Having Inclusive Social Media Content Without Appropriation or Tokenism

Photographer @adventureclaire, Dresses @sarahseven, Accessories @alyson_nicole_

Photographer @adventureclaire, Dresses @sarahseven, Accessories @alyson_nicole_

Today’s couples plan their weddings on social media. They look for inspiration, answers to burning questions, and for leads to help them find the creative professionals they will ultimately hire to bring their dreams to life.

Your social media identity is determined by your content and your commentary. It is often the first encounter a prospective client has with your brand. Visual social media content includes photos and videos of your work from inspiration shoots to real weddings to the work of colleagues you admire and share. If you welcome and serve a diverse population of couples regardless of race, size, orientation, your images will reflect that authentically and attract more of the same.


Inclusivity isn’t only about language or images, it is a mindset that is engrained in you — an eagerness to work with all couples because doing so matches your values. You don’t see a plus-size bride, you see a beaming woman who is a knockout in her Ines Di Santo dress. You don’t see a same-sex couple, you see two women in love and the excitement on their faces in the photo when they slip into the gorgeous gowns that you sold them. 

When inclusivity is a value you embrace every day, it effortlessly shines through in your visual content on social media.

Greed is an enemy to authentic inclusivity. If you only add images of different types of couples so you can grow a new revenue stream, and not because you truly accept the values of a niche market, it will show. Your efforts to attract certain clients will be transparent and will more likely drive them away.

Inclusivity Isn’t Tokenism

Tokenism is marketing to specialty subgroups without being genuine by using a limited number of couples from a subgroup to represent a larger trend. You are guilty of tokenism when you luck into serving two brides, for example, and you use their images everywhere to attempt to give the impression that you work with same-gender couples all the time.

Being truly equality-minded means that your inclusivity is evidenced throughout everything you do — your marketing verbiage, your social media presence, your communication with couples. If you throw up a photo of a same-sex couple simply for the sake of appearing like you are open to working with them, but your staff asks every new consult what her “future husband’s” name is during a fitting, you are guilty of tokenism.

Nurture an Inclusive Culture

There can be growing pains when you try to become more inclusive. Many wedding professionals make assumptions and end up putting their feet in their mouths. Assuming that all prospects are cisgender in hetero relationships has been a common mistake for years. The gender and orientation spectrums are fluid, so you can’t put anyone in a box. You have to approach every new client consultation as an opportunity to learn more. Practice using open-ended questions and building on information that your clients provide you.

Avoid Appropriation

Accepting all couples regardless of the race, gender, orientation, size or other characteristics is one (noble and desirable) thing. Claiming elements of the minority culture as your own is considered appropriation because it represents an imbalance. A straight wedding professional can alienate a LGBTQ couple by saying something like, “oh, I have a cousin who is gay – I love gay weddings!” This doesn’t make you more relatable, instead it confirms that you are singularly focused on how different your prospect or client is.

Instead of forcing the relationship, practice the art of listening. Ask questions that are designed to help you learn as much about the unique needs of every client as you can, a good habit to have with any couple regardless of race, orientation, etc. Craft questions that avoid presumptuous language and never assume you know how someone feels simply because you know one of their characteristics. All people are complex and multi-layered. Serve the person, not the stereotype.

Do Stay Current with Trends

While you don’t want to pigeon-hole your clients, you should actively stay informed about trends that might help them make choices or personalize their celebrations, and promote this through visual content via your social media.

Demonstrating in your posts that two women, for example might choose to wear two dresses, a dress and a wedding suit, a dress and a tuxedo, two tuxedos or any combination that fits their unique personalities and identities gives your audience options. Also, providing training to your staff in guiding transgender brides in choosing silhouettes and styles that complement their bodies allows them to provide knowledgeable guidance and superior service that will naturally attract future clients looking for the same level of understanding.

The key to authentically promoting your inclusivity through your visual social media content is to be genuine and knowledgeable. Couples of all types will recognize your effort and reward you with their trust and their most important days.



Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., one of the leading equality-minded wedding blog and digital publication. Her inclusive efforts have been celebrated by the New York Times, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, NY Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more. She serves on the 2018-19 North American Advisory Board for the International Academy of Wedding & Events.

How to create a compelling brand that showcases your in-store experience

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Think of your brand as the packaging that entices someone to open your offer. With time and consideration, your business is beautifully wrapped and captivating for your ideal customer. However, there are many aspects that go into developing your strong, detailed, and compelling presence. And your in-store experience is only part of it.

A strong brand is developed by considering the entire experience of engaging with your business. This includes interactions a customer may have with your brand: from your website to a networking event, your social media, and more.

Strong brands are required for creating a lasting business because customers are more likely to remember, trust, and buy from businesses they recognize. As people begin to recognize the brand, they begin to trust and like it. These brands command a higher price point, increased sales, and a higher number of loyal customers.

Your brand should be bold, genuine, and compelling to be effective. It should be clear about what it stands for and what it offers to its customers. It should be authentic to ensure people have an experience consistent with their perception. It should be compelling to draw people in and make them want to act.

Give the same time and consideration to your full presence.

Your in-store experience is only part of your brand. Spending time considering how you're perceived in every place you connect with customers is how you develop a consistent experience.

The average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently is 23%. - Lucidpress

Consistency across your presence is key.  It allows people to understand what you stand for and what it would be like to engage with you, no matter where they come across your business. You want your presence to be just as amazing as your in-store experience, whether it's on your website, social media, or tradeshow.

Don't shortchange yourself online.

If you've taken the time to develop your in-store experience to the most minute detail, then you need to spend the same time and consideration on your online presence. For example, for your in-store experience, you know how your potential customers should be greeted, how they are guided through shopping with you, and how your packaging is perfectly tied together.

When it comes to Millennials, 62 percent believe that online content drives their loyalty to a brand. Furthermore, if you want to gain brand loyalty from Millennials, it’s vital to share that content social media. - NewsCred Insights

We're in the digital age. People, and especially millennials, want to see your online presence and interact with your social media channels. A genuine connection using digital channels can go a long way to establishing loyalty and credibility.

Invest in yourself and your presence.

80% of consumers said “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand. - NJIT

Your presence in-person or in-store should be just as captivating as your online presence, and vice versa. You want people who are arriving at your location or referring you new customers to have a good representation of your brand to share.

Without an accurate representation of yourself, and what people can expect by working with you, you are showing people that you have not invested in your own presence. So, how can you expect your customers to invest in you if you don't?


How do you know if your brand is living up to your in-store experience?

Think about how you would describe your store's shopping experience...

What adjectives would you use to describe your store?

Are those the adjectives you want to use to describe your store?

What do you wish people said when they walk in?

Then ask yourself: If someone encounters your website, social media channels, tradeshow events, email, digital books, stationery, digital advertising, packaging, signage, or brand photos - Do your answers to the above questions change?

If they do change, then it's time to consider how your brand may be falling short or not fully representing what you offer. If your answers don't change, then you should ask - How can you live up the brand you want to create even more?

To get even more effective at showcasing your in-store experience, here are my top tips:

  • Evaluate all of your channels and see if any are not consistent, genuine, or compelling.

  • Ask yourself for each channel: Would my ideal customer be interested in what I offer after seeing this?

  • Talk to your actual customers and gather their impressions of your brand.

  • Discuss ways you can add more value to each of the places that individuals interact with your business.

  • Ask yourself if you are committed and can add value to the place your brand is being seen. If you aren't committed or can't add value, then eliminate that point of engagement.


Some tools to improve the expression of your in-store experience include:

Brand photography can be a vital part of expressing your brand and conveying your in-store experience. Use it to show people exactly what they can expect when they arrive to your location and how amazing your experience is.

Your website shows what you do and social media proves that you do it. Developing an online presence that accurately shows what you offer and how you deliver it is essential. Out of date products, broken links, or unclear photos all hurt people’s initial impression of you.

Your brand messaging helps people understand what they will get when they walk through your door. It tells them what you’re about and why you do what you do, so they’re sold on you before you meet.

When it comes to making all of these decisions, remember:

It's better to find focus and deliver quality interactions. You don't need to be everywhere all the time. You can focus on what works for you and your business so you deliver quality content and engagement.

It's better to consider the entire brand than just a few pieces. Knocking it out of the park is great, just make sure you're doing it across the board so people always know how awesome your brand is.

Always be authentic in what you do. Be clear about who you are and what you can do for people, so they feel like they get to know you and your business before they even walk through the door.


Sophie Newman founded Florida Winter Marketing to help businesses connect with their ideal audience. Prior to the launch of Florida Winter Marketing, Sophie developed marketing content and solutions for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, small businesses, and universities. While putting herself through school, she managed two to three jobs at a time and graduated at the top of her class with a Master of Science in Marketing program from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Science in Advertising from University of Florida. Since launching, Sophie has created business presence that has increased sales and driven customer engagement. She can be found reading, ogling puppies, and hoping for sunny days.

