You think about this industry, and there are very few people who have built a business that is not only sustainable but 10 years later, 15 years later, 25 years later. Congratulations to you very much. I just think about how the media has changed, how technology has changed, how the world uses information has changed, let alone retail and distribution and sales and all that. Can you talk a little bit about how things have evolved for your brand?
Well, in 1996, it was a very different playground. After graduating from fashion school at the age of 22, I got engaged, and my husband and I started looking for wedding dresses. That search made me decide to go into business. [My husband] There was a business degree, and I said, “You know, if we could do it together, we’d go further. I could be creative, and you could take charge of the business.” After designing six wedding dresses, I picked up a bridal magazine, and I looked at the ad and said, OK, so these guys carry these collections, let’s call [them]. We would call each store and say, “Hi. We’re a new designer. I want to show you the collection. How do we go about this?” They were like, “Oh, a trade show is coming. You should probably find a booth there.”
So with that information, we loaded our car into California and drove to Las Vegas because there was a big bridal convention. Three days later, we were happy because we were officially in business. We picked up five retail stores. In the back drive, it sank like this, oh my god, now we have to make these clothes. When you are young, you are fearless. We were in love, and we were, we can do it. The stores invited us to come to the trunk show every weekend to see the rest of the collection and meet the bride. And that was really the very beginning of our brand. We had no business plan; We were just going through it.
After three years of doing this, I knew something was clicking because people were starting to say my name was correct. I never changed my aesthetics. I wanted something that was modern, feminine, romantic, but with a sense of tradition. These are all things I wanted when I was looking for a wedding dress. And so we went with it, and it was I genuine, and I think that’s part of why it worked. But the thing is when you’re on the ride, you don’t think so far ahead. You just think day after day. Making the right team was very important to us, I am proud to say that many of them are still with me after almost 25 years.
First, we started with bridal space and only bridal space. But after five years of working with white and ivory, I needed color in my life, and that’s when the apparel business started. At the same time, we opened a retail store in Beverly Hills. It was really a great move for me because then, based in California, our stylists are coming and saying, if you can make that dress in color, I want to put it on my celebrity client. That was the beginning of celebrity dressing for us. One of the first stylists to come to me wanted a dress for Angelina Jolie, and it came back in 2001. We were starting to hear our names on the carpet. Year after year, it’s just been snowing, and it’s been an incredible journey.