Creativity of any sort gets me excited and enthusiastic. The energy, the imagination and stickability through all the highs and lows of starting a business and maintaining it, is something to be admired. So it is with excitement that we introduce Carla of Made With Love – based on the Gold Coast. But not only has Carla created her own business making and designing beautiful wedding gowns, her husband Josh is creating a menswear business Made With Class, in response to queries from brides for the men in their lives to look equally smart and special on their wedding day. So a one stop shop if you will – clothes for both the bride and the groom in the one place – both with a sense of style and panache. Here’s the story of this dynamic duo.
Please describe your bridal gown business.
We are a small, family based business that emerged out of desperation, quite frankly! After Josh proposed, I spent hours online trying to find ideas for the perfect wedding dress (I know how it feels), but everything seemed so over the top. I wanted simple, elegant, sophisticated. When I tired of searching, I designed my own and asked an acquaintance to make it for me. It was more beautiful than I imagined! And it was affordable. And I thought, ‘I could do this for other brides’. Now, we design and make affordable wedding dresses, veils, nightgowns and bridesmaid dresses; my Mum (and tied-favourite employee) makes our head- and foot-pieces.
We are an online store so we sell a lot of items without ever having met our brides in person; we’ve sold to South Africa, New Zealand, France, Italy, the UK, the USA, and other countries we have to look up on Google maps! But for our Australian brides, we do have our main boutique in Varsity Lakes on the Gold Coast, and a home-based boutique in St Ives in Sydney. We consider ourselves really lucky to be internationally recognised and trusted, as well as still being small enough to be local and home-grown.
Image by Glass Slipper Photography
When designing your gowns, do you have a particular bride in mind?
I don’t think I do. Every time I sit down to design a new beauty, I focus on making that dress the most beautiful dress of the lot! The new dresses are always my favourite. I try play around with styles and fabrics and cuts, so that our collection will include ‘the one’ for women who were in my desperate situation.
I did go to London over the Christmas period though, and even though I wasn’t supposed to be working, the city inspired Eve, our off-the-shoulder, lacey slim-fitting gown. Yes, so perhaps beautiful places inspire me which translates to a design that multiple brides prefer, rather than limiting the design to a particular bride.
You offer two ranges – Carla’s Collection and the Made With Love Collection. What is the difference between the two collections?
Yes, we do. The main difference is the sophistication and time spent making the dress. Made with Love takes about six months for us to make, while Carla’s Collection takes about ten months with its hand-made lace and French melon beading (beautiful!). Generally, I recommend Made with Love dresses for weddings hosted in the countryside or on the beach, while the Carla’s Collection sits more strikingly within a church or traditional setting. Carla’s Collection is also a little more in price.
Image by Dream Destination Photography
How often do you add new designs to your collections?
I’m supposed to add one to the collections every four months, but sometimes, it’s sooner – I can’t help myself! Luckily, I’m my own boss so I don’t get into trouble 🙂
What influences your designs?
I try collate ideas from inspiration I see in the fashion world, in different cultures and travelling. Sometimes, I’ve designed a beautiful dress but it’s only when the perfect lace is matched to it, that it gives me the confidence I need to add it to one of the collections. I also have to mention our Instagram and Facebook followers – where would I be without them!
When ordering the dress, how can the bride ensure a perfect fit?
We always recommend our brides have a professional seamstress measure them for accuracy. It’s worth the extra $10 for a perfect fit!
The difficult thing about our industry is that brides often want to lose weight before their special day, but after they have ordered the dress. Brides who don’t lose weight are naturally happier with their fit. However, for the brides who do lose weight, we recommend a seamstress locally to ensure everyone is happy!
How long should a bride allow between initial order and completion of the dress?
Between the initial ordering and the completion varies, but on the most part, Carla’s Collection takes 12 months, and Made with Love collection takes between eight and 10 months.
We have accepted a few brides who plan to marry in three months but I have to be so discerning with those ones! It’s very stressful and puts a lot of pressure on our little team. Sometimes, I just can’t say no!
