Look Darling

We’re absolutely delighted to be sharing this lovely interview with you – here’s what happened when Oh So Perfect caught up with the very fabulous Emma Lester from 50’s inspired wedding gown and accessory retailer ‘Look Darling

Emma, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview with Oh So Perfect – as you know we absolutely adore your dresses and can’t wait to share them with our followers! Please can you tell everyone a little bit about who ‘Look Darling’ are…

Look Darling is a wedding gown and accessory retailer dedicated to helping brides who want a 1950s look for their day.

Our aim is to offer a range of necklines, fabrics, colours and details to enable every bride to find a 1950s silhouette to suit. All of our gowns are exclusive to Look Darling in the UK. We offer the widest selection of tea length dresses in the North West, and one of the biggest collections in the country.

You have no idea how much our wedding planner, Samantha, wants to buy your Ruth dress, wedding gown or not!

Thanks so much! Did you know ‘Ruth’ is also available in coloured fabrics? I have a sample in a very nice mallard green in a size 8 if you’re interested!!!

(Samantha: “Oooohh don’t tempt me!! Sounds gorgeous!”)

[Laughs] Look Darling has a fabulous website with wonderful, clear photos for brides to admire when choosing their dresses, but can your brides view their dress to try on before purchasing?

Yes, we are based on the Wirral peninsula, in the north west of England, but brides can view the range at selected wedding fairs around the country and we can accept online and telephone orders from brides worldwide.  Brides can sign up to the newsletter via the website to be notified of fairs that we are exhibiting at in the coming months…

And you’ve recently opened up a studio too…?

That’s right, the online store went live in August 2011, with the home based studio opening to welcome brides to view and try on the full range of gowns and accessories on 13th November 2011.

What sort of price range can your brides expect to find at Look Darling?

We seek to offer a wide range of 1950s style wedding and occasion gowns in the £295 – £795 price bracket, along with a selection of beautiful shoes and accessories to complement the gowns. We strive to maintain a price point that is affordable, but that allows us to offer fantastic quality.

You stock bridal gowns from the very popular American vintage-inspired label ‘Dolly Couture.’ What do you think makes Look Darling stand out from other Dolly Couture stockists?

As a stockist of the exceptionally popular Dolly Couture label, we subscribe to the Dolly policy of ‘No Unhappy Bride’.  We believe that a fantastic range of styles, an affordable price point and exceptional customer service are the key elements to a successful bridal business.  We work hard to offer all of this and more to all of our brides.

With the website having only gone live within the last 6 months, Look Darling seems to be building in popularity and status very quickly… Have you been featured in any bridal magazines or blogs yet?

We have! There is a full two page spread on Look Darling in the current Winter issue of Pure Weddings magazine, which is the Archant Life wedding publication for Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire.  Oh and look out for a feature coming up on the Fifties Wedding Blog in the next month too!

We adore the Fifties Wedding Blog… Obviously the dresses you stock are predominantly suited to the 1950’s style – would you agree that Look Darling only appeals to the retro or vintage-inspired bride?

I think there is no typical Look Darling bride:  the 1950s look is timeless and ageless.  We have something for everyone, from fun and funky to elegant and sophisticated.  Many of our gowns can also be customised to suit each bride perfectly.

Can you describe Look Darling in three words?

Stylish  Affordable  Fun

What inspired you to set up Look Darling – we’ve spotted your wedding ring – were you a 50s-inspired bride yourself?

Yes, when I got engaged, I knew that I wanted a 1950s style tea length wedding gown.  I struggled to find what I wanted though, and most of the shops I went to either had no tea length dresses at all, or perhaps a token one that was brought out from a back room where it had been gathering dust for years!

Oh no! That should never happen to any wedding dress! Even the ‘ugly’ ones… [Laughs]

Exactly! It was clear to me that there was a demand for this style of dress, as there were some very expensive bespoke options available and these businesses seemed to be overwhelmed with custom. I also noticed from spending a lot of time on wedding forums and blogs that there were many brides crying out for a more affordable option.

I noticed that many brides were resorting to ordering their dresses from overseas, without the opportunity to try on first. There seemed to be a huge amount of positive feedback for a company called Dolly Couture, who offered an online store based in the USA selling a range of ‘cocktail length’ 1950s and 60s inspired gowns. I felt that if someone were to offer the Dolly Couture collection in the UK, there would be a very enthusiastic reception for it.

