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Season 1 - Episode 6

Dear Renee

Linda_Vertical_Smile_170x170
Monday, July 18, 2011

Dear Renee

Goldilocks and the 3 Brands

There are so many ways in which to look like a bride, it’s no wonder the modern bride is bewildered by the world of choices before her. But how to feel like a bride is such a strange and personal thing. For some, the quintessential bridal moment comes when the veil is added to the picture. Even if it already feels like the dress, the addition of the veil places the bride in the moment of getting married– in that moment where she stands before her witnesses to recite her vows. Powerful stuff. But what if, no matter what you tried on, you could not conjure up that picture? What if no dress was able to bring out the “you” that you wanted to be on your wedding day? Whether it’s a question of physical discomfort in a gown, a “costumey” feel that many dresses might give off, or a deeper seated issue relating to the engagement itself, the fear is a real one. Most of the time it just takes a little soul searching and the right gown designer–someone who gets your style or reflects your sensibilities. Sometimes it might take a little more…

Jessica was one of those brides. Anywhere she went, she could essentially eliminate 95% of the collection with her fabric preference alone, never mind the style. What she truly wanted was a floaty, ethereal chiffon sheath with a bit of Grecian flair. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet such a look can be difficult to achieve without losing its bridal feeling. The gown she was seeking was somewhere between the most gossamer of Christos looks and the purer executions of the Amsale aesthetic.

Jessica is a fashion editor at O Magazine. This fact did not make her need an over-the-top wedding look. If anything, Jessica had a motivation for her look that came from somewhere else entirely–her mother. And lest you get the wrong idea, not an overbearing mother, but a mother who had passed away some 5 years before. Jessica was very stuck on having a gown of perfect softness because such were the visions she and her mother shared when they talked about what her wedding someday would be like. Without her mother to sift through the different gown possibilities with her, it became even more important for her to stick close to what they had talked about all those years before. Keeping these memories alive as she planned the wedding that her mother didn’t live to see was the driving force of Jessica’s vision for a gown.

Luckily, she was not all alone in this quest. Jessica’s boss, Gayle King, knew of Jessica’s story, and made it a point to be present for the important parts of her bridal journey. A little bit mother, friend, and adviser wrapped into one, Gayle championed Jessica’s cause and helped her over the rough patches. It makes all the difference in the world to have someone on your side.

You’ve Got to be Kidding Me

Once Emily took control of the appointment, she expertly recognized, with a minimum amount of time spent in the wrong looks, what was needed to create the right look. Unfortunately, the pattern for that dress did not exist. Enter Amsale’s full custom program. For the bride who is not overly concerned with budget but supremely concerned with style, the custom program allows you to fully discuss your vision which is then translated by the design team into sketches and ultimately, into your dream dress. It’s a wonderful opportunity to turn the design of your bespoke bridal gown into a collaborative one, replete with the luxury of a full couture experience. Of course it probably doesn’t take a bridal world insider to guess that 6 weeks is a very short time frame to get such a gown. You may, however, have noticed that Emily Leu has a special working relationship with Amsale and if anyone can get this dress made, my money would be on her. Still, Jessica is so specific in her vision, I hope she can get with the (custom) program! [Did you do anything to "customize" your wedding gown? Was it difficult to figure out your bridal look? Was there a bridal "vision" that you had been carrying around with you?]

[picture of Gayle and Jessica?]

Sample Sale

With a resounding Ewww! Lauren has expressed the degree to which she wants no part of the Sample Sale. Thank goodness cooler heads prevail. Otherwise nothing would get done. Sample Sale is happening, whether the consultants like it or not. This year Samantha has decided to make it her baby, so we are all awaiting her instruction. Some of her great ideas: having the sale off site somewhere in the garment district rather than having it at the flagship salon, organizing the gowns a lot better than the usual sample sale to make shopping easier for brides thereby (hopefully) unloading more merchandise, as well as encouraging price negotiations. One not so hot idea: Having Lauren help select dresses to go to sample sale. (quote–why don’t we just throw these away?)  Luckily, event planning is Sam’s forte. She knows how to call in a favor and assemble a good team. She already has a clear vision for how she wants the event to play out, and knows how to execute it. She also knows that having the right kind of advertisement for the event is critical too. We don’t exactly need a mob scene, but wouldn’t mind a little healthy competition between brides over our dresses. Now we just need to make sure the right dresses are there…

No Guts No Glory

Lauren is not afraid of physical labor, but the task at hand has to make sense to her. Sifting through old ballgowns in a musty warehouse does not make sense to her. Still, by sorting through the gowns now, a lot of energy will be saved later–especially the night before the sale when we have to merchandise the space and optimize our outside help so that the following day goes smoothly. Prepping for a sample sale is old hat to Emily, and so it fell to her to train Lauren, the newbie. In the end, Emily’s “this is how you prepare for a sample sale” training fell on deaf ears, but the “I’m so glad I don’t have to work sample sale” results were heard loud and clear from Lauren for the rest of the week.

