This year I had the absolute pleasure of designing my dream, custom-made, sustainable wedding dress with Miina Laitsaari of Indiebride London. Following this incredible experience I spoke with Miina to learn more about the brand, sustainability in bridal wear and her plans for the future as it’s new director!
JESSICA JOY, SEPTEMBER 2019
What inspired you to work in bridal wear?
Actually, nothing really inspired me. I kind of ended up here. I did an internship for Indiebride London back in 2010, then moved to London 5 years ago to work for the company and earlier this year I took it over! I never aspired to be a wedding dress designer but I love it! I also love the challenge of running a sustainable bridal wear business. It’s really rewarding to succeed in designing beautiful gowns and see the brides so happy with their dresses.
A Wedding dress as an idea is quite unsustainable. It’s a dress that you most likely only wear once. However, I love that I am able to provide gowns that are made ethically and sustainably and offer personal customer service to our brides.
How important do you feel the sustainability is to your business?
Sustainability has always been part of this business as the products have always been made in London and some of our fabrics have always been made in the UK. As I am the director now, I want to bring the sustainability angle out even more and source more sustainable materials. In the upcoming collection we are using organic cotton lace and ramie for example. Sustainability is a big part of my personal life and as such, is naturally a part of my business as well. I simply couldn’t run a business that uses synthetic materials, mass produces in China and then charges brides £2000 for a wedding gown with a huge profit margin- I just don’t see that as ethical. I aim to run my business as sustainably as I can and I can stand behind what I do and how we do it.
advice for sustainable fashion startups…
The biggest challenge as a small business that runs sustainably is sourcing materials. As we know, there are several aspects in materials that can make it more sustainable. However, it is very difficult to find a material that ticks all the boxes. For me, a sustainable material has to have at least one of the following attributes: be made in the UK, from a natural material and organic. When looking for these types of materials the first challenge is to find other small businesses that ideally produce their fabrics in Europe or better yet, in the UK.
The second challenge is to find a company that provides low minimum quantities for orders. Usually the minimum quantity for an order is 100 meters or even 1000 meters and as a micro business, I can’t afford to buy in this volume. I wouldn’t even have the space to store that amount of material.
Another challenge is pricing. Creative people (especially emerging fashion designers) often tend to price their products too low as they are afraid no one will buy them if they cost too much. The correct price is not too high if you find the right consumers for your products. That is another struggle; to find your customers.
I am lucky to have had pattern cutting and sewing as part of my studies in Finland so I know how to design the dresses, cut patterns for them, sew the samples and handle the production as well. Before taking over Indiebride London I ran my own sustainable ready to wear business. My advice for someone starting their own sustainable brand would be to make a realistic business plan. This helps you picture where you are now, where you want to be and what you need to do in order to get there. Do lots of research on your target consumer as that reveals where to find them and how to advertise. Save some money, if possible, for small investments. I worked on my brand alongside a part-time job. It is a lot of work but if you are persistent and ambitious it will pay off. Also, network! This is the most important piece of advice I can give to anyone. Join social media groups and email lists to find out about events and get-togethers with like-minded people. You learn a lot just talking to people! I love to have dinners with my fashion friends to talk about our jobs etc. You always get helpful tips without even asking!
Having started as an intern and now taken over the business, what is your vision for the future of Indiebride London?
Having worked for Indiebride London for 5 years before taking it over, I feel I have really grown professionally. My vision is to grow Indiebride London and make it the go-to place for cool, bohemian, sustainable and ethical dresses in London. I think brides nowadays want sustainable options and are more aware of the consequences of their choices. I want to grow the business but keep it small enough to be able to provide a personal service for our brides like we have for 10 years. I would love to employ a few people in the future. One of my biggest goals is to be able to provide a nice working environment for someone with the same mindset.
my finished dress…
Miina truly brought my dream dress to life!
Made with an offcut of vintage lace, organic silk lining and delicate tulle it felt completely weightless. I can’t recommend her enough!