Publish or Perish

It’s not just for academia anymore. The advent of social media popularity has revolutionized communicating with your local brides or your product buyers. There has never been a better way to target in on your clients with paid ads, than there now is with Facebook/Instagram! You can spend as little as $1/day and still reach 75 to 100 possible clients if you have targeted properly. The catch is you must create daily posts to tell your business life story. We must throw out everything we think we know about what Wedding and Bridal ads and posts should look like and pay attention to what our followers like and comment on, or what they find engaging, if you will.


Every online site has a purpose. Your corporate branding is for your website. Your finished photos are for Pinterest, polished photos are for traditional print ads, and Facebook/Instagram are for personalizing your brand.

There is no business quite like yours. Your step by step journey is fascinating to others, if you are brave enough to share it. Instead of perfect branding with the background the same and photo shop editing skills being used, you focus on your process, personality and products. Use the smart phone in your pocket and take photos of everything you do, from daily routines to client meetings. Unpacking fabrics or trims, sketches of dresses, behind the scenes at photo shoots, photos of chatting with clients….all of these things are interesting to today’s bride or wedding business owner. If you feature your clients on your page and let them know it, you will find your page and presence growing.

Social media is our first step in creating relationships with our potential clients. If you use your posts and ads to illustrate who you are, what your goals are, what your mission is, and show the day to day minutia of your business, you will find your perfect clients. You will find yourself chatting with them in the comments on your posts & ads. Then you will find that you are meeting them in person and enriching those connections.

Just as retail store hours are consistent, so should your social media posts and ads be consistent. Posting at least once a day, everyday is a good starting point, but two or three times is even better. You’ll want to use inspirational quotes, funny memes, wedding related posts, and shout outs to your related wedding business partners as tagged posts are all ways to get your post schedule filled. More importantly, making some of your posts fun or educational will make you and your business more accessible to your followers. Accessibility is a key word for success on your social media. Showing your humanity and heart shows that you are human, too. It shows that you care about your clients as much as you care about their money. We are all looking for true connections. Social media allows you to create these connections.

Recommended Daily Post Schedule: 8:45 am, 11:45am, 5:45pm, 11:45pm

Finding and sharing your business voice is critical to success on Social Media. What is your business vibe? What is your goal? How do you make your clients feel? These questions will help you develop your social stories. For example, our bridal store’s motto is Fun with Friends and Fashion. So, we try to drive a certain amount of posts every week around this theme. We pair the idea with other events and projects like preparing for a local bridal show, where we showcase models during fittings, to our staff packing up the goodies for our booth, to booth design. Then we follow by showing brides in our booth and at the fashion show during the event. Our goal is to make our brides have a life time shopping experience, so we feature them from their first visit at a bridal show to their visit to our store to their wedding day. We show them they are welcome by our posts featuring other brides. We show photos and videos of our store and all our activities. All of this helps them know what to expect when they arrive in our store. After working on our social media since 2013, I know it makes them want to come to our store. We are now a regional store with brides arriving from the 5 surrounding states. They will drive up to 5 hours to visit us. We extended our ad area coverage as we grew our bridal traffic. We achieved all of this by posting, weighing and measuring, then re-applying as we paid attention to what our brides liked and didn’t like in our posts and ads.

One of the biggest complaints from brides is that small businesses do not have much info online. Over 97% of brides use social media to decide on the products and services for their wedding. If you have a strong social presence, you will see more business coming your way year after year. Branding is a day after day, month after month, year after year activity. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will find your voice, be heard by your chosen followers, and see brand growth.

A great way to soak into the bridal industry is to participate in National Bridal Sale Event. This event happens every year in July. It is supported industry wide from stores and designers to trendsetter sites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, Bridal Guide, Vows and Bridal Boutiques.US. To find out more about the event, go to www.NationalBridalSaleEvent.com


Jacqui Wadsworth is an expert in the textile industry. After years successfully negotiating thread and fabric contracts with mills and factories across the world Jacqui was offered a deal on a lot of wholesale wedding gowns. Since she was getting married, she thought, "Why not?" That fateful deal produced the perfect dress for her own wedding and instilled in her a love of all things bridal. By 2006 she opened the first Gilded Gown on Chapman Highway. That award winning boutique has since grown into the 6400 square foot emporium currently located in Knoxville Center Mall. Jacqui loves to share the beautifully curated dresses, stunning jewelry and sparkling prom gowns that she sources at market each season.

Feel free to reach out at via www.bridalboutiques.us or BridalBoutiques.US@gmail.com 

The 5 HUGE Website Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make Anymore


Your website has less than half a second to make an impression on a new visitor. Around 94% of that first impression will be based on the quality of the design of your site.

Those are slightly terrifying stats, if you haven't been really, really intentional about your website. If you have, well, it was obviously time and money well spent, right?

What's so important about a website that performs well? While brides LOVE social media to connect with stores and designers, it is a tricky arena. Algorithms shift, trends change, and different target markets pick different platforms to fall in love with. But the biggest bottom line fact? You have no control on any social media platform. You don't own it. You can't change anything about it. You're tied to their rules. They own every follower, heart, and message you earn. And they could shut you down tonight. 

Here at Wed Altered, we believe in starting on your own turf and making your website something you're proud of and that does a fantastic job.

Then you can take that amazing content you've pulled together and use all your social media to connect with potential brides and direct them back to your site. That's where there aren't a million notifications to distract the reader, you're in control, and no one can take that away from you. (That's also why you should build and use an email list! We'll talk about that soon, too.)

So while we could talk about websites and content marketing every day (and do!), we thought we'd boil it down to 5 huge mistakes you can't afford to make.

You Have Bad, Boring, or Off Brand Design

Your design and layout need to take visitors on a very quick and accurate journey to see what your business is like and whether you'll be a good fit for them. Especially in an industry that relies so heavily on visuals and is all based around a purchase that brides are often (understandably) uneasy and very particular about, brides want to know what to expect from you.

If your layout is poorly set up, they won't notice the important parts. If it looks out of style or cheap, they'll assume your business and dresses are too. We are a luxury industry, no matter what end of the price range you fall on. You need a presence that reflects that. I know that's kind of harsh or shallow, but think about it. They are paying you more than they have ever paid someone before to have a great eye for style, design, and quality. Your online presence is the first place you have to give them proof of that.

Not Establishing a Reason to Like and Trust You

On our in-depth Website Scorecard, this really falls under the "Authority" and "Tone and Text" sections. But what you say and the way you say it is really important. I know that sounds really basic. The crazy thing is how frequently businesses fail to do this well! It's a really common shortcoming we find when we're doing website audits and it's one of the last to get fixed because it's more about thinking and writing and less about design and pictures. Let's be honest...which sounds more fun to you? A new styled shoot to update your pictures or rewriting all of your copy and planning your upcoming blog posts to match up with your messaging calendar?

The problem with that is that it's a huge loss. Sure, a bride can find you, like your dresses, and book an appointment. That's great and completely worth having a beautiful website! We just said how important design is to immediate impressions.

But it's just the beginning of what your website could be doing to help you actually sell, not just get traffic through the door. When you take the time to really plan out your messaging and then assess what you have or what you come up with, then you can give them reason after reason to both like and trust you. You tell them stories, you give them information, you reassure and guide them...basically, you set the stage for a great impression of the kind of business you are and how fantastic it's going to be to work with you. 

Those impressions are made on the first website visit and they'll stick with the brides. Having people rooting for you to sell them something is a pretty wonderful thing. Why would you pass it up?

They can't easily get ahold of you or schedule

People who can't find a quick solution to a problem will often give up. That includes contacting you to make an appointment and possibly spend money. Easy customer experience is a top driving factor in increased customer satisfaction AND in a 10%+ increase in revenue [https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2015/01/13/want-a-powerful-customer-experience-make-it-easy-for-the-customer/#94ef9cb69854].

You should make contacting you, following you, and any other action you want brides to take incredibly easy. If you haven't given them lots of quick places to get ahold of you, you will be missing out on high quality leads who are already warm enough to be on your site. That's a lot of potential money to leave on the table!


Bad Pictures

Visuals are processed and remembered at a very high rate. While you need written storytelling to really elaborate on your message, the pictures set the stage. If you don't feature your best sellers, brides won't be tempted to come see them. If you don't feature your team, brides won't perceive you as a personal small business setting (which is one of your strengths, right? Why not sell it that way?). If you have blurry or out of date pictures, brides will assume you are a struggling business, are behind the times, or don't do basic business maintenance. 

Pictures are a huge part of the first impression and important for drawing the brides through your website so that they get a chance to read and absorb your story. It puts a face on your business and makes them more likely to want to work with you. It lets them visualize themselves in your samples before they even make it through the door. It's powerful. Don't skip it.

Not Using a Blog The Right Way

Blogs are free, simple, are completely underutilized. They're a powerful tool for your business and you should be using them. You could be doing all the other website things perfectly, and still not be doing what it takes for the most possible leads to see it or interested brides to come back and make a purchase. 

