It’s well known that I started H&W after my own journey as a bride, I have based the store, the vibe and the brand on everything I learnt as a bride. This doesn’t mean that I went around stores stealing ideas or thinking ’wow’ this is the most amazing job in the world.
It’s quite the opposite, I spent nearly two years trying to find my gown, because I fell in love with a gown on Pinterest - I had no idea, not a clue about something called ’exclusivity’ - do you? The average normal person getting married wouldn’t have a clue, right? Well, this is what I discovered ‘designers’ want their brands to be in stores that are reflective of their brands (this isn’t true about all designers - but most), they also don’t want to over commercialise their brand by being in too many stores - this means price wars etc and loss of desirability when the gowns are ‘everywhere’ (Again this isn’t true of all designers). So in a nutshell, I couldn’t find this gown anywhere but a very exclusive, designer store in Mayfair...I mean I should have have known better BUT here’s where I started to really learn ‘how I would do things differently if I owned a store’, you’re hopeful as a bride, right?! Dreamy, wistful, ever positive that the gown you have seen is in your price range, who knows what a good price range is?! I had never shopped for a bridal gown before, not even a ball gown or evening wear, I had no clue about how much I should be spending!
So I booked an appointment, I went to the store (by the way, I paid £50 for the appointment and I was totally miffed about why I had to pay,and now I get it, opening a store means I get it. In my first year of business you wouldn’t believe how many didn’t turn up and you also wouldn’t believe how many people would book an appointment and once in store, tell me they were not engaged or just fancied a day out................).
I tried ‘my’ dress on, I LOVED it, I loved all of the gowns but I had my heart set on that gown. Until the end of the appointment when they told me the price; started at £6500 and you had to use their seamstress etc - Eeekkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
Now, this gown and designer is worth it, I get it, but this price meant I couldn’t afford the gown and started a long joinery which included sample sales, second hand gowns and visits to many many stores. This blog isn’t about all of those experiences but about one thing in particular, all the boutiques I visited (and it was a LOT!) were doing this;
“It’s always been done this way” this meant;
websites only showing a selection of the gowns, so I had no idea what else they had
little or no social media - this has changed now (this was in 2011/12)
No online booking, you had to call or request an appointment by email
Interior/Exterior of the shop was overly traditional and hadn’t been updated in years - I know this sounds harsh but I felt like the shops just were not me, and if they didn’t care to make the shop look nice, would they care about me??!
No prices on the gowns on the website or in store?! This means that you try something on, fall in love with it and find out you can’t afford it, and then spend more than you have or want.
Sizes; this is a difficult one, because I know I can’t afford to buy more than one size for the store and no matter what the press says ‘there isn’t an average size’ everyone is different. Certain designers attract certain sizes mainly because of their vibe but also the designs of their gowns, so for example the relaxed style gowns tend not to have any support built in meaning that they may not be suitable for someone who has a large bust or wants the gown to give them a particular shape. Also the other confusing thing is, that one designers 12 is another designers 16 which is another designers 8! So when you buy your jeans and you buy a size 12 waist, you go wedding dress shopping and think you’re a 12 only to be rudely shocked when an 18 doesn’t do up! I mean, this could be devastating but the thing here is to think of the end result, I don’t mean weight loss, I mean that when your on your wedding day, your gown is no longer a ‘size’ it’s tailored to your body and your shape, it’s not a label size, it’s you. And the style of a gown will also affect which size is ordered. All so confusing but a good stylist/store will explain this to you in an appointment.
Sales pressures; some of the phrases I had said to me and that I have told from other brides and friends; “If you don’t buy this gown today you won’t be able to get it in time” - ok if it’s 4 months before your wedding then this is true...if it’s 10-12 or more this is sales pressure. • “If you buy this today, we will give you 10% off, you won’t get that again if you return” (obvs sales pressure), • “this dress is the only one we have, we have it specially in for you (and it’s full price)” - it’s sample sale, it’s been discontinued, they bought the wrong dress, they’re trying to shift a gown they don’t want for full price. • overly complementary stylist/sales advisor telling you that everything looks ‘amazing!’, now I am a MASSIVE fan of you and I’m astounded how amazing my brides look in the gowns, my gowns are incredible and so are you so normally this is true, you do look great in everything, but I’m not here to fan your ego, I will also ‘help’ by letting you know my opinion on what gown looks the best on you and what doesn’t work as well and the reasons why, but you must remember that buying a gown is an emotional investment and you will look great in everything so it needs sometimes to be a deeper reason that just how it makes you look.
When I was a bride ai went to so many different boutiques because there wasn’t any transparency, I didn’t have the choice but to visit lots.
Now, you, the bride can research easily, most bridal boutiques social media accounts will give you an idea of their vibe, and so think it’s really clear to see the differences between stores, social media has been an amazing way for me to connect to you. To show what I do, to show you who I am for, to show you the sizes, the costs and what you will experience being a H&W Bride.
Obviously websites are also amazing and again a good store will have an updated website, you will find every single gown I stock on my website, with every single price (new stock that is coming in won’t be priced until it arrives), every single will be sized.
Ever evolving is so important to H&W, I evolve, as does my store with my bride. I am constantly changing and growing(and learning, I’m not saying I do everything correctly but I am open to criticism and I am open to improving) but what remains at the core is you, buying in gowns that I know you will love, gowns that are affordable ranges - deposit options, sizes that are inclusive, pre-appointment clarity and transparency. Care during your appointment to find you your dream gown, that not only looks amazing on you, but makes you feel comfortable, practical (as they can be), dreamy - whatever your feeling/vibe that you want to achieve, I will help you find it. After sales support - it’s always been so important to me to be able to offer you ongoing support and I don’t mean sales, I mean, I am here to help you after, store the gown, recommend a seamstress that you can use in store or not, bagging your gown, steaming and prepping your gown, helping with accessories if needed and then wistfully waiting for your wedding day photo!
I hope this snippet of my how and why helps you, whether you’re a H&W bride or not, at least it sets you up to know what to expect.
This overly traditional industry has a solid foundation of secrecy and ‘this is how it’s always been done’ and I am here to say ‘that’s not how I do it’ and if you want that experience with me the booking diary is open now.