What happens to a designer wedding gown after the big day? A new initiative has a solution which serves to help a number of charities, while allowing brides to get back some of their original outlay. Dominic Bliss investigates…
All over the world there must be millions of beautiful bridal gowns languishing in wardrobes and dusty attics. They’ve each been worn for just a single day, they’ve served their purpose, and now they’re boxed up or hidden away forever.
Chantal Khoueiry wants to free all these dresses. An employee of Value Retail, the owners of various designer outlet shopping centres (including Bicester Village in Oxfordshire), she set up a new social enterprise in October last year called Brides do Good.
Its aim is to allow brides, retailers and designers to sell their new and second-hand designer wedding dresses, keeping some of the profit themselves, and donating some to charity. For private sellers, the benefit is obvious: make some money by selling a dress that will never be worn again.
Private sellers, designers or retailers email photos and descriptions of their wedding dress/dresses to Brides do Good. Provided the dress passes muster (only designer dresses or “beautiful” customised dresses are accepted), it is then couriered to a warehouse, modeled, photographed and advertised for sale on the Brides do Good website.
Should it sell, a third of the proceeds goes to the seller, a third to Brides do Good, and a third to women’s charities Plan International (striving for children’s rights and equality for girls) and Too Young to Wed (aiming to end child marriage). Still very young, the enterprise doesn’t have a huge number of dresses for sale yet - but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality.
Stock has been supplied by a couple of dozen private sellers so far, and several designers (including Vivienne Westwood, Elie Saab, Ian Stuart, Suzanne Neville, Galia Lahav and Jesus Piero) and three retailers (Browns Bride, The White Room and Say I Do). As well as the website, there has been a pop-up Brides do Good store at Bicester Village. So far, only a score of dresses have been sold. But it’s still early days.
“We’re humbled by how many designers have embraced our movement,” says Chantal. “It’s really picking up. They all love our story. Most of them are donating the dresses and giving their portion of profit to the charity as well.”
The idea for Brides do Good was hatched in Watford, of all places. A few years ago Chantal was having dinner, celebrating the recent marriage of one of her friends.
“I found out she had spent £8,000 on her dress,” she remembers. “I said to her: ‘You’ve worn this dress just once. It’s now sitting in a box somewhere’. But she was still so attached to that dress. She told me she couldn’t possibly give it away; that she’d spent so much time choosing it and had an emotional attachment to it. Later that evening I thought of just how many women there are worldwide sitting on these beautiful designer dresses.”
Chantal also realised the potential to use profits from those dress sales to help charitable causes. Having spent much of her life doing humanitarian work in Africa, and as a former employee of UNESCO, she is determined to do her utmost to eradicate what she sees as “the barbaric act” of underage marriage that takes place in many developing countries.
“I am adamant about that. I think that everyone should stand and say that child marriage is a barbaric act. I think that governments are trying to change laws and legislation so there is a collective effort in trying to change this.” She stresses how, having been born in Kuwait to parents of Arabic and African heritage, she understands the complexities of non-western culture. “It is about educating the parents, about educating the religious authorities, and about educating men,” she adds.
What she needs now is some major publicity. Perhaps a celebrity ambassador to front her company? “Yes, we’re working on that,” she says. But she remains tight-lipped about who it might be.
Further information on Brides do Good can be seen in the May/June issue of Bridal Buyer; read it here.