Do you offer custom made gowns?
Yes, we do! Twice a month, I also make a custom made dress for brides. Making one-off pieces is a challenge that both stresses and captivates me because we don’t have the time to practice it – we have to get it right the first time! It is also great because I can see what brides are looking for, dresses that don’t exist in the market yet. Of course, we cannot do any design. Our team makes the decision together as to what is possible and what is not.
I love the idea of the removable skirt. Can you explain the concept behind this?
Well, a bride suggested it actually! I think she was making a joke, but we thought it was an excellent solution for brides who wanted two quite different looks and still be within budget. The removable skirt has become a hit, with lots of our brides and even brides who bought their dresses elsewhere, buying it.
What do you offer as bridal accessories?
My very talented Mum hand makes our jewelled and pearled headpieces and foot accessories. And then we have a clever friend who makes the flower crowns for us. We’re hoping to find some necklaces too, but that’s still in the making.
Carla and her Mum Glen – Image by Sharna Hupfeld
Bridesmaid dresses and flower girl dresses are also available on your website. Are these designed especially to enhance the look of the bridal gowns?
Well, we’re biased but we think our gowns look stunning on a plain mannequin in a boring room! But yes, absolutely. Our non-bridal dresses are designed to be simple and elegant; we consider them beautiful enough to make a statement and not bold enough to detract attention from the bride.
What special services do you offer the bride?
Our support, our attention, our love, our care and our ideas.
We never want to be a mass producing business, because we want our personal attention to be with our brides. The dress is a big part of the special day and so we want to be available to walk brides through their journey with us. When brides are happy, we are happy!
Do you offer a world-wide service?
Yes! Absolutely. When we first started and I received an order from a bride in New York, I was beside myself! A couple of years on, and now most of our brides are internationally-based.
Image by Dream Destination Photography
A short while ago, you opened a new business – Made with Class – for the groom and groomsmen. What was the concept behind this business?
Well, it started (again) from brides joking that they wished we had a Made with Love for the men in their bridal parties. I would always laugh it off, but when I told my husband – aka best dressed winner of several events – he thought it was a great idea! It’s really exciting to work alongside Josh, and seeing him so passionate about materials and designs inspires me.
What do you offer the men?
Oh, everything that Josh can think of! Suits, custom-made suits, ties, bow ties, suspenders, even socks. If Josh could include the kitchen sink, he would only be too happy to!
Are the suits tailor made?
Absolutely. Josh can recommend suits based on body structure if the men need some help too. Some men find it a daunting experience to be responsible for their own suit but Made with Class makes it an easy and enjoyable experience.
Do you have a wide variety of fabrics – types and colours to choose from?
Yes. Well, we have the most stylish and practical! Together with the groom, Josh discusses elements such as climate, setting and budget, and what influence each factor should carry. We have merino wool, 100% wool, wool blends, cotton blends and linen. Regarding colours, we have a small collection so far, but we are including more and more colour. Josh has already picked out a maroon coloured suit for The State of Origin games, and I’ve spotted him working on some really striking sets that are sure to be trendsetters.
Image by Dream Destination Photography
How long from the first consultation to the deliver of the suit should the groom allow?
We recommend between 4-6 months, beginning with an hour consultation with Josh. Suits are very complicated and we have to ensure they are a perfect fit so we wouldn’t want to have any less time than that.
Do you offer accessories for men?
Yes, of course. We have all sorts of ties, bow ties, pocket squares, pins, suspenders and socks too.
Working side by side with your husband: how do you decompress after a busy day and not talk about work after business hours?
Not very well! But we do try harder on date night to not talk about work; it’s just hard not to talk about it when it’s something that you love and spend most of your time doing. We endeavour to improve…
Your favourite honeymoon destination is…
BORA BORA! (Maybe if I say it enough, Josh will get the hint? 🙂
Headshot by Sharna Hupfeld.