What The Bridal Industry Has Taught Me

Words by Colleen Bankovich Images by Angie Candell Brandon

Welcome to the wonderful world of all things bridal! It would take many posts for me to tell you everything I've learned and everything I am trying to unlearn about the bridal industry, so I will try my best to give you as much information as I can, hopefully you will find this very inspiring!

Let me start by saying, I LOVE what I do.  I love designing dresses and accessories.  I love styling brides.  I love the people I do business with. When I started my bridal designing journey everyone had advice on what Bridal Markets to attend, what designs to make, what advertising to do and how to do it.  I was consistently told I was growing my business too small and it was a big mistake not to do Bridal Markets twice a year (which would cost approximately $25,000). Not knowing better I did it ALL, I spent thousands of dollars, but soon realized that this was not for me.  For a new designer this could be a make or break moment, luckily I took a step back and went back to my roots.

The people I have met on my journey are amazing people, but I had no desire to compete with companies that had an endless supply of funds to partake in the hustle of the bridal industry. Instead I decided to be a rebel of sorts, only offering truly couture hand sewn and ethical products and gowns.  I cut each petal- hand pressed hand formed and hand beaded, every veil is also done by hand.  I started to see that I was not the big box store designer, and here I am. I do my homework and reach out to bridal salons I would like to work with, as they will be a representative of my brand and my brand will reflect their aesthetic. I also want to know that the salons I work with really love what they do, that they create an amazing experience for their brides from start to finish.

You may be thinking, "take the money wherever you can".  To me its not just about the money (that will come)- it's about the whole picture! Who is your target clientele? Do you like the people you are doing business with?Do the people you are doing business with love what they do? Can you build long term relationships with them? Bridal Salons are under a great amount of pressure from the Bridal Industry.  The minimums they are required to purchase from each designer is almost enough to close their doors.  They have a huge inventory of sample gowns and accessories that either cannot be reordered because they have been discontinued or with luck they can sell a few. That's not my game, I want these stores to succeed.  Without them I am at square one.  I want them to stock things they can sell, this works for everyone.

Another important thing to know to survive the bridal industry- have a tribe.  Surround yourself with people who have your back and you have theirs.  The fashion industry can be so rewarding but it can be brutal.  You will deal with a lot of rejection, people stealing your work and selling it as theirs, long nights and not looking so glamorous all the time. I live in sweats, t-shirts and ponytails. I wouldn't change a thing! I work with the most amazing people ever, I do what I love and I get to be a part of someones most important day.  That's what makes this all so worth it!

If you find your niche, go with it, no matter how crazy you think it might be, go for it!  Stand out!  Always trust yourself.  You know what's best for you and your company, sometimes it just take a person to hash it out with to get you in order.  This is why you need a tribe, they want nothing more than to see you succeed.

Yes, the bridal industry is full of challenges that you have no idea about unless you are part of it, but if you can get past that and really look at why you're doing this, I promise you it is an amazing and beautiful industry to be a part of. As for me, I will probably always be part of the rebel crowd in the industry.  I do not want to ever be doing what everyone else is, I want to have crazy creative freedom.  I know that I wont be for everybody, but I will be for somebody and that's good enough for me!

Last thoughts.  Be Brave.  Just Do It.  Love what you do and if you need a friend in the industry shoot me an email!  The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately.