The buzzword "disruptor" gets thrown about liberally in the fashion-meets-tech universe. But the launch of Floravere, the first direct-to-consumer, made-to-order, luxury bridal company (did you get all that?), really might just turn the traditional high-end wedding market on its head. Yes, we already have fast bridal fashion; fancy, posh, brick-and-mortar shopping experiences (and contemporary see now, buy now in-between), but the Floravere concept is definitely the first of its kind.
Founder Molly Kang's first moment of inspiration to found the company came from a disappointing visit to a high-end bridal salon while accompanying a recently engaged friend. "We were in our early 20s, the sales people were a little snooty, nothing had prices, it took us weeks to get an appointment and [the sales associate] wouldn't even let us touch the dresses, like she was scared we were going to do something to them, clearly," she tells Fashionista over the phone. "I just remember thinking, 'this is a weird way to shop.'"
Floravere, which launches today, lets prospective brides first peruse an online dress collection and order up to three samples in sizing XS/S or M/L for $45 per dress. (The sample fees will be credited back with the final dress purchase.) The dresses arrive in a prettily packaged "Bride Box," which contains seasonal bridal-themed "goodies" to help you create that time-honored try-on event in the comfort of your own home — hopefully with friends and a bottle of champagne, but definitely sans snooty salespeople. The Bride Box also speaks to traditionalists who eschew online wedding dress shopping, which they feel doesn't offer that wedding dress experience.
Floravere debuts with seven dresses that speak to seven "archetypes" of styles, including, A. Hall, a sleeveless crepe column for the minimalist; Capulet, a drape-y, off-the-shoulder for the romantic; E. Bennet, a three-quarter length, lace-sleeve tulle for an aspirational Kate Middleton; and R. Gilmore, a sweetheart strapless floral embroidered number in which to marry your Jess, Dean or Logan. And each gown can be customizable in its own way, including altering the sleeves, adding a leg slit, crystal embellishments, train length and waistline.
"One of the more unique [customizations] is monogramming," adds Kang. "We'll put your initials or wedding date or whatever you want stitched in blue to the inside of the bodice of your dress." As of now, the dress sizing runs from 0 to 12, but Floravere can make size 14 and up upon request. (The samples are currently only available two sizes though.) Once finalized, the made-to-order dress will arrive in three to four months, as opposed to the traditional bridal schedule of nine to 16 months. And the kicker: the dresses are high-end, made-in-New York gowns, all under $4,000.
The idea for Floravere actually gestated in Kang's business-minded brain for quite awhile — eight years, to be specific — after her initial bridal boutique let-down (and following a frustrating search for her own wedding dress). Starting the company was even the basis of her Stanford Business School application essay. "I'm always told by the admissions director at Stanford that I'm one of the few people who wrote something and then am actually pursuing it after school," Kang laughs. She also secured initial funding for Floravere through one of her GSB professors, a veteran angel investor, who helped widen her network. A "friends and family" round helped take care of the rest.
For hands-on fashion experience, Kang put in serious extracurricular efforts during school. She interviewed over 100 brides on their "pain points" and pounded the pavement in New York's Garment District to meet pattern makers, sewers, factory workers and designers already entrenched in the luxury bridal market. "I spent over a year just totally immersing myself in that world and learning about it," she says. From there, Kang partnered with select artisans with extensive experience at established high-end design houses, like Carolina Herrera, Monique Lhuillier and Reem Acra, to create the collection.
A number of factors help Floravere keep costs down, while creating upscale, customized dresses with a short delivery window. First, the direct-to-consumer model cuts out the middleman for orders to be sent directly to the factories and skip the retail markup. "The prices we're offering are essentially wholesale prices," Kang says. "But I like to tell a lot of people, 'it's sample sale prices without the sample sale.'"
There's also the "boring business side of it," as she puts it. (We think it's genius, yet so obvious.) "I found that another way to keep prices low is by developing our collections and offering them off-sync with the traditional bridal calendar," she explains, about the twice-a-year Bridal Week frenzy. The designers, pattern makers, cutters, sewers and factories "are totally swamped at very specific times of year and it's crickets the other times." So, Kang can negotiate off-season prices that eventually benefit the customer and release more collections per year than your regular old-school bridal design house.
As a matter of fact, at this very moment, Kang and her designers are working on her sophomore collection to be introduced in January, when it might be a completely different bridal market.
Floravere launches today.