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How to Start a Bridal Brand

4 min read

How to Start a Bridal Brand

How did I get started?

An aspiring bridal designer asked me on IG how I got started. As I formulated the answer it occurred to me that it would be so incredibly long- I should blog about it. Like I have said before, the fashion industry is very secretive, nice people get burned and taken advantage of... but I am still gonna try and share my knowledge with you fabulous peeps.

 

College Years

I have always been a designer- I used to sew clothes for my dolls as a kid and went to college to major in Apparel Design and Manufacturing. In school, I learned sketching, sewing, patternmaking, portfolio, fabric manipulation and even history of art. I LOVED my classes and was often the highest grade on projects, that's because I was an annoying overachiever and had to go above and beyond for every class assignment. I still felt like I needed more experience with couture, I researched schools in the USA and only FIT seemed to have a course on Couture at the time. It was a semester long, and I had zero intention of moving to NY.

Couture Sewing School

Well, as fun as that sounds, I needed a crash course in Couture Sewing Techniques and I came across Susan Khalje. I wrote her an email asking if she could teach me couture techniques in her one-week classes and she said she could. I spent all my savings and then some, booked the class, booked the trip, and ordered a duchess silk satin that was so gorgeous, I'm still crushing.

But that is not all, I wanted to soak up her knowledge in such a way, that I designed the most complicated, structured and detailed dress I could imagine at the time. It was a strapless empire mermaid dress, with a corselette (how do you make smooth lines without seeing the corset boning?), with some netting for the skirting (which actually makes a gorgeous sound called rouging when we walk), an invisible zipper I put on by hand and fabric covered buttons on the back as design detail. Long story short, I returned to her classes 5 years in a row as my yearly vacations. I highly recommend it. It's worth every penny. Check her classes out, Couture Sewing and French Jacket are my favorites!

5 years ago I purchased a condo, 4 years ago I started this Carla Valcarcel adventure. Needless to say, I spend all my money on the business and have been away from sewing school for WAY too long. It is like missing a dear friend, and there's a hole in my soul, that's been killing me forever, it's a place where a garden never grows... yes, I just quoted Aerosmith. It's how nostalgic Couture Sewing School makes me.

Magic Las Vegas Sourcing

Sourcing at Magic

Once I had done my research and decided to move forward with production- I needed fabrics and manufacturers. So, I did what I had always dreamed of doing and attended the largest fashion trade show in the USA- Magic at Las Vegas! I used all my rewards points for air travel and hotel stay, dragged my boo/Co-founder/CIO/CFO all the way to Las Vegas, and attended sourcing. Sourcing is actually free, you just need to sign up- ps. you need to be a registered business. The actual tradeshow has a price but as a designer on a budget- I just focused on Sourcing, where the manufacturers, fabrics, notions, boxes, labels and even Pantone had a booth. It is super interesting to see the backend of the garment industry, I was in wonderland.

This is where I found my current manufacturer and fabric supplier. Side note: I did not find a lot of sustainability there. Sustainable manufacture seems to be a small niche of the industry and whenever I asked if they were sustainable, I got a whole lot of weird expressions- as if they never, ever heard the term and I was insane. Probably. So no, I am not producing fully sustainable gowns at this time. I have done what I can with the resources that are available to me but will continue to work towards full sustainability as we grow. I am ok with that.

 

Uncle Google Knows All

Need lots of logo ideas at a reasonable price? There is a website for that.
Need to set up your own store with zero programming knowledge? There is a website for that too. Need to find professional services like translation, marketing, programming, videographers, patternmaking, digitizing, accounting, so on and so forth? Yes!!! there IS a website for that! (Unpaid advertise BTW!) What I love about these websites is that they are kind-of global, so you have an incredible bench of skills and knowledge that can't be surpassed at a local level. They work as bids, we post a job and prospects post their offers. You can chat and choose so the "winning bid" gets the contract. I do like working with local talent- but when I need to consider the best investment for my money, sometimes the reach needs to be a little larger scale.

Jane of All Trades

I joke and say I am a designer, CEO, CFO, Marketing & Sales Director, Senior Designer, Assistant Designer, Technical Designer, Web Designer, Stylist, Photographer, Videographer, Seamstress, Pattern Maker, and anything else that needs to get done. But it's not really a joke, I really do these things. I read, study, research and go for it. I have to! No one else can do it with the passion that I do and being a startup means that spending capital is limited, so I try to do as much as possible and hire when it is absolutely crucial to business success.  

I hope you have gotten some insight into the process to start your own fashion brand. Feel free to ask any questions using the comment fields below, I will do my best to answer them!

Love Intentionally,
Carla

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