A blog lets you touch on all kinds of topics that set up great expectations around what brides will experience. Educate them, share inspiration that's on brand for your styles, show them the behind the scenes stuff. Basically, keep them up to date with the story that makes up your business and mission. Why is this important? Because. The internet moves quickly. Things need to stay current. Your blog is how your website does that. We don't change the main pages all that often. Your blog is like a newsfeed on social media, but with more depth and completely under your control.

It helps search engines find you better, which is a huge deal and directly relates to more qualified leads coming across your site and through your doors.


Your website is a collection of pieces that work together. The design grabs a visitors' attention right away and directs their eye to what you want them to see, read, hear, and do. Your pictures keep them engaged and give them a great idea of your overall business style and products. Will you have something they'll actually love?

Then what you have to say lets them know that you're the store whom can be trusted to get it and have the process go well. Your blog is part of that message, while also being a key tool for getting the tech to show all of this to as many potential brides as possible.

How do you know if your website measures up to all that?

By taking the time to look through all of it and be really honest with yourself about the results. Every website needs tweaks now and then. And ask your past or potential clients for feedback! Don't just say "whatdya think?". Know what you want the site to accomplish and ask them questions so you can see if it is and where it may be falling short from an outside point of view.

Once you have an to-tweak list, be consistent and change things as quickly as you can without upsetting your business. You need to get it done. Get a buddy, find an expert (we can help!), make a bunch of calendar reminders...whatever it takes. But don't ignore the shifts to the one platform that's 100% in your control that could make a big difference in your appointment rates, sales, and conversions.


Article by Christen Schneider. CEO and Founder of Wed Altered and Christen Schneider Coaching


You Can Make Videos That Get Attention Now - Using videos to grow your wedding business.

The camera turns on, and it seems like everything blacks out.  Your brain is in the middle of a barrage of thoughts — Wait, what was I going to say?  I hate that I always talk too fast!  What was I even going to talk about on this video?  

I hate how I look on camera — I hate how I sound on camera — I hate how I…..  I’m the owner, and I care about my brand — it’s just going to look unprofessional! What is “good lighting?”  How do I get people to even watch my videos?!  This is just a stressful waste of my time.  So you conclude:  

“Forget it — I’m not doing it.”



When you hear a marketing expert say, “Video is the most important element in your marketing today!”, do you suddenly feel: a. Excited  b. Empowered  or c. a Panic Attack leading to hopeless resignation that your bridal business will never capitalize on the most important element in marketing?

If your answer was c. — you are not alone — and keep reading, because I want to share with you five simple things that every successful marketing video contains that ANYONE can do, without spending any money on equipment!!

YOU can do this!  There are a ton of things out there to do or buy that people claim will improve your videos, but these 5 things I’m going to share with you are primary to making videos that connect and convert with your audience!

Light it up!   

You don’t have to have professional lighting, but you DO need to make sure that you test the lighting before you go live or record your videos!  It only takes a minute to do a quick lighting test and make sure that your shot is well lit!  Let me tell you, whenever a video is too dark, it makes your audience have to work to watch it.  And if an audience has to work to watch you, they will turn you off.  

So simply make sure that wherever you set up your shot, the light is hitting you from the front and not from the back.  If the light is shining from the back, it pulls attention away because the audience cannot focus on your face (or on whatever product you are trying to show).

Speak Up!

You don’t have to have a microphone to make good videos, but you DO need to be close enough to the device (a camera or your phone etc.) for the microphone to pick you up above whatever other noise is around you!  Are you recording a video at market, at a bridal show, or at an event at your business?

Background noise is a killer when you are too far away from the camera — and this is especially true when you are trying to interview someone!  You may be trying to get a great long shot, but if you (and the person you are interviewing), are not close enough to the mic, it’s a bad idea!  If your audience has to work to hear you, they will turn you off. So simply stay anywhere within 6 feet of the camera when there is no background noise, and within 4 feet of the camera if there is any other noise or music that you may be competing with. Remember, the audience can’t zero in on what you are saying when there are other things coming through their speakers. Let your voice and your message be easily heard!

Cheer Up!  

Yes, you MUST be excited to get your audience excited!  They will feel only HALF of whatever energy you are putting out there, so before you hit record, get a little bit more pumped up!  Stand up taller, think of something that makes you smile (or even laugh!), and then hit it!  Laughing and smiling opens you up to people, and that helps them to open up to you, and WANT to watch you to hear what you have to say.  

When you see a video of someone who seems happy, you tend to tap on it to see what in the world they might be happy about!  Remember, this is not about broadcasting, it is about communicating — and those two are VERY different from each other!  

Don’t mindlessly talk about something you are promoting, because if the audience doesn’t FEEL anything about what you are presenting, they will turn you off.  You want people to get excited about your clearance sale? Your trunk show? Your new line? Your fashion show? Then YOU have got to be excited!  Don’t just announce it — show them how excited you are about it, and that you can’t wait to meet them there!

People connect to your message only if YOU connect with your message.  If it doesn’t make you happy, then they will have no interest in it at all!  And don’t believe the lie that “it is fake”, or “I don’t feel like ‘me’.”  Put yourself aside, smile, and make someone’s day who is watching your video!  Get them excited about life in general by how excited you are for what is happening in your business.  People will share things that make other people smile — so go spread a little sunshine and watch what a difference it makes in your reach!

Lighten Up!  

Memorized, Over-rehearsed, Over-scripted, or Obviously-read videos are the least-effective of any videos in marketing.  Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to “make it perfect”, because transparency is actually GOLD in marketing!  

The “perfect” video is a transparent video — mistakes and all!  Be YOU, and if you stumble a little on your words, it’s OK!  In fact, the out-takes are the BEST to add on any video — audiences LOVE them!!  Just keep the message moving, don’t get bogged down, don’t think of any stumbles as a mistake, keep smiling, keep talking, and focus on giving valuable content!  Don’t get sidetracked — and just have fun sharing the info you came to share!  

Don’t over-think, over-rehearse, or over-script — all of these things put a barrier between you and your audience and they will turn you off!  When any human is communicating with another human, it is always always always more effective if it is spoken from the heart!  Even scripted things are only effective if they come across as NOT-scripted!  If you do 100 takes to get it “perfect”, I PROMISE you you will lose more energy and connectedness with each take, and flat-line your video.

People want to get to know YOU, and your staff!  When you look like you are having fun, people will want to join you. So, don’t stress yourself out about saying it “perfectly”, just say it the same way you would say it if you were telling a group of excited brides who happened to walk by your boutique!  Have fun and GET IT DONE!

 Don’t waste time making a video that won’t connect!  Just get excited, look into that camera, think of that group of excited brides, and tell them all about it!  Then, when you watch the video, check for ONLY the things on this checklist — good lighting good sound, good energy and good info.  

Don’t critique yourself to death, and lose your confidence in the process.  (Yes, your personal appearance is important, but I think you know what makes someone look professional or not, right?! So, don’t body shame yourself — remember, your team and your brides are watching you, and you hate it when they do that, right?!)  You are gorgeous — you are amazing — and you are helping your audience know about an incredible thing!  Go tell them!  

Wrap it Up!

 When you make a video, make sure that you empower the audience to have all of the info and then to DO something with the info!! Give them the dates, the times, the location, the cost, and the most vital facts about the event (or product etc.), both in the middle of the video and then quickly at the end to review!  Where/How do they get tickets?  How do they reserve a spot?  How can they contact you for more info or if they have questions?  

Sometimes it is GREAT to have someone hold a paper with that info on it where you can see it, (but of course where the audience can’t, lol), so that you don’t have to remember all of the info yourself!  Forgetting that info, when the rest of the video was great, is very frustrating, because you lose some of your original energy on each successive take.  And that info MUST be on there!  

Tell the audience what you want them to do — and give them a reason to take immediate action!  Urgency is key - “spots are filling fast”, “space is limited”, “the first 25 brides to book get….” etc.  Do a drawing for a gift where anyone who shares the video is entered to win the drawing! Anything to give the audience a positive and exciting reason to take action, spread the word, book an appointment, etc.  

Also, REMEMBER, you have 10 seconds to grab their attention — audiences have an attention span of 10-15 seconds to decide if they will keep watching!  And if they are not inspired or interested, they will turn you off. Sooooo, if your video will be 60 seconds, make your first 10 seconds power-packed and give them a reason to watch till the end!  If you are sharing great content, you can keep your audience!  BUT, 15 second videos are also POWERFUL because social media tends to show them more!  

So, if your content is relevant and your audience connects with it by interacting, commenting, sharing, etc., it can have an amazing organic reach even if it is 2 minutes or so — AND if it is only 15-20 seconds it will also naturally get shown more (you just may need to talk super fast to get any info out, lol!).  Put vital info in the description — links, websites, phone numbers — so that it is EASY for your audience to reach you — and so that you get cross-promotion with other vendors, bloggers, event sites, etc.  Let it get as much organic reach as possible and then boost it!  Don’t stress — JUST DO IT!

Look at that!!  You can do ALL of these things!  But the key word there is DO!!!!  Don’t just do what I tend to do with exercise info that I read — I think, ooooh I need to buy that magazine to read how to lose 50 pounds in 2 weeks!!  I buy it, read it, and then NEVER DO IT — and shocker:  Nothing changes.  