I kind of like sample sale myself. It’s fun to see our discontinued gowns make their last hurrah, remembering what I liked about them (and what I didn’t). My favorite part is working with runway exclusives. These are dresses that were cut from the collection after their original runway showing for one reason or another–and because they were never produced, they are true one-of-a-kinds. I love finding the brides who not only pull these looks off, but fit the tiny runway sample sizes. But, since we are not having it at the flagship salon, our contribution to Sample Sale will be preparation the night before and we will just have to trust that Sam’s good planning will pay off.

Dear Renee or Brits and the Art of Deflection

Every bride is a bit nervous about the delivery of her gown.

We have never NOT delivered a gown, but sometimes there is a harried, frenzied, slew of activity behind the scenes to get the gown ready on time. Sometimes delays occur because it is flooding in India where some of the beading is done. Other bizarre reasons that this can happen are incorrectly ordered colors or sizes, fabric shortages, mismatched dye lots, etc. That such delays inevitably happen to the bride who has been nervously calling and e-mailing to follow up on her gown from the moment she’s ordered it is a maddening fact of life for us at the salon.

Customer service requires a unique skill set. The Amsale girls all have these skills in spades…Exactly what you’d expect in a business where the client base is comprised of brides-to-be and their mothers! One particularly useful talent for which Debbye Walker, our fearless manager, might take the prize is what I like to call the art of deflection.

Renee is a bride who purchased at the very end of October. It was a bit of a rush order to begin with, and because Renee lives overseas, she was extra vigilant about tracking the progress of her gown. All was well until we were informed that the factory which supplied the fabric for Renee’s gown was behind in production and could not deliver what we needed in the time frame we had promised. Of course, we needed to shield the bride from this potential stress while we worked to correct the situation, and as Debbye’s bride, it was up to Debbye….

email 10/30/10:

Hi Renee,

How are you? Hope you are still glowing as you were when you left the salon.

I just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it was for me to help you find your dress.

It was as fun and as great an experience for me as it was for you.

Best Wishes and see you in January!

Debbye

Phone conversation 12/09/10

Renee: Hi Debbye, I just wanted to check on the status of my dress. After the new year I wanted to book a flight to come to NY for my first fitting.

Debbye: Renee! How are you? I was thinking about you the other day. I saw a gorgeous pair of shoes at Barney’s that would be perfect for your dress!

Renee: That’s so sweet! I’m still not sure what I want in the way of shoes. But I can’t wait to try my dress on!
When do you think it will be in? Shall I come in January?

Debbye: Speaking of January, do you have any special plans for New Year’s? I was thinking about going to Vegas or somewhere I’ve never been. I may just stay in the city though. I’m sure your gown will be perfect when it comes in! Don’t forget to look for shoes! Talk to you soon, Renee!

E-mail 1/05/11

Hi Debbye,

I just wanted to check in on the status of my dress. I’m very much looking forward to the first fitting.

I’m still searching for shoes, and I would like to see some veils when I come in for my first fitting, unless you think that’s too late to get a veil. When do you expect the gown to come in?

-Renee

E-mail 1/05/11

Hi Renee,

I called production and they say your gown is still on schedule. You might want to do some veil research ahead of time, so that we can be sure to be able to get it delivered in time…By the way, what color did you decide for your bridesmaids gowns?

E-mail 1/19/11

Hi Debbye,

I hope this email finds you well! Just checking in with you. As January is coming to a close, I wondered if you had any news, and if it would be possible to send a small swatch of the fabric to my address? I am going out of town next weekend, but I am hoping to hear some news soon!

Thanks much,

Renee

E-mail 1/19/11

Hi Renee,

So happy to hear from you. I will pick up a swatch of the fabric tomorrow from production and send it to you. I absolutely love the color of the fabric! So perfect on you! Where are you going next weekend? Hope it proves to be a lovely holiday for you! Samantha will contact you in the near future to schedule your fittings.

Thanks,

Debbye

Email 1/26/11

Hello,

Flying out on the 21st of March. No status on the dress? It has not arrived yet I guess…I was wondering of it has been completed?

I am going away for the weekend this Friday…which leads us into Feb.
I want to have time to schedule all necessary fittings, and I think we will be fine—I just hadn’t heard word yet.

Aside from this—will wait for the swatch. I am finalizing shoes to bring to my fit. Thanks, Debbye.

Renee

Email 1/26/11

Hi Renee,

I’ve just spoken to production again. Your dress is completed, but is in Quality Control. No worries – you will have plenty of time for your fittings! Samantha will arrange them with you when you return from weekend’s holiday.

Thanks again,

Debbye

Phone Conversation 2/5/11

Debbye: Hi Renee, I have some wonderful news! Your gown has passed quality control and is ready to fit!

Renee: That’s wonderful news! I had a flight booked for next weekend to do all of my fittings. Will that be enough time?

Debbye: Absolutely!

Footnote: This is my cheeky rendering of the events that occurred. For almost 3 weeks in January, Debbye followed up every day with Production to track the status of this gown. That she was able to do it with charm and minimal stress to the bride seems miraculous to us. Renee’s fittings were executed perfectly and she was very happy to take the gown with her at last. The lasting legacy of this episode is that a creative deflection is now known as a Dear Renee.

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