything you thought worked really well?
note to moderators – I understand this might be a bit borderline with your terms of service – for this reason I have never linked to my business or shown any of my other work – apart from my own wedding dress. you can see from my post count that I am a legitimate member of these forums, and I’m not fishing for customers. I’m just looking for advice from fellow wedding obsessers! however, if there is anything wrong with this post, let me know if I can change it rather than take it down completely. I added a poll because bees love polls, but I understand that it comes across kind of like market research.. it’s not, but I’m happy to remove the poll if I need to.
THE END! pheewwww….