You want to change the traffic at your business?  Put your hesitations, excuses, and past video frustrations aside — grab your phone and make some videos that get your audience energized and empowered to engage with you!  (The National Bridal Sale Event (link) is coming up for boutiques, and NOW is the time to be churning out the videos about it!)

Let’s lead the way in showing that being a confident, empowering, encouraging, and magnetic presence can inspire others to take positive action!  And aren’t you all about that?!  Effective marketing, simply put, inspires action. Help others take positive action using these 5 tips, and you’ll find yourself multiplying your reach with amazing videos on every platform!  


Written by : Wendy Rivera For Wed Altered Magazine Summer 2018
For more training and e-courses by Do You Speak Bride? go to www.doyouspeakbride.com.    


the info you need about sharing your message with your followers


Issue 2 of Wed Altered magazine is up! This time we rounded up information for you on all the digital ways to get your message out there in front of your ideal brides.

We know how important marketing and messaging are for bridal businesses...it’s what we love to do and we are in the middle of it every single day! And we know that getting it right can make a huge difference in your income.

But it’s also a lot...there are so many ways to reach clients online now. Finding the information you need to keep things clear and simple isn’t easy. How do you do what needs to be done and do it well, without losing it in the process? We’ve got what you need to know!

Click through to read:


And if you’d like to get the future issues and other bridal business info from the Wed Altered group right in your inbox, you can grab a spot on our newsletter!

What Bridal Boutiques and Brides Need to Know About Alterations

Whether you have an in house service, a contracted specialist that comes into your space, or you refer out to a trusted source, your brides will ask you a million questions about alterations. Sometimes it's a simple "when should I start?", other times it's all about changes to the structure and style of a gown. Regardless, if brides don't know the right info, it can be a huge problem for them and backfire for your specialist and for your store. To help everyone avoid that headache and give you a really simple system that lets you answer any question without worrying about what to say, we've put together this round up of advice from some of the best alterations specialists we know.

Let's start with some basic advice you can give to brides.

Timing and what to bring to an appointment:

Timing is obviously important, so call to find out the timeline you alterations person requires.  Every business runs and staffs differently and some want brides on the books ASAP so there aren't any delays. Others want to wait to bring them in to account for weight gain or loss. The best way for brides to avoid any timing surprises is to ask as early as possible what their top few choices want them to plan for.

The bits and pieces they need at appointments can vary too, but the general consensus is:

  • Have the right undergarments (bra cups in a dress can't always support larger sizes).
  • Have your exact wedding shoes.
  • Bring any accessories that need to be paired with your gown.
  • Knowing the brand or store can help, sometimes designers have particular ways of constructing gowns.

Some important knowledge for brides going in:

Misconceptions about what is and isn't possible in great alterations work can set brides up for frustration. Here are some thoughts about what to let brides know as they're asking you about the process and looking through dresses. Sometimes they make a dress choice based on a change they want that may not actually be possible, and that's never good! Or they avoid something that could be tweaked to be just right and you could have had the sale. Either way, this is stuff they need to be aware of as they shop and before fittings.

  • Seamstresses aren't there to reshape your body. They fit everything in the best way, but they have to work within the laws of physics and and with your wonderful body in its current shape. There are just some things that have to be true. An example is a backless dress...it is not going to give you as much support as a dress with fabric all the way across the back that allows you to use bra cups that are held up with a strap or support around the back.
  • Big weight changes can ruin the fit of the dress if they're happening too late in the process. Make sure you work with your alterations specialist on timeline for any gains or losses or significant expected body shifts (pregnancy, medical treatment, plastic surgery, etc.) and when you should schedule your appointments. 
  • If the gown's too small, there may not be anything we can do. Bottom line. It's just a really risky move and why we always recommend sizing up if there's any doubt. On the other hand, details and seams can't just be placed anywhere and dropping more than 2 sizes can be impossible or end up costing thousands. Sizing matters.
  • The cost of alterations has to do with the amount of specialized time (fittings and actual work) and materials. It really doesn't matter what the original price of the dress was. It's all about what changes need to be made. Bodice construction is complicated, skirts can have lots of layers...it's not usually just a simple "lift it here, tweak it there". Lace and beading usually needs to be picked off by hand and reapplied carefully to maintain the design of the gown once it's a different size and shape.
  • As a bride, be very specific about what you're hoping for in the changes. The more explaining and communication the better, usually.
  • Sewing studios can be unsafe for little ones or tight quarters for groups if they aren't set up to accommodate them. Make sure you find out ahead of time what their guest policies are so that your appointment can be as organized as possible.
  • Expect 3+ fittings, depending on the amount of work to be done. 

Tips for stores:

Your store's relationship with your alterations specialist can be a huge perk and stress relief. Or not. When it is though, it's a great thing for everyone involved, so take the time to find someone you really love! A smooth process starts on the selling floor and communication and good advice is the way to make it happen.

Many alterations specialists I know will come in and give you the info you need about what to tell brides. If yours will, do it! 

For example, there really are plenty of changes that just can't be done well. Backless dresses can't give lift and support. Thin fabrics can't be pulled incredibly tight. Necklines can't always be moved or built up. Straps and sleeves sometimes just look out of place. Some skirts can't go poofier (or less poofy). If it's not the kind of change your alterations specialist has given the ok for before, be careful about promising it can be customized. Ask for some guidance from them about what you can say to brides about possible changes for your dresses. Have them come in and run ideas by them for common requests while looking at your samples.

This is also a great time to get their input on the tips and info you can be giving your brides. They may even already have some resources made that you can pass along. Tami of Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists does a great job with this for their brides with videos to explain important concepts. If your local alterations places haven't done this, you can always share hers from their Facebook page or Youtube channel! The more education brides have available, the better.

bridal-design-dress-291738 (1).jpg

Finally, the most important point I can make:

Don't overpromise. Sometimes we get sucked in to creating a dream with a bride or hopeful in closing a sale and we'll tell brides that something can be changed or accomplished in alterations. Or we'll try to help them feel at ease and answer their questions about what they can expect during alterations. We'll start suggesting what will need to be done and how much time or money it will take. While we're just giving an idea, the brides can take it as a final answer. If the work is different than your quick glance sees or the bride remembers something incorrectly, they can be surprised and upset during their first fitting and it can be unnecessarily difficult for the alterations specialist. 

How can you balance being helpful to the bride and answering questions with not overstepping the alteration specialist's expertise and ability to run their business? Give them all the info we've covered so far. Good expectations and being prepared helps everyone involved. Then help the bride learn the language to articulate their concerns and wishes, but don't tell them if or how something can be done or give an estimate for how much. And give them the tools to communicate clearly.

I love the idea of a little note sheet for the bride to take home after their dress pick up. You can circle and jot down their concerns and wishes. Keep it simple - things like "fix loose straps", "look at fit on hips", and "attach sash to waist". Give them a summary of the things they should bring and have the alterations shops' contact info on there. To make it easy, I've made up a starter sheet for you. Use it as is or add what you'd like!


But make sure to run it by your favorite alterations specialist first!

Adding Value and up-selling with Preservation Services


When a bride chooses a wedding gown she isn't just buying a dress, she is choosing an heirloom. Wedding gowns become treasured symbols of a loving marriage and the family it may form. Often these gowns are passed down to younger generations for reuse, even if it just becomes the fabric from which we make other special items. 

The best way to give your brides more value and longevity with their investment by offering preservation services. That's why we would love to introduce you to our Wed Altered contributor Tami Parks from Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists to discuss this option further.

The idea of preservation is interesting but possibly concerning for a lot of brides. They don't always know what it really entails or if it's worth it, and this is a great opportunity to educate clients. It's the main goal of Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists to work specifically with bridal boutiques to increase their expertise and profit margins by offering unparalleled gown care and education. You don't have to become preservers yourself to have this as a great way to up-sell, you just have to find the right partner.


Tami Parks has been in the clothing care industry for over 30 years and owned an upscale bridal boutique in Holland, Michigan for 7 years. Seeing a need in the market for a preservation service with a high level of personal care and support for boutique wholesale partners, Tami created Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists.

Educating the boutiques they work with is a huge step towards a measurable success. They've even created "Profit in Preservations" seminar that can be scheduled for your team.

The mark up on preservation (2.2x) means that you're adding about $100 to every ticket. It's the same opportunity as adding in the perfect accessories, but without the inventory risks. For stores who haven't added it, there is a lot of extra money being left of the shop floor and it's a huge service for your brides. You really can't beat it.

One of Great Lakes Wedding Specialists top selling points is it's reliability and guarantee. All gowns are processed in house at their West Michigan location and are never shipped out or outsourced. They are hand cleaned with a highly respected process that has been featured in Modern Bride and Bride's magazine proven to work against sugar stains or yellowing. In fact they provide a  100% international guarantee in writing backed by the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists. What could be more valuable than that piece of mind?

All dresses are stored in an environmentally-pure, museum quality archival chest with acid-free tissue. The dresses however are still accessible. They can be opened and handled with the white gloves provided.

