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.

You can’t please everybody all of the time. There’s nothing worse than a demoralizing appointment in the midst of a sales slump. It already feels like you may have forgotten how to sell, how to make your brides bloom before you, how to find the right dress; in other words — how to do your job. We all have different personalities here and so do our brides, and it’s amazing when you and the bride you’ve been paired with gel in a way that feels like you could be friends in the world outside of the salon…

What happens sometimes is the opposite of that, where all of your good intentions backfire and you somehow exit the appointment feeling, at best, misunderstood and ineffectual, at worst, frustrated and disliked. We all want to feel like we rock at our jobs, but sometimes things happen during the appointment which are just out of our control.

Take Emily’s appointment with X. It turns out that the bride came to that salon thinking that she could get a custom dress for $5K — a little unrealistic in NYC, unfortunately. The fact is, each dress is specifically made just for you when you order it, so in a way it’s a custom made and not mass-produced gown. And further customization comes when we fit and style the gown for you — we try to bring out each bride’s unique way of wearing the dress. We are not, however, a chop shop and bridal shopping for the most part works better when you are prepared to like what you see. It’s not a mix and match of tops and bottoms, of beading here, and detail there.

Most designers have systems in place to protect the integrity of their designs, and if you are interested in a full custom look, you should always ask the salon about it, as different designers treat this area differently. Of course, the flip side to this notion of is to not throw the baby out with the bathwater: Don’t reject a dress simply because of one detail, such as a bow or a flower, especially before you’ve even tried it on. That goes for the fit in a specific area, the placement of one specific detail, and too much or too little volume — if one of these issues is the only thing in the way of you and that dream dress, then by all means, let’s see what we can do about it! Of course, this is why rapport is so important, and sometimes there’s just no chance to establish it. But back to the appointment…

Because Emily was trying to keep the bride within her target budget and not entertaining proposed changes to the dress which couldn’t be made, the bride felt like she was being blocked from finding her dream dress combo. And once the appointment slid into that direction, it quickly went into a free fall of misunderstanding. Once Emily figured out that what the bride wanted was more than the allotted budget, she hunted high and low to find the best dresses within these constraints. Making matters worse, however, was the bride’s opinionated entourage. Rather than waiting for the bride to give her own impressions first, they quickly picked apart all of the dresses with mostly negative feedback. No matter what the bride liked when she was in the room with Emily it was inevitably hacked apart by the peanut gallery. And shooting down Emily’s selections and insisting that the bride try on a number of over-budget gowns of their choosing ended in a lose-lose situation for all.

Moral of the story? Brides should be wary of bringing people to their appointment that don’t let them have an opinion first.

Emily and I joke that she was “raised” at Amsale. As her first bona fide job out of college,  she has worked in almost every bridal position in the company. And as much as I have come to understand the Amsale brand and muse about her design inspirations, Emily’s vault of knowledge blows us all away… Emily does not just guess at what Amsale may or may not like — she knows it. I suppose that’s what happens when you grow up with the company.

In some ways, Amsale and her husband Neil have been Emily’s New York parents. And as you know with most parent/child relationships, there’s the good — you know they care about you and value your contributions, and there’s the bad — they can have crazy high expectations of you and rely on you beyond your role in the “family.” Naturally, whenever there is a question about whether Amsale will approve of something, we refer to Emily. And luckily, Emily is also a master diplomat with the ability to sell a difficult concept with the biggest of smiles.

When there is friction at the salon, Emily takes the high road and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. Or she takes the road of gently mocking anything and everything around her.  Have I mentioned that this is another one of her talents? So, while Emily’s solid Midwestern values serve her well in the tough situations that the New York bridal world can throw at you, oftentimes it’s the dry humor that gets her (and us) through.

Now Emily, quite newly married, is already looking for a new challenge. And always the overachiever, she chooses something the opposite of easy like the New York Marathon! Training 6 days a week to increase her endurance and performance Emily really is doing it all — except selling, that is, which really sticks in her craw! Call it the post-honeymoon malaise, but the brides she’s working with are just not biting. Is her head still in the clouds? Has she lost her edge? Is the marathon training making her lose her sales focus? Either way, it’s serious, and she’s having none of it! I’m trying not to tease her too much about it, since Debbye, our Queen Mum, is ragging on her enough for the both of us. There’s a lot of pressure right now, and as our manager, I suppose she has to keep us in check. She usually does this through gentle teasing, but may have gone a bit too far when she referred to Emily as “dead weight.”  Lauren and I found it funny enough to refer to her as “Dead Weight” for about a week, but — hello — since she’s up at 6a.m. running every morning we can’t exactly mock her.

