All Articles Tagged "bridal gowns"

Making Every Bride Feel Special: Meet The Entrepreneurial Sisters From TLC’s ‘Curvy Brides’

June 3rd, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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(Photo courtesy TLC)

Sisters Yukia (left) and Yuneisia (right). (Photo courtesy TLC)

The average American girl is a size 16, which seems to be a fact that most bridal companies have not yet heard. It is extremely hard for average and plus-size women to find fabulous gowns to walk down the aisle in. This is where sisters Yukia Walker and Yuneisia Harris step in.

They are owners of a Columbia, MD-based bridal salon that helps curvy brides find the dress of their dreams. Curvaceous Couture is a unique bridal salon in that it carries gowns from sizes 12 to 44. Yukia and Yuneisia recently shared their story and expertise on TLC’s Curvy Brides, which aired for six weeks from May to June.

Their journey to help curvy brides started when in 2008 when Yukia, 36, was looking for a bridal gown. She searched high and low for beautiful plus-size dresses, but her shopping adventure turned into a nightmare. She couldn’t fit in any sample gowns and she was treated badly nearly everywhere she went.

This prompted the idea for Curvaceous Couture, a bridal salon for full-figured women that she and Yuneisia, 33, started in their parents’ basement. Just a few months later they opened a store. The business became so successful, the two women left their high-paying corporate jobs. Yuneisia was in pharmaceutical sales and Yukia had been in government contracting.

MadameNoire: People have ideas all the time, but what made you go ahead and start Curvaceous Couture?
Yukia: We always wanted to start a business together but it was really my horrible experience in trying to find my own dress that made me realize there was a major need for someone to offer plus-size wedding gowns.

Yuneisia: Seeing how terrible my sister was treated when she was trying to find a wedding dress it made me want to help other women. My sister was literally laughed out of the last bridal boutique we went to. And this was just ridiculous to me because the average woman is a size 16, not a 2 or 4 like the sample sizes. Later, my sister did a ton a research and found there was really no bridal salon that specialized in curvy women, so we  put a business plan together.

MN: How did you fund the startup?
Yukia: We used some of our retirement funds and my mother and father also helped us out.

MN: What were some of the challenges you had as a startup?
Yuneisia: We went into a business that was very high fashion and the sizes are like size two and that was really shocking to us. It was hard to find gown samples in the sizes we wanted. But now since we have been in business for seven years we have designers sending us dresses.

Yukia: The biggest thing I think was that we thought we could open shop and just go to the bridal market and purchase some dresses in larger sizes and they would work for our customers. But every style does not work for every woman, so we had to understand how the dresses were made in order to find and have dresses created for our clients.

MN: How did the TLC show, Curvy Brides, come about?
Yukia: For years we were getting contacted by producers saying let us pitch a show featuring you. But I was dealing with health issues [she has dealt with diabetes, hyperthyroidism and other medical issues that she discusses here], had gotten married and was raising kids. It wasn’t a good time and we never really thought about being on reality TV. But when TLC came calling, we already knew about their show Brides By Design and we thought this would be the right opportunity for us. And we knew we could use the show as a platform to help other plus-size brides.

MN: How do you plan to use the show to further your brand?
Yuneisia: At the end of the day women should know there is a place where they can go to find the perfect dress. We are a mom-and-pop business and to be given a national soundboard, that is invaluable.  Plus, we get to invite people into our home and our family.

MN: What has been the most surprising thing about being on the show?
Yukia: I don’t think we expected such overwhelming support. I have received so many encouraging emails about my health issues which I discussed on the show, the show, our business. It has been incredible. This support has empowered us to keep on growing our business and message.

MN: What were the challenges of the show?
Yukia: I don’t think we realized how hard of work it would be. I think we knew it would be an added stress on the business but we had to do a good job tweaking our filming hours so it would not affect our business.

Yuneisia: It was not easy being around cameras all the time, but we had a really great production team around us who made it easy.

MN: So what is next for you and your brand?
Yuneisia:  We have some things with in the works. We are looking into other areas where we can expand our brand into other cities and help women. Honestly, we really started the business to help other women. My sister and I are both intelligent women, so of course we wanted to have a successful business. But at the core of it all is empowering women. If you could see my sister’s face when she was shopping for what was supposed to be her special day, you would never want anyone to feel that way.

Yukia: We’re in this for the long term. We’re not going back to the cubical life.