Are you considering offering preservation services? Check out more info on Great Lakes Wedding Specialists here. 

Some of the posts you'll see on here, like this one, will link to a directory listing or their website. We're always sharing something we've found that we think will help the right store in big ways! Sometimes, the small business owner behind the company has worked with us directly to market their services or products and has paid for it in some way. No matter what, we always stay true to doing business differently and doing good as well as doing well. We can't vet every aspect of every business, but what we do know holds up to our personal and business ethics . 

Good business is all about relationships...make sure to get to know the people you're working with, no matter what industry. It's the most fulfilling part!

And THANK YOU for stepping up and doing what you do for brides, your community, and other business owners. We'd love to have you come meet more people like you in our amazing Facebook group. And if you have your own messaging or marketing questions and want to chat, just let us know!

Your Ideal Client vs. Your Target Market (Hint...they both matter, and you're probably doing it wrong.)

There is always this huge resistance to simplifying in the wedding industry. I know you're going to tell me, oh no, not me...I love simplicity! I want to pare back so much and make my work day easier.

Sure. Sounds great.

But then when we're working on building a really solid sales and marketing strategy, I tell people to narrow their offering and focus on serving an ideal bride really well...

And so many PANIC. It's this fear that by picking someone, you're leaving people out. That you're limiting your business and opportunities.



Let's be honest...most the time it's just that we're afraid. We're afraid that:

a) There aren't enough of that type of bride.

b) There may be enough, but they don't have enough money.

c) There are enough and they have enough money, but they won't book with you because you aren't good enough.

So basically, get what you can and be grateful for it.

Some of that fear comes from mindset hang ups. Money story issues, imposter syndrome, scarcity, competition...general self confidence and lack worries. But some of it is also just a basic misunderstanding of ideal bride versus your target market.

Ideal bride is just that. The ideal. Perfection. Wave a magic wand kind of dreams.

And it's not as impractical as it feels because it's not saying you're only, ever, going to work with that person. That's not what it means. If you're doing ideal bride right, that's really only one person. Real or fictional, your description should get so specific that you can watch the person live out a day in your mind's eye and KNOW, without a doubt, that person is a one in a million kind of catch and business life just couldn't get any better than when you're working with them.

They're your muse. Your motivation.

They are not your target audience.

Your target audience is a little wider. It's the people who are likely to be interested in the special sauce that is your product or business. You love working with them, you have exactly what they need and desire, and they leave happy.


So what's the difference? Your ideal bride may be 31. Your target market is more 25-42. Your ideal bride makes $80,000 a year, but your target market makes $55,000-100,000 a year. Your ideal bride owns a bagel shop and bikes down the California coast every September. Your target market are young professionals and business owners who like to be active and outdoors.

Do you see how that works? Both still keep you focused. Both give you guidance. But they aren't the same thing. You use target market for things like picking great tools and platforms to use as you build your business and reach out for marketing. You use ideal bride for when you're writing messages, creating your top level experiences, and building your marketing funnels.

You want to be speaking to that ONE person. You lose your focus and punch when you try to talk to a group, even if it's just a handful of people. When you dilute your message for your entire target market, it just gets BORING. And vague. And vague, boring stuff that fits the masses never made anyone a raving fan. Raving fans are what builds a business worth having and brings in referral after referral, so it's worth taking the time to get people excited about working with you.

The cool thing is, as you grow and define these two terms more and more specifically, they'll get closer and closer. Your target market can narrow as brides who come close to your ideal bride fall in love with you. They'll bring in more, and you can pull your overall circle closer to the center as you build up a reputation as the can't miss, go to place for brides who want x, y, and z.


The reason this works is that people buy according to what they WANT to be, not what they are. So Apple can market to their ideal, young, hip, professional client and pull in everyone who wants to feel like they're that person.

The yoga studio down the street can speak to someone who's flexible, zen, and ready to tackle the day and pull in everyone who's like that...but also everyone who's not, at all, and desperately wants and needs it!

The high end boutique can sell to the put together, stylish, fashion maven who's rocking their business dreams. And they'll be the go to place for the on-lookers and go-getters who are ready to break that bubble and get a piece of it themselves.

You sell your message. You sell your vision. You speak to the exact, perfect bride you went into business to serve. And in the process, by being in integrity and staying confident in who and what you stand for, you're able to help a wider range of people than you would be if you can't nail yourself and your business down. Being wishy washy just makes it harder for everyone to say yes. It makes it hard for you to demonstrate high levels of value. It keeps you distracted and uncertain, which means that you can't put all your energy to serving your clients because you're spending time daily trying to get your footing.


I know this is tricky. And it's more of an art than a science...there's a whole different level of specificity for who needs a refrigerator versus who needs a book on the best food for backyard chickens. Some businesses will serve a wider market than others and you may or may not find yourself there. But 100% of the time, you should be able to tell me all about your ideal bride...whether your target market is 15% of the population or 0.5%.

And that 0.5%?? That's why target markets and ideal clients work...that's still over 37 million people. You can be incredibly specific and still have more than enough people to find. And when you do, you'll be speaking straight to the soul of what matters to them. Imagine if most of the people you talked to daily about buying from you were already on your wavelength and couldn't wait to get started because they FINALLY found someone who made or does what they have always wanted to find. Wouldn't that make work more enjoyable?

Get rid of those fears of inadequacy and scarcity. Remind yourself of the availability of what you want and the people you want to find, if you stay the course and do what it takes to get them. Focus on building what you actually want instead of living in constant reactive mode and trying to be grateful for work with people who really aren't your perfect match. When you know someone isn't in your target market, let their perfect person serve them, and move on, know that your people are out there too.

(This is another side to the scarcity...or maybe sometimes an overactive hero complex. We're so worried that if we don't have an option for everyone, we can't help everyone. Good! It's not your job to help 100% of the people. Know and trust that there is someone out there that's creating and doing exactly what that person needs. You are not the only creator and helper in the universe.)

The biggest action you can take from this? Get really clear on the meanings of these two terms for you and your business, then keep your ideal bride at the center of your messaging. You’ll develop the strength of voice and consistency that shows you are a trusted, amazing, reliable expert that people can't wait to work with and see just how fun and easy sales can be when you get that flowing.

Minimalist Bridal Style That Simply Can't Be Ignored.

Ok, first, yes...we're going to mention Duchess Meghan's dress :) I know you've seen post after picture of the #royalwedding for weeks, but this is something I've been planning to talk all about for awhile and her style just ties in so nicely. Besides, we'll be going through how to take that style and turn it into profit making strategy for your business. So it's worth staying tuned! 

Let's start with the recent history of minimalism in bridal fashion. Minimalistic brides have never gone away, but they have been fewer and farther between. While we haven't been only about blinged out ballgowns, either, even the slinkiest dresses seemed to be topped with some kind of impressive details that really upped the impact. And they're gorgeous! But they aren't for everyone and us simplicity lovers have been quietly dying for attention instead being kept as a quiet footnote.

Enter the rise of minimalism. We talk often about how trends develop over and over, so I know this is not a groundbreaking concept. Minimal designs have been seen in variations since the dawn of fashion.

Whatever your ideal bride's style, there's a spectrum of designs that are a good fit for your offerings. We're here to give you some ideas. 

Because minimal is about as specific as "ball gown"...they can be very very different and there is the perfect sample out there for your kind of minimalist bride.

Case in point - Samira Wiley and her wife Lauren Morelli's killer outfits (picture by @abbeyandlauren).

While Lauren's is a little more detailed, both outfits are still all about the lines and feel. Perfect execution of minimal in very different style.

Or, minimal can be chic and laid back, like this separates look from Pure Magnolia.

Relaxed and cool, yet gorgeous are the words that come to mind for these Lena Meydoyeff gowns. (Instagram post here)

The laid-back bride with a more free-spirited style can still keep it minimal and understated, too, in this Ellie Day gown.

This halter gown by Marie Margot Couture puts all the focus on what the fabric can do, which is exactly why we love minimalist styles

I love the variety that just a hint of texture can throw in to a minimal design too, like this gown in Hyacinth Bridal's debut collection. 

And I'm a firm believer that minimal and full skirts can get along well, too. I'm loving this simple showstopper from Laine Berry Bride. (Link to Instagram post)

When the rest of the details are pared back, dramatic cuts like this open back on Edith Elan's gown get the attention they deserve. (Photographed by Inspired Eye Photography)

The main point I want to dive into today is that there IS a minimalist style that's just right for your kind of bride...maybe not exactly like either of the royal wedding dresses (or maybe so!), but to miss this resurgence while you're planning your next inventory buys or collections would be too bad. It never really left, but it's definitely coming back in a big way. And carefully picked selection of simplicity will set off the more elaborate styles you carry. You can't afford to ignore it...but who would want to?

Want more styles to look through?

Don't miss our directory! And every issue of Wed Altered magazine (made by bridal pros for bridal pros) is packed with business building info and all kinds of trend reports...grab your subscription here.