And the thing about a sales slump is that they don’t really happen because you’re not trying. Sometimes you just get the wrong brides for our dresses, or you get the right brides at the wrong time. Many of them will decide that you found them “the dress” but it might be two months later than you were hoping.

I’m not sure what to think about a workplace where five out of six employees are the same astrological sign. So, I’m not sure what you all will think of the fact that Kori, Samantha, Emily, Lauren and I are all Virgos.

Fun fact, yes, but cosmically significant? Maybe. We get along way too well than is natural in such intimate quarters. Is there something about the bridal world that attracts Virgos? And though we are all Virgos, it seems like we each express our sign a bit differently.  Either way, it works!

Take  Emily.  She likes things just so, and is quite fastidious. I thought she was a bit cold at first, and then I learned that she is colder still… just kidding! She wants people to think she is, as she keeps her feelings close to the vest. Samantha is modest and likes organization. She’s very responsible, though she does have a wild and dreamy side. I am a ruminator and a diplomat who keeps calm with the big stuff but loses her cool with the little stuff. Lauren is very measured about her clothing purchases and her decor, but not with her opinions and feelings!

Kori is a classic Virgo in her work life — detail oriented, organized, and utterly dependable–but in her emotional life she wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s a fun mix. And it’s topped by one rambunctious Capricorn — you guessed it — Debbye.

Being the junior Virgo and our most recent addition, we’ve decided to let Lauren have birthday dominance this year. Being so new to the city, Lauren hasn’t really struck her NYC groove yet. Living in Hell’s kitchen, she’s so far been sticking to our work nabe and the Columbus Circle area. Not tonight, though. We are whisking her away to the wild wild west (or shall I say East?) of Williamsburg for some down home fun! And what better way to make our little Texan feel at home than to take her bull riding at Viva Toro! Between the lovely cocktails and the charming western ambiance, I think it was a good choice.

As expected, Lauren really knows how to ride the bull! She looked righteous in the cowboy hat and had her arm up in perfect formation and held on for a pretty respectable amount of time. I wasn’t too shabby either, if I say so myself, although Sam had to cajole me into it. Debbye started squealing before ever getting on, and had a rather comical dismount. All in all, I think we gave our spectators a good time and it made for a memorable birthday for all.

Welcome to the blog page for the new show on WE tv, Amsale Girls.  I’ll be your voice of reason reporting from NYC as we weave through the events of our last bridal season.

My name is Linda Leising, senior bridal consultant from Amsale’s Flagship salon in New York City. I’m on the quieter side, but I see and hear a lot and would love to share my thoughts on what’s happening at the Amsale Salon.

625 Madison Ave

On Madison Ave, in midtown Manhattan, quietly sits the flagship of Amsale’s couture bridal empire. Hand built by her relentless pursuit of perfection, the salon reflects her modernist spirit and chic persona in all of its details.

Brides who enter our doors continually express delight over the surprise oasis of beauty tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the streets below. We let the light shine into our salon and over our dresses, because we know that our stylings will look gorgeous in any light.

What you may not know, dear reader, is that the salon truly is Amsale through and through. Her own apartment reflects similar design themes:

Clean forms with contrasting neutrals, appreciation of lines, and mutability of structure. While the salon was designed to beautifully display wedding gowns, it was also designed to double as a gathering space. The Amsale girls have hosted many a themed soiree replete with ambient light, good music, cocktails, and many a dress in sight! All in all, Amsale’s gorgeous West Side apartment has the ability to transform from luxurious dwelling into a party space where we look forward to celebrating our company’s next success. We hope to see you at our next event.

As you can imagine, working for a designer like Amsale will permanently etch a strong aesthetic into your brain. Even as she evolves and changes as a designer, her vision remains clear and true. I’ve been a part of her constellation of devotees for four years now — I’ve drank the Kool Aid and I am ready to share it with my brides and anyone else who will listen. I fall in love with dresses all the time. Sometimes because they’re just, well — pretty. But sometimes, let’s say in the middle of an appointment, I can get struck by her sense of proportion and detail in a way that kind of blows my mind. It could be that I finally get a bride that shows the dress off in the way that I think Amsale intended, or it could just be me noticing something I never noticed before. I find in her dresses something akin to the beauty one finds in nature — not too much, not too little. A sense of perfect proportion, daringly imagined.

It’s not easy to reinvent the wheel, season after season, but this is just what Amsale does, and to her own self, she is always true…