The seasonal tulle takeover has begun, New Yorkers, as this season’s bridal shows kick off today. To ring in the slew of exquisite white frocks and veils galore that we’ll be checking out over the next few days, we chatted up the co-founders of clever bridesmaid-centric site Brideside, Nicole Staple and Sonali Lamba. The duo has made a chic business out of an idea hatched in B-school a few years ago. Find out how they’re innovating the often-staid, frequently drama-filled orbit of bridesmaid dresses, accessories, and much more. As for catching that bouquet: you’re on your own for that one, cheris!
How did Brideside come about?
Sonali Lamba: Nicole and I lived as weekend wedding warriors during, and leading up to, business school. I had 14 bridesmaids in my own wedding, and Nicole spent summers traveling to and from her bridesmaid duties. We experienced firsthand, on many occasions, the time, frustration, and energy that went into the process of coordinating a bridesmaid dress. We knew there had to be a better way.
Nicole Staple: As classmates at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, we commiserated over this process. We then devoted ourselves to a concept that delivers the personal boutique experience at home and online. By the time we graduated in June 2012, we had incubated Brideside within the walls of Kellogg.
How did your own bridesmaid experiences help you scheme up Brideside?
Sonali: I was in my sister-in-law’s wedding along with her best friend who had literally just had a baby. Our fit preferences couldn’t have been more different! The bride took on the role of selecting styles that would work for both of us. Since I didn’t know the other bridesmaid well at the time, it was awkward for us to communicate about style and our insecurities. When building Brideside, it was critical to have informed stylists to assist the bride and her friends.
Did you ever expect to work on a fashion project?
Sonali: I’ve always considered myself a fashion blog junkie. [Fashion] is an extension of myself…Though I never imagined making a career of it!
Nicole: I wouldn’t have expected to graduate from business school to start a company in fashion—and certainly not bridal. But I’ve loved the challenge of innovating a very traditional process that I’ve been through so many times myself.
What does Brideside offer that no one else in the bridal biz is doing right now?
Nicole: While we’ve seen innovation in a variety of sectors of the wedding industry, from online registries to planning apps, the bridal party has largely remained untouched. Brideside delivers the coveted bridal boutique experience in the comfort of our shoppers’ own homes.
Sonali: Our Brideside box sampling program lets you try on bridesmaid styles at home. For $10, you select up to three styles to sample; we’ll ship them right to your door, complete with a return shipping label and a few extra goodies. It’s the most affordable sampling option available today.
More sage bridesmaid insights, after the jump…
So, are the dresses better than the usual bridesmaid fare?
Sonali: We give brides and their bridal parties access to amazing designers they may not normally find: Many boutique designers like California-based LHC Couture are only sold in boutiques in four or five states. We recently unveiled our first exclusive design with LHC Couture—we worked directly with the line’s designer, Lauren Kutting, to design the garment and take into account fit data, and customer preferences. The dress, dubbed the “Jackson” is available in two lengths (“Jackson Ann” is short, and “Jackson Rose” is long).
Which NYC-based designers are offered on Brideside?
Sonali: One of our favorite designers, Lauren Gabrielson, runs her business out of an adorable boutique on Mott Street. Her designs are so chic and sophisticated. We also sell a number of styles from The Dessy Group, a New York-based bridal powerhouse that also creates classic shapes under the name Alfred Sung, as well as a collection with Lela Rose.
What makes for an amazing bridesmaid?
Nicole: An all-star bridesmaid understands the importance of seemingly small tasks, but also has a sense of humor. She fosters inter-bridesmaid friendships, picks up the phone when the bride calls, and parties on the dance floor. Deep down, she may not love all of your choices, but she simply wants to celebrate you.
On the other hand, how would you define a “bridesmaid-zilla”?
Sonali: If a bridesmaid finds a way to make the planning, the process, or the big day about her in any way, shape, or form, that’s a red flag. You may not love your updo, you may be annoyed you have to travel 2,000 miles for her bachelorette party, or you may feel like you got assigned to the “worst” table, but it’s not your place to talk about it.
Nicole: We hear countless tales of disappointing bridesmaids. There are the disappearing acts – bridesmaids who don’t respond to any communication, wait until the last minute to order any required attire, and generally give no confirmation as to whether they understand what’s going on! You’ll run into the unprepared bridesmaid who hasn’t tried on her too-tight dress in advance and winds up safety-pinned in 20 minutes before the ceremony. Or the one who complains about anything and everything along the way. It’s a rite of passage we all share: You want your friend, sister, or cousin to be happy, right? Focus on showing her that.