PS - I've got one more picture that's pretty awesome

One of our Wed Altered community members got to shake Prince Harry's hand during all the celebration and lead up to the royal wedding. Jennifer Feldstein of The Last Minute Bride shared this pic she snapped herself of the parade, and I was pretty jealous. How cool, right?! You can see more of her experience here.

royal wedding parade dress picture prince harry meghan

An Artist’s Life: O M Design Studio

By: Grace Armani

Cultured, creative, innovative, classic, edgy, fun, sweet and romantic; These are just a few qualities that Ou Ma magically embodies and has brilliantly channeled into her beautiful and unique creations for her very own bespoke collection, O M Design Studio.

Through the beauty of social media, I had the privilege of connecting with Ou Ma in person this past summer and we have since become good friends! But really, it is so easy to get to know such a kind and generous soul like Ou. She has been settling into the West Coast lifestyle this past year, a welcome change and respite compared to the high-intensity energy of New York City, where she worked and lived as a fashion designer for an iconic fashion label (you won’t believe who!). It was an absolute joy to sit down with her on a gorgeous sunshine-filled day and learn about her journey as an artist, fashion designer and creative entrepreneur… But why don’t I allow Ou to tell you all about that? Just keep on reading!

Ou Ma, Fashion Designer &amp; Founder of O.M. Design Studio.

Ou Ma, Fashion Designer & Founder of O.M. Design Studio.

gracearmani: Hi, Ou! Please tell us about yourself and share with us your background and how you came to live in Vancouver.

OU MA: Hi, my name is Ou. I’m the founder and chief designer of O.M. Design Studio. I used to live in New York and I worked at Ralph Lauren Women’s Collection as Assistant Designer, and where I showcased my work in New York Fashion Week. Two years ago, I started doing custom wedding dresses for friends and clients in New York. Last October I moved to Vancouver and now I own my own bridal design/custom design studio in Gastown. I’m looking forward to meeting more people and local brides in Vancouver.

gracearmani: So Ou, you’re a fashion designer but I’m curious what were your childhood ambitions? Did you always know you wanted to design?

OU MA: Not really. I think I had so many hobbies when I was younger… I wanted to be a teacher or a journalist and I didn’t know I wanted to be a fashion designer until I was in high school. I remember when I was younger I always played with my Barbie dolls, making little garments for them, doing their hair, doing their nails and playing with them by giving them different names. I also loved drawing. I was really quiet when I was younger. I always liked to keep to myself in my own room and to do a lot of drawings with watercolors, crayons, color pencils and just be very, very creative. So I guess when I reached a point in high school, I combined drawing with making dresses for my Barbies together so I figured, ‘oh I could be a fashion designer one day!’

gracearmani: Amazing! After high school, how did you pursue that? Did you receive training?

OU MA: Yeah actually, I didn’t go for fashion design right after high school. I wanted to but my family wasn’t very supportive back then; they wanted me to do something more serious. Also in China, the examination to go into higher education is very intense so I actually went for Sociology as my first bachelor’s degree. I loved it! I think it’s a very good major and gives you more knowledge and insights into so many different aspects of society but I remember in my sophomore year I was still wanting to be a fashion designer so I tried to convince my mom. She was supportive but she said, ‘you have to finish your first bachelor’s first and after that you can do whatever you want’. So since then I [self-taught how to] sow, pattern making. I started reading a lot of biographies of famous designers around the world and see a lot of fashion shows. After my first bachelor’s, I applied to F.I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York and I got accepted so I went there for another four years for my second bachelor’s in Fashion Design.

gracearmani: Now that’s passion right there. How long did it take you to build your portfolio?

OU MA: Do you mean a portfolio to get into [F.I.T.]? I remember F.I.T. gave us three or four different topics for our portfolios. Some were required to design something based off of a theme. Some were pretty freestyle [in terms of designing]. I remember I spent like, three months, doing sketches, inspiration research, and making a dress by myself, all hand-made! I remember for the dress I made for my portfolio, I actually [painted] something on the fabric and I asked my roommate from college to be my model and another friend of mine to be the photographer so we threw the portfolio together. *laughs* Yeah, it was a pretty rough time I would say.. I was super nervous cause F.I.T. was such a prestigious design school in the U.S. and I wasn’t sure I was able to get in so I was really nervous. I took the language test and also prepared for my portfolio. I still remember the day when I received an email from them and I was like, … I don’t even know the word to describe it. I was just like, ‘Oh, okay… I’m going to New York..’ I’m going to America to do something, to do fashion. That’s awesome!’


gracearmani: What an amazing achievement! Would that have been your fist time in America?

OU MA: No, I actually went to visit when I was ten years old because my parents worked in the Chinese embassy in D.C. so I spent a summer in D.C. when I was ten years old. I even remember we went to New York, to Florida for Disney World and it was really memorable but after that I never thought about going to America. I wanted to go to Europe for you know, a design degree but my mom was like, ‘Ah, I think America has more opportunities and it’s a great environment for young, ambitious designers/entrepreneurs so I think you should go for that’. So that’s why I kind of researched some design schools in America and went for F.I.T.

gracearmani: That’s so amazing that your mom was so supportive…

OU MA: Yeah, she’s actually been very, very supportive. She saw my talents, saw that I was making dresses for my Barbies, and all my drawings. She always wanted me to do something that I love with my life.

gracearmani: Do you feel that formal/technical training is necessary to “make it” as a successful fashion designer?

OU MA: Yeah, I 100% agree with that because F.I.T. is known for its very strict curriculum and F.I.T. teaches you not only the creative part but also the technical part [of design] and I think as a designer you should be able to, of course you have the talents and the gifts to design something beautiful, but also I think you need to have the technique to learn how to construct a garment and how to choose different fabrics. Also F.I.T. teaches you the knowledge of merchandising, sales and even the legal part of building your own business so I think it really equips you to be a very well-rounded designer.


gracearmani: What is your most memorable experience from F.I.T.?

OU MA: I remember that it was the last semester of my sophomore year and we were doing corsets and more constructed evening wear. I worked so hard on it but I picked the wrong fabric so my garment was beautifully constructed but because I chose the wrong fabric, I wasn’t chosen to go into the exhibition so I cried. I had always been a good student so that was the first time I didn’t get chosen to exhibit my design and the professor, he was pretty harsh on me. He knew that I was a good student and he [saw] my vision but he told me something at the end.. He said that as a designer, you have to have the skills in knowing your fabric and know what goes best with your designs. I learned so much from that class. I don’t want to think about it because it was really painful but I do admit that I learned a lot from that class, that experience.

gracearmani: Yeah, I guess that’s how we all learn, from mistakes, choices. What is your design process like? Does the material come before the design or does the design come before the material?

OU MA: Hm, I think it’s a spontaneous process and really depends on what I’m working on. So, sometimes if I… Let’s say this, if I’m doing something for my own collection, I will actually go for the fabric first because I’ll go to different fabric stores, or different fabric trade shows and see what’s new, what’s trendy and what’s different. [Next] I will bring all my fabric inspiration together and go do my silhouette research and more specific detailed research, then I will create a collection based off that. But sometimes if I do a custom dress for my clients, I will actually talk to her, get to know her personality and know what she wants for her wedding or for special occasions. So I’ll go for the silhouette first but at the same time I will think about what is the best fabric that will best express herself, to best present what I’m designing for her so it’s really a spontaneous process.


gracearmani: I’m trying to understand how that would work in my mind but it sounds like it’s quite a process…

OU MA: Yeah, I guess for some designers those two processes could be separate but for me it really works best if I think of them at the same time.

gracearmani: You mentioned that you worked at Ralph Lauren Women’s Collection, would you mind sharing what your experience was like and what the biggest lessons you learned while working there?

OU MA: There are so many things I want to share… First of all, I was actually interning there in my third year at college for a summer. I remember the first time I went to the office, I was really blown away. I had never seen anything beautiful and elegant and very intensely inspired because all of the designers are so talented. They worked there for more than twenty years and they did beautiful watercolor sketches combined with different samples and beaded swatches. I remember the first time I saw Ralph; He is such an icon, you know? He talks so softly and everybody, no matter how many people are in the room, are sitting there quietly, listening to him. No matter what he says it just sounds so true! *smiles* After I graduated from college actually, my supervisor from when I was interning called me back and was like, ‘Oh you graduated, wanna come work for us?’ and I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ *laughs* It’s a good opportunity so I started working there and I’ve learned so much. I’ve worked so many fashion shows and I’ve learned the process from beginning to end and what really makes a very high-end product, especially all the beautiful gowns and beautiful evening dresses and the beautiful Italian fabrics – I’d never touched them before when I was in school. I was able to go to all the fittings, the design meetings and merchandising meetings with my supervisor so I was able to be apart of every aspect of the designing process. I even worked backstage at the fashion shows, learn how to throw a beautiful show together and learn how to work with time and how to work with stress cause the stress level was like right here *points to her neck*. Like every body had to be fully prepared for all the Ralph meetings and prepare all the inspiration research, sketches and fabrics to show him, you know, so it was really really intense but I think I grew really fast! I really appreciate that experience.

gracearmani: What was it like working alongside Ralph?