Therez Fleetwood Makes A Bold Statement With Her “World Couture” Wedding Gown Designs

December 13th, 2012 - By Ann Brown
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Brides to be dream of the perfect wedding dress — one that was designed with only them in mind. This is where Therez Fleetwood comes in. Combining the exotic and romantic, her collection includes everything from lace adornment to African cowry shells. The originality of her bridal gowns has attracted customers from all over the world — Germany, Egypt, Italy, Tanzania, and Australia.

“The Therez Fleetwood bride is a woman looking for cultural nuances in her wedding attire,” says Fleetwood in an interview. “A bride who is looking to walk to the beat of her own drum and make a statement on her wedding day. She is a doctor, a lawyer, a Marine, an artist, and any other bride who is seeking a bridal gown that allows her to be self-expressed.”

Her love of African design cannot only be seen throughout her bridal collection, but also in the book she penned entitled The AfroCentric Bride – A Style Guide, which provides tips for couples who choose to incorporate cultural elements into their wedding. Prior to launching her bridal collection, Fleetwood had a clothing line called PheZula that combined African prints with contemporary Western designs. Her clothes have been considered art and have even be on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and at the Fashion Institute of Technology (the college she attended).

As Fleetwood began to expand her offerings for brides, she decided to focus on wedding clothes. “I love the bridal industry. I love being a part of one of the most important days in a woman’s life. I get joy in helping brides find that ‘perfect’ dress that allows them to feel like a queen on their wedding day. My vision for designing bridal gowns has always been inspired by ‘world couture.’ It was through my travels to different countries that I became inspired by the colors, beads, trinkets, artwork and design elements of these cultures,” she explains.

It was a good business move on Fleetwood’s part. The bridal industry is big business. One would thing think the recent economic troubles would lead to simpler weddings for most everyone. But not so found and 2011 Real Weddings Survey. “For the first time since 2008, wedding budgets are on the rise,” said Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot in a press statement. “In 2011, one in five U.S. couples spent more than $30,000, and 11% spent more than $40,000 on their weddings. Our research shows that couples and their families are less concerned with the economy and are increasingly comfortable investing more in the once-in-a-lifetime occasion of their wedding.” The average wedding budget: $27,021, not including honeymoon costs.

The 2011 BRIDES American Wedding Study found slightly different results. According to that magazine, the average wedding cost is $26,501—a decrease of  a little  more than a 5 percent from 2009 when the average cost was $28,082 but up $8,000 since 2002.

“It is a very exciting time in the bridal industry. Brides have more choices than ever in the planning of her wedding. Weddings are becoming more unique and individualized and can range from subtle and simple, to colorful and exuberant. Couples today are no longer confined to ‘wedding rules’or carbon-copy celebrations, they are adding personal touches throughout the wedding,” notes Fleetwood.

The Knot too found that couples aren’t tied to tradition and are opting for more causal weddings. Fewer brides, says the magazine, are going for the “formal/black-tie” tradition… only 16% went this route, down from 18% in 2010 and 20% in 2009.”

But even though weddings are less formal and more couples are doing their own planning, they haven’t gotten less expensive. “There is a trend towards do-it-yourself weddings. Are the weddings more simple?…. Not really. They are more unique and specialized and capture the true essence of the couple,” explains Fleetwood. “There is so much information offered over the Internet that allow couples the flexibility of planning all aspects of their wedding.  Brides are creating their vision boards, seeking out vendors and coordinating ideas and concepts to pull everything together.”

And of course for every bride, the wedding dress is the most important purchase. The average spent on a wedding dress was $1,121 found The Knot survey. (Brides in Manhattan, the most expensive place to plan a wedding, spent the most on their dresses–$2,403.) BRIDES found the average wedding dress cost to be $1,289, a 20 percent increase since 2009 when the average cost was $1,072. Future brides start shopping for their dress at least nine months before the wedding, states BRIDES.

So if you are getting married next year, there are new trends for spring/summer 2013, reveals Fleetwood. Wedding dresses are no longer white. “Bold reds and pastels have been gracing the runways,” says Fleetwood, whose gowns are sold at her studio in Atlanta and in Virginia at Soliloquy Bridal Couture. “The trick is to find a color that flatters your skin tone and works within your wedding theme.” Dresses fashioned with peplums and beautiful backs are the current rages.

Brides looking for a totally one-of-a-kind look turn to Fleetwood. She explains why, “What makes my collection so unique are the different embellishments that adorn each dresses. I purchase my fabrics and trims from India, Asia, Africa, Italy and Spain. My focus is on creating each dress as a piece of artwork that reflect the essence of each bride who wears them.”