Congratulations again on your opening in Singapore, Elizabeth. It was a fantastic party; people were still talking about it days after. Elizabeth, you are an international celebrity couturier who dressed many Hollywood celebrities. Please tell us about yourself; how and when you first started, your journey and of course, how you ended up in Singapore.
After I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a B.A (Hons) in Fashion Design and Technology, I started my career in the UK, designing for high street brands like Dorothy Perkins, Marks & Spencer, ASOS, New Look, and most recently, Lazada. It was an exciting and very fast-paced environment with a lot of travelling across Europe and to factories In China. I moved to Singapore in 2014 to start my own fashion label but ended up getting headhunted by Lazada to launch their in-house fashion label called LZD. It was an amazing experience and learning curve, seeing what it takes to start a brand in Asia, as well as understanding how different the Asian market is.
I’ve been a professional designer for about ten years now, and I’ve had the great privilege of meeting and dressing David Foster, as well as Sergey Sirotkin, Marc Gene, Antonio Giovinazzi, Sean Gelael and Kelly Brook. And earlier this year, I specially designed a dress worn by Katharine McPhee at the premiere of her West End debut as the lead in Waitress.
How did the idea of bridal gown couture come about?
There were a number of different factors involved, actually! It really stemmed from my own experience as a bride-to-be in Singapore. I was looking for a sophisticated and modern look, which was contrary to the vast majority of the dresses available here, which are usually way too princessy!
At the same time, I did want a little of that style — I like princessy bridal gowns for the fact that it really feels like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of dress. But I guess I couldn’t settle on what “type” of the bride I was, because I also wanted to have my own style shine through. I then decided to design my own dream dress. On my wedding day, I donned a dress that seamlessly transformed from a gown with a dramatic train for the grand entrance, into a sexy slim-line gown with an asymmetric split, and finally a gown with a sheer princess-style skirt for my first dance.
On the other hand, I was also concerned about quality. As a designer, I know a fair bit about fabric quality and procurement. So I was quite surprised at how common it was to see lower quality gowns for sale at relatively high prices. And at the other end of the spectrum, there were gorgeous, high-quality gowns that were totally unaffordable.
After that, I realized that these problems were faced by many. I had friends coming up to me complaining about the same problem; the lack of versatility and found that people, especially on expat forums in Singapore, were sharing similar frustrations. That, to me, signalled an obvious gap in the market.
I remember those years ago looking for that perfect wedding gown which is not the easiest thing to do when you have certain expectations in your mind. Your designs seem so clean, pure and ethereal; just the way many modern brides envision theirs to be. How and where do you get your inspiration from?
You’re absolutely right. Everyone has different expectations in mind when it comes to their perfect wedding gown! So I like to immerse myself into the situations and mindsets of my different brides; I actually pretend that I am getting married again and go to different bridal boutiques to try on the dresses! I love to revisit the problems I faced as a potential bride because it helps me to create dresses that are solutions to these problems.
My career as a commercial designer has really given me the training to understand how people move with the times, how trends emerge and evolve, how current issues like the environment or politics come into play, purchasing patterns, and also the life cycle of a trend — how long it takes new or more daring trends to gain momentum, and so on.
And I also have one rule that isn’t as market research-oriented: Whatever it is, be it a piece of fabric or a new silhouette, if it sparks joy and sets my soul on fire, it’s a winner to me!
You include in pantsuits as part of your bridal repertoire. How receptive are our Singapore brides with that?
I would say it’s not so much a bridal pantsuit, but a “3-in-1” style! The top comprises an embellished bridal leotard that can be worn with a traditional tulle or sleek silk skirt for her wedding day. On her anniversary, she can pair that same bridal leotard with a silk suit for a romantic and stunning dinner. How amazing is that, to be able to wear your wedding dress year after year? The idea really is that one wedding dress can grow with you, and you can always relive the wonderful feeling of pure love and joy even after the wedding itself.
Plus, there’s an eco-friendly aspect to it that I love. The world is changing, and fast fashion is the second biggest polluter in our world next to oil. We need to be smarter about our purchases. It is simply not acceptable in this day and age to be a business owner and not think about what you can do better for our environment. It’s up to all of us to make a change and, and I believe in making an impact through a dress that lives on forever.
My collection has been positively received by customers, who’ve all been very satisfied. At the moment, this trend is still small, but as with all new trends that take time to grow, I believe this will too.
Your fabric, laces and materials are sourced from all over the world. Tell us about that, Elizabeth.
I simply love great quality fabrics! French laces are so soft, delicate, and not mass-produced. Japanese laces and fabrics I have found to be more robust — they’re great for beach weddings — while those from Korea are always at the forefront of trends. I love mixing styles and cultures, as someone who originated from and travelled widely in Europe, and who’s now in the heart of Asia!
I am curious about your 3D scanning consultation. Do tell us more.
One of the challenges faced by so many customers, who are modern, busy women, is that time is very precious, and they are simply unable to fit multiple fitting sessions into their schedule. Yet, bespoke bridal and tailoring demand just that.
By incorporating 3D technology into my consultation process, I’m able to produce accurate mannequins with the approximate dimensions of my customers’ actual bodies, allowing me to tailor-make the exact fit of the garment to my customers as if they were really in my studio! This has really been a game-changer that has simplified the process and the lives of my tailors and customers.
When It comes to marketing, what have your strategies been?
Well, as Singapore is so small, word-of-mouth was the best strategy for me when I started out. Brides would recommend me to other brides and so on, and that’s how I initially built up my customer base.
Now I also post content on Instagram and Facebook, as they’re important channels to reach today’s always-on-the-go consumers. As my brand grows, I am also partnering with other companies, running social media campaigns and dressing people of influence. It’s about getting the right level of exposure to gain enough brand awareness and association
Branding; the to-go word these days. What are your personal thoughts on this?
It is very important. People don’t just want to buy a product, they want to buy into a story and a movement, something that provokes feeling and emotion in them. Effective branding keeps brands and businesses top-of-mind for customers while demonstrating the right messages and sense of authenticity.
Even though Elizabeth Grace Couture is a relatively new brand, I’ve kept an eye on branding since its inception. I truly believe it contributes to the continued success of a brand! Between branding and marketing, which component is crucial to your business and why?
It’s hard to choose! Branding is so important because it allows the customer to identify with you, to know who you are and to give them a reason why they should buy from you. And without marketing, people won’t know that you are here at all — definitely not ideal. Both are extremely crucial to growing a fashion and couture brand.
Any plans for expansion beyond Singapore?
Yes! I am looking to expand internationally. Definitely Europe, Australia and the USA, but China is the ultimate goal. I am in fact looking for the right Chinese business partner, so if you are reading this… get in touch!
Going forward, what can we expect from Elizabeth Grace Couture?
I am building up a fantastic new website to make purchasing great quality bridal pieces a more seamless and trustworthy online experience. I am also launching a new evening and Gala-wear collection this year.
Where can our readers go to look at your beautiful work and how can they get in touch with you?
Follow me on Instagram to catch my stories, see my current work and see how I navigate my life as a busy designer and dog mama! Or, you can find me on Facebook too. You may check us out here at www.elizabethgracebridal.com and we are going to unleash our new www.elizabethgracecouture.com very soon too. I’ll keep you posted.