OU MA: It’s very inspiring! Because for him.. you know, he never trained for fashion design at school, he was self-taught. He was selling ties when he was younger and he just came up with this idea. He asked his supervisor if he can design his own lines of ties and sell them at Bloomingdales. He became very successful starting then and started building up his menswear collection, home collections, children’s collection, women’s collection… He really has this vision to provide a lifestyle for his customers and he’s so real and so true about whatever he’s providing. He’s so consistent no matter what season. He’s not following trends. He’s just true to himself and you can see that through the years, his taste just stays the same which is really amazing.

gracearmani: He is very iconic and classic in that sense.

OU MA: Yeah, very very good taste.

gracearmani: Would you say that Ralph is a mentor to you? Who are your mentors?

OU MA: Well, because I didn’t work with him on an every day basis and there are so many tiers between us, he’s a bigger mentor, of course. He’s more of an icon, an inspiration to me but another designer, her name is Daniela Kamiliotis. She is the VP of Ralph Lauren Women’s Collection and she has been working there for twenty years. She was really my mentor for my whole internship and working career at Ralph Lauren. She’s the one who would actually pull inspiration for all the collections. She goes to vintage shops and different trade shows around the world getting inspiration from everywhere. She’s an amazing artist and does gorgeous paintings in her house in Connecticut and she is just an artist from the bottom of her heart and I learned so much from her; her passion, her eyes, her taste, and how serious she was when preparing for meetings. No matter how high up she is in the company and no matter how experienced she is, she is always very tense when preparing for the meetings – she wanted to be 200% ready for Ralph. Always improving herself, and getting inspiration even from us *points to herself*, from the younger generation. She always asked us where we’d get this accessory, where do you shop? And she would go to those young and hip stores in Williamsburg or somewhere in Berlin, to find those trendy inspirations for the collection. I just admire her so much.


gracearmani: She sounds like an amazing woman.

OU MA: Yeah, she is amazing! And she’s a good cook, too! Always bringing treats that she made at home or invite us to her house to have a party. She’s a very warm person and amazing mentor.

gracearmani: Now, when you look back at who you were starting out as a fashion designer and coming out of working with Ralph Lauren Women’s Collection, how did your work ethic and mentality – do you think that changed? What do you think grew when you were there?

OU MA: I think when I was starting as a fashion design student, I was focused on little projects at school.. Okay, today we’re doing draping and tomorrow we’re doing illustrations. So I as focused on each single task and just wanting to make them good and have a good portfolio when I go for job interviews. But after my experience at Ralph Lauren, I feel like I grew up as a designer who can have my own line because I have a broader view of what a successful collection is and what makes a great company and who your customers are, what are you providing to them, how can you make your products consistent throughout the seasons. Those are the questions I’ve been observing and thinking about throughout the years I was working there. I think I could not get those experiences out of school, those you have to learn from a company, especially from a very successful fashion design house in the U.S.

gracearmani: Absolutely. If you look at any successful company, they have a very core set of beliefs and values.

OU MA: Exactly.

gracearmani: Based on what you learned at Ralph Lauren and knowing what it takes to build a successful company, what is it that you envision for your own design?

OU MA: I started doing custom wedding dresses for clients in New York, I think it was late 2014. I’ve been thinking about what I really wanted to do in the industry so I found this niche where for most brides, they have a hard time finding a very special and unique dress that are made especially for them. So in the market they’re either high-end, haute couture pieces from high-end bridal houses or brides just find a sketch or a photo they find online, bring it to a local tailor and ask them to make it. So I feel like as a designer, I do a good job to research inspiration, to know the customer, what fits best for her, what suits best for her wedding and to really provide something that is really unique and just made specially for the clients and that’s what I wanted to do for my brand.


gracearmani: When your friends approached you to ask you to design a dress for them, what was your initial reaction?

OU MA: I thought it was amazing! I thought they made the right choice *laughs* to ask me to design for them and I just couldn’t wait to listen to their thoughts, their vision, what they envisioned for their wedding, what they had collected from the internet… I just couldn’t wait to get the process going!

gracearmani: It’s quite an honor too isn’t it, to create for your friends?

OU MA: Yeah, absolutely! And on someone’s big day, especially for them, I wanted to make something really memorable and really irreplaceable for them.

gracearmani: So at that time did you think, oh maybe this is something I can do or was it something you more as a favor for a friend?

OU MA: I started with just doing a favor for my friend because we grew up together. She was getting married and I couldn’t attend the wedding but I really wanted to do something specially for her so she approached me and I said, ‘Oh my god, yes!’ So I started doing dresses for her. Back then I was still at school and I had so many thoughts of what kinds of brands I wanted to [work with]. I was actually specialized in knitwear and had this passion for knits and sweater. Also, I’ve always wanted to do a line of children’s wear, just some cute stuff. I also have a passion for authentic Chinese dresses, bringing some culture into the collection. I’ve had so many thoughts throughout the years and I think it was really last year, after I decided to move to Vancouver and I had this great opportunity to build another career path – either working for somebody else or designing for myself – so I went for the other. I really wanted to have my own studio and start my own business.

gracearmani: That takes a lot of courage and vision and I can see why you would want to create your own line because you have so many amazing ideas!

OU MA: Thank you.


gracearmani: Your vision board here is just stunning. Moving to Vancouver, how did you, I mean it’s such a different city compared to New York… How do you plan to impact the design industry or community here with your works?

OU MA: I absolutely love Vancouver. Ever since I first visited here, it’s [been] such a beautiful city surrounded with nature and greenery and beautiful friendly people. After I moved here, I started to become a local Vancouverite and really enjoy the life, and especially enjoy the life pace here. I started doing some research on some fashion brands and especially the bridal business and I feel like most people here are absolutely passionate about the boho style, something really west coast-y — really bohemian. But on the other side, for ready-to-wear and contemporary brands, people are really passionate about minimal, clean and neutral colors, and something really simple and elegant. So, I wanted to find a way to combine them together and with my bridal line, it’s definitely simple and minimal cuts with some sort of bohemian or romantic details or fabrics that provide brides with different options. Also, it’s a very different vision of what bridal gowns will look like in the future. I want to bring something more light and airy to the market. I want to provide those people who want to have something very different and unique for their wedding day.

gracearmani: I love how you encapsulated Vancouver’s style – you are so right! It is very boho, west coast, laid-back isn’t it? And yet you’ve captured that style so beautifully in your work. I can’t wait to see your designs!

OU MA: Thank you! Yeah, I can’t wait to have them too.

gracearmani: I’m curious, how long is your process? From an idea of the dress, to the sketches, to the final product – how long does all that take?

OU MA: I would say the first stage of the design process, for inspiration research, market research, fabric sourcing and sketching, it’s like an ongoing process. It’s not like I sit in front of my desk and I say, ‘Okay, I’m going to do research today. Two hours today, two hours tomorrow.’ No. Everyday I go out with friends and I even go out hiking and I will observe the people around me. I go to different markets here, different shops and bridal shops to do my research. At the same time, I’m thinking of my own line and thinking of where I can get my inspiration, and what’s not there that I can provide with my talents and my skills. I would say from that to finalized sketches will be two to three months. From there I contact my pattern maker and my fabric suppliers, some from New York, some local, and we start doing the collection. The making of the dresses takes about four or five months for the final product.

gracearmani: Is that the same process you would take when designing a client’s dress?

OU MA: Pretty much. Usually from the initial conversation with my clients to finalizing the sketches and fabrication, takes about a month to two months. It depends on how complex and how intense the handwork will be. The dress can usually take four or five months to make. Then we will have at least two fittings until we have the final product for her. So, it’s a long process..!


gracearmani: Okay, Ou… We know so far that you are a visionary; You’ve come all the way from China to New York and now to Vancouver to make an impact. I’m curious, how do you see Ou Ma Designs impacting Vancouver?

OU MA: That’s a tough question. First of all, I really want to have my brand image and brand identity really established in Vancouver. I want to combine my heritage, my culture, with my experience in New York and my observations and my visions for Vancouver to kind of combine for my brand. I want to reach out to more people. I don’t want to focus on just a small group because I feel like custom design should be available for everybody, no matter how much your budget is or what event you’re going to. I think if you want to have an open conversation with me, I will be able to design something very special for you and within your budget, and that’s really my vision. I wanted to bring my brand to a broader audience and to have the concept “custom design”, “bespoke design” for a broader [population] here in Vancouver.

gracearmani: You mentioned earlier that you would like to help educate women on how to pick the right dress. Do you have a plan or an idea of how you will help do that for the women in Vancouver and all over the world? Are there any tips that you can give?