And so you jumped at the opportunity…?

No – at the time, I was working long hours as a lawyer in the City and the idea of starting up a business doing just that was pie in the sky!  A lovely idea, but a huge undertaking.  So I continued with my legal career, all the while thinking ‘what if…?’

So what finally persuaded you to make the big career change?

A couple of years later, we moved back up north and I quickly fell pregnant. Whilst I was on maternity leave, the seed of the idea continued to grow and I spent more and more time thinking that there was a gap in the market for a bridal retailer offering an affordable range of 1950s inspired dresses.  After much planning and a lot of help from my IT-whizz husband, the online store was born.  I began offering Fancy New York and Dolly Couture gowns for sale online, with a price range from £495 – £795.

Well thank goodness you did! Did you always plan to open the bridal studio too or were you originally planning to run the business entirely online?

Well it quickly became clear that brides were keen to try before buying. So I set to work (or rather, put my husband to work!) converting the top floor of our house into a bridal studio and office. I began receiving appointment requests almost immediately, and many brides waited months until the opening to come and view and try the range.

Giving up half your house – now that is commitment – and a very committed husband too may we add!

Yes! Another thing I noticed was that I was receiving a lot of enquiries from brides looking for dresses around the £300 price point.  I decided that the only way I could meet this demand would be to design and source a collection myself – so I did just that.

And so there’s now a Look Darling own label too….?

The Look Darling own label collection launched in October, and so far the ‘Ruth’ dress is our most popular style.

We will be introducing a new version of the ‘Ruth’ dress with a full lace overlay and lace ¾ length sleeves in spring this year, after receiving regular bespoke requests from brides looking to add lace to this style.

Don’t tell Samantha!

[Laughs]

What a move though, from lawyer to seamstress – wow!

My background is legal, so I am used to working to tight deadlines, having good attention to detail and dealing with clients who demand the very best service.

I do not have any dressmaking skills, but fortunately I am very ably assisted in this area by Laura and Julia at Seams Sew Easy.  They are experienced and fully qualified seamstresses who offer a comprehensive alterations service, with fittings available at the studio.

Thank goodness for Laura and Julia! Did you feel nervous at all taking on such an important part of the wedding industry without having experience as a seamstress?

Before opening the home studio, I was nervous that brides would think it a bit odd to come to a private house to try on wedding gowns.  However, we decorated an equipped the studio so that it looked just like a bridal shop and I hoped for the best when I started to welcome my first brides.

And you haven’t looked back…

Not at all. It was a lovely moment when I received an e-mail from one of the first few brides who came to the studio saying how much she had enjoyed the experience – it gave me confidence that I was doing the right thing and that the business was offering something that brides wanted.

Well we certainly think your are, and what a fabulous collection. Where can our followers catch you next?

The home studio is open for appointments on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and appointments on other days can be accommodated on request.

We will be exhibiting at the forthcoming Miss Vintage Affair at Glenmore House, Surbiton, Surrey on Sunday 19th February, and at The Vintage Wedding Fair at the Guild Hall in Chester on Sunday 11th March.  We will also be at the Vintage & Handmade Bridal Fair at Wolverhampton Art Gallery on Saturday 31st March. Plus you can sign up on our website for the newsletter to be notified of forthcoming bridal fairs – we are adding new dates to the diary all the time!

Emma, it’s been so lovely speaking to you, and we wish you all the best for 2012. Before we say goodbye, please can you tell us what you think makes  wedding Oh So Perfect….?

As a bride, the thing that made my wedding Oh So Perfect was doing everything we could to ensure that our guests had a great time.  We spent our money on the things that mattered to us, like a free bar, transport for guests to the ceremony and then on to the reception and a ceilidh band so that everyone could join in with the dancing. We enjoyed our day immensely and we like to think our guests did too.

To find out more about Look Darling and to view the full range of bridal gowns and accessories visit the webiste www.lookdarling.com

 

Need help planning your wedding day? Visit www.ohsoperfect.co.uk for our full list of wedding planning and coordination services and packages.

We’re giving away a Fortnum and Mason Champagne and Chocolates hamper to all couples booking selected services with us before 31st March 2012! To view this fabulous offer click here

Would you like to be featured as a recommended supplier? Contact Oh So Perfect – Weddings and Events on enquiries@ohsoperfect.co.uk

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