OU MA: Yeah, I have so many ideas! Because I only have one showroom in Vancouver, I’m thinking of hosting a couple workshops maybe once or every two months. to have some small lessons and salons for a small group of people and teach them how to find the right dress for your body [type] and how to show the best parts of your body and hide the “worst” parts, and how to be confident and comfortable in what you’re wearing, knowing the difference of different fabrics and knowing what’s suitable for your personality and really showing off who you are instead of the dress wearing you, you are really wearing the dress and owning your style. Going forward, I want to have more advertisements on Instagram and to have short videos to create a conversation with my clients, to have maybe a video chat with my audience and to teach them some tips and help them to really discover the beauty of their body and to find who they are and to find the most memorable dress for them.


gracearmani: That’s amazing because a lot of people do want to know how to dress for their body type and I’ve been to quite a few dress fittings with my friends and I know they always have a vision of what they think will look good on them but when they get there, it’s completely different.

OU MA: Yeah I mean, I had that problem too. It’s always hard because especially with wedding dresses first of all, it’s your special day and you’re only wearing it once and you want it to be the most perfect dress ever. Some brides they just want to have all of their ideas, millions of ideas, thrown together for one dress. You know, sometimes it’s possible, sometimes it’s not because I always feel like what makes you feel most comfortable and confident makes you the most beautiful. So when I talk to my clients, I will really listen to her and if she has many visions, I’ll help her to narrow it down or, if she has absolutely no idea, I can help her and even go to her own closet and find out what suits best for her and which part she wants to show off and maybe go to a local dress shop and try on different necklines and sleeves, different skirt types and take photos, look at them maybe not right after but the day after so you will have a different idea of what really looks good on you.

gracearmani: Interesting, that’s quite a custom service…

OU MA: Yeah and also because I listen to my friends who shop for dresses like this and they have problems all the time. Even for myself, I saw this dress and another dress and wanted to combine the two and I couldn’t find it anywhere else for the combination of the two dresses so that’s why I have my custom dress studio. So say you saw a dress you really like but you want to change the neckline or you want to change the fabric or you want to have more beading or less beading, or you want to change the lace. That’s why you have me, I help you really help your vision come to life!


gracearmani: Is that where your mood board comes in to help with the designs?

OU MA: Yes, so my mood board right now is a combination of what I’ve done for my clients and also some of my inspirations and some inspiring women and design details, [as well as] color inspirations for my line. So for each of my clients, before they come in, I will create something like this for them. I will do some research about them and sometimes they start with a Pinterest board. They will send me some pictures that they love and I will combine their choices with my choices and then provide them with four or five sketches to approach them and then we go from there. I will also have some fabrics on the side to show them different lace options and different fabric qualities to put the fabrics against their body and against their skin to find the perfect one for them.

gracearmani: What is it that you love the most about being a fashion designer?

OU MA: I love that I can transform something, from a concept, from a sketch into a real product. I feel really accomplished when I see my clients and people are wearing my designs and is really just… magical seeing something from a sketch into a real dress.


gracearmani: What do you find most challenging as a fashion designer?

OU MA: Okay, can I answer you in two different ways? As a fashion designer working for a company, I feel it’s really challenging working with a team and working with a schedule because we always have a tight schedule with a tight deadline so it’s always stressful and overwhelming so I think you have to have a very good organizing skills and team working skills to not get “killed” by the environment. *smiles* I think as a designer for your own brand, I think the most challenging part is to really plan out everything and to have everything well organized because especially for me, I have my products designed and made both in Vancouver and New York so it’s really challenging for me to think of everything before I hand out the task to my pattern makers and sowers because making a dress is not easy. It involves a lot of details and especially with all the trims and colors that have to match and different threads and the thread tensions and even what kind of seams you want for the inside – so a lot of details that I have to include in my tag bags I have to send to the factory. Sometimes I would always forget about some things and that’s something I need to improve in the future and also to build up a very good team to support me and to work as a group to help the company grow.

gracearmani: What is a mindset tip you would give someone who is wanting to really wanting to make a mark in the fashion industry?

OU MA: I think, think well and be active. Like, I’m actually a thinker so I always think a lot. I think of all the pros and cons of doing your own business. I see a lot of challenges and a lot of negative aspects of it but on the other side, I always got encouraged from my mom who is actually a good go-getter so she always encourages me to just do it. So when you start something you can see the next problem coming and you will have the solution to resolve that problem instead of not doing anything and think about it for the whole time and have no results. So I would encourage anybody if you have an idea, do a lot of research, know your competitors, know your customers and just do it. Just go for it!

gracearmani: That’s awesome advice. That’s a challenge for me as well. I think for most people they’re curious, when they think of an artist they may wonder, what goes on in their life and how their day works so would you mind sharing and giving us an idea of what a typical work day would look like for you?

OU MA: Daily exercise is necessary for me. I always like light jogging or I go play ping-pong with my husband, so something active to start off my day. Then I will start inspiration research and to check the daily tasks that I made the day before. I will then make phone calls to the New York factories because of the time difference I have to get up early to catch up with them. Then I will do more hands-on work. I want to always keep myself up with the industry so I am always sowing or doing little detail embellishments or even couture sowing at home just to polish my skills. I will go to my pattern room to check out the product making process. Also, being a wife I have to prepare the home so I want to have a very good work-life balance. I go back home and prepare for dinner and enjoy it with my husband. At night we usually do separate things for ourselves and that’s pretty much my day. It’s normal! *laughs*


gracearmani: It’s good to have a balance.

OU MA: Yeah, and that’s what I wanted in New York because I think time back then just went by so fast and I never really had the time to relax and really enjoy hanging out with my friends and with family. It was always work, work, work! When I was in school I was always studying and went for competitions and internships and didn’t even have time for my relationship. I felt really choked back then. I’d been there for seven years and I wanted to do something different. I wanted to have a work-life balance. I wanted to spend more time with family, with friends and with lovers, to really enjoy nature and do something different than just work. Yeah, I’m really happy with my life now.

gracearmani: That’s good, I’m really happy for you!

OU MA: Thank you!

gracearmani: At the time though, would you say it was hard to leave New York or was it an easy decision?

OU MA: No, it was really hard. It was the most difficult time for me, ever since now. It’s hard to quit Ralph Lauren because it’s Ralph Lauren! It’s a dream job. I would say… I feel so lucky to have had a job like that as a fresh graduate from college so I really appreciate that. The people working around me were so nice and we worked like a family all of the time so it was so hard to quit the job and also back then, moving here was another big thing and getting married is another challenging topic in life so with so many changes at the same time I felt so overwhelmed. My family and my boyfriend (back then) were so supportive. They didn’t push me to do anything. They just wanted me to listen to my heart and just to know what I really wanted back then. And back then… I don’t know about the future but back then I knew I wanted a break from New York so I think it was time to change the lifestyle and go with something different, to go to the West Coast to enjoy a new life. Challenges are always good. I’m happy. It was kind of like a breakthrough. I’m here now!


gracearmani: Now that you have more time on the West Coast, what do you enjoy doing?

OU MA: I just love enjoying all the nature. I think that’s the thing I love the most about Vancouver. I like to go hiking and go to different trails and maybe just walk around the neighbourhood. We live in Coquitlam so it’s surrounded by animals and mountains and trees and is a beautiful neighbourhood. So I like to take my time slowly and really enjoy the environment.

gracearmani: Would you mind explaining the story of this beautiful blue dress you’ve been sitting in front of?

OU MA: Yeah, this is a dress I made in New York. It wasn’t made specially for weddings but a lot of wedding magazines were coming to me [at that time]  and wedding photographers were loving this dress. It actually comes from one of my collections called ‘Untouchable’. You can see the yarn that actually represents my state of mind when I was in my “down” time. I was using this pattern to really capture a state of mind, of everybody in their daily life. It was a piece made completely by me; I designed the pattern and the print on this fabric. If you are familiar with my design, I’m very good at playing with pleats and asymmetrical designs and a lot of curve lines around the body to make it really sculptural, feminine and romantic. I combined the yarn pieces with clear vinyl behind it to give it an edgy look. For somebody who wants something really different for their life[style], they will love this piece as well. Also blue is my favorite color. I love the gradient of color and how irregular it flows around the dress. It kind of mimics everybody’s daily life, that you never know where your life will go and in the next minute what it will look like so it kind of has the same rhythm as a person’s daily life, or as in my daily laugh. *laughs*

gracearmani: Ou, thank you for your time! I had a really, really great time with you learning about you. It was a beautiful story you shared with us and very inspiring. I love discovering how artist’s work and how they think so thank you so much for sharing that with us.

OU MA: Thank you so much for coming and again, I want more people to know about my studio. It’s located in the heart of Gastown, in Vancouver. If you’re interested, we do custom designs for not only bridal but also for special occasions, mother-of-the-bride, and gentlemen. My website is www.om-designstudio.com. You can take a look and contact us if you’re interested and we can have a conversation.

gracearmani: Thank you and I hope that you have great success with your studio and I look forward to seeing more of your creations!

OU MA:Thank you so much!

Written and originally featured by Grace Armani


Ou Ma Design Studio

#709-207 West Hastings Street

Vancouver, BC V6B2N4



By appointment only:

Monday to Friday, 11-7pm

Saturday & Sunday, 11-6pm



Source: http://www.gracearmani.com/an-artists-life...