Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meet & Greet: Ashley English, owner of Jacksonville

Ashley in her Jacksonville shop
Let’s take a little trip to beautiful, sunny Florida to soak up some rays and talk with Ashley English, owner of Bella Bridesmaid Jacksonville! Since opening up her store in August of 2008, she has established some fantastic friendships with the rest of the Bella’s as well as sharing her passion of all things weddings with the brides of Jacksonville. Ashley shed some light on being a part of this fab Bella family…

BB: What did you do before owning Bella?

A: I have a pretty diverse background. Going back a couple jobs, I used to be a middle school teacher, grades 6th-8th, but then decided to change my line of work and made the move into the corporate world. Before I started Bella Bridesmaid, I worked for a company in Jacksonville called TEKsystems, which is a leading technology staffing company. I was with TEKsystems until I decided to open Bella Bridesmaid Jacksonville. The move was very easy for me because who wouldn't want to open a Bella Bridesmaid in their own city? I'm definitely a people pleaser, from making little kids excited and happy to learn, to finding people their ideal job, so it was an easy transition to making brides and bridesmaids happy for the big day!

From the left, Allison Long, Ashley, Christa of the Orlando
Bella and Bridget Brown, franchise owner
BB: Why did you want to become part of the Bella franchise?

A: My story is a little unique. My husband is a great friend of Allison Long's husband, Jesse. Allison happens to be the owner of Bella Bridesmaid Charleston. My husband, Will, and Jesse went to Georgia Southern University and was in the same fraternity, ATO. Allison and Jesse told us about Bella Bridesmaid and what a great opportunity it would be for us to open a Bella Bridesmaid in Jacksonville! We had a lot of questions, but we knew it was an opportunity we could not pass up. Being part of the Bella Bridesmaid franchise has been wonderful! I always wanted to be a business owner, but I'm not a big risk taker, and starting a business from scratch seemed daunting at the least. When we saw the success of the franchise, and how established it was for all stores, we knew it was a business that would be great for Jacksonville.

Ashley with Christa Edgar of Orlando's Bella
BB: What is the most memorable moment so far in your boutique?

A: I would have to say it was when my very good friend was getting married and I was in her wedding! We had such a great time picking out her bridesmaid dresses. The bridal party ended up wearing Jenny Yoo's Phoebe, Marni and Becca in Turquoise. It was a beach wedding, so the pictures were beyond beautiful!

BB: Tell us about a favorite recent bride that has an interesting story/wedding.

A: I really love working with all my brides, but this wedding in particular touched my heart. One of my recent brides who had been dating her boyfriend for many years had popped the big question! Unfortunately, her dad was recently diagnosed with cancer, so she wanted to make sure her dad shared in this special day. The bride and groom decided to move their wedding date up so her dad could walk her down the isle and marry his little girl. We had to rush to get her bridesmaid dresses ordered, but the dresses and her wedding turned out gorgeous! This bride wanted to make sure the day was perfect for her, her now husband and her dad and mom. It was so sweet and I was very lucky to have been able to work with her and be part of their day.

Image via Zimbio
BB: What is your fave celebrity wedding dress?

A: I love lace so I adore a classic dress like Grace Kelly's wedding gown. When I saw Kate Middleton in her lace dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, I just melted! It was beyond beautiful and she looked stunning.

BB: What is the best wedding trend you've seen recently?

A: The big trend at Bella Bridesmaid Jacksonville is to be nice to your bridesmaids and let them pick their favorite style of dress! The brides coming into my store are picking their favorite designer and fabric and then letting their bridesmaids pick from that collection. My brides really want their girls to feel comfortable in their bridesmaid dresses if they are paying for them. They also want their bridesmaids to wear the dress again, so letting them pick their favorite style helps to make this possible.

Ashley with Bella girls and Amsale designer/owner,
Amsale Aberra (middle) and Lisa, Amsale Sales Director (left)

BB: Tell us about some of your popular designers in Jacksonville.

A: LulaKate's silk shantung/dupioni dresses and Amsale's crinkle chiffon dresses are popular with our brides. When a bride comes in the store, I like to talk with her about her likes and dislikes, and what she envisions for her wedding day. Once I know more about the bride, and what she has in mind, I will show suggest designers and styles accordingly. Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the United States. We have a variety of influences, ranging from beach themes to a traditional southern wedding. If a bride prefers the latter, I like to show them LulaKate. I love LulaKate since she let's the bride and her maids design their own dress and they always look awesome on the girls! But, if a bride tells me she is getting married at the beach, I like to show her Amsale since the dresses are very lightweight and they are beautiful on all body types. These are my two favorite designers and they always make the bride and her party very happy.

                                                                                                                   Thank you Ashley!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our Interview with Kendra Scott of Kendra Scott Jewelry


Bright, brilliant and bold. Three words that not only describe Kendra Scott’s amazing jewels, but also her personality! Kendra began her stunning line of jewelry with only $500 and the passion to create and amaze the fashion world. Her great sense of color and design add that extra something to the everyday woman’s outfit. Kendra’s work ethic goes above and beyond her business. She puts forth her endless positive energy toward raising her family and bettering the community, including The American Red Cross Association’s Go Red Campaign. We adore this modern day wonder woman and her fabulous jewelry line. Kendra was able to step away from her design table and answer a few of our questions…

Gwen Chandelier earrings
in Blue Iris via
Kendra Scott Jewelry

BB: What do you think has been the most important factor in the success of your business?

KS: Surrounding myself with great people who are doers and believe that through hard work and true passion for what you love anything is possible! I also believe that one key factor for my success is reaching out to others and realizing it is okay to ask for help. I have some amazing mentors that have given me guidance and words of wisdom when I needed it most. I truly could also not ask for better support from my friends and family, they are my backbone and keep me motivated!

Kendra's Color Bar in the new
 Beverly Hills store
BB: When designing your gorgeous jewelry, what are your inspirations?

KS: I am constantly in search of inspiration. I look for new ideas for designs in everything I see whether it comes from nature, architecture, a fabulous colored fabric or an old photo, if it catches my attention, it inspires me. I literally have started to draw on napkins at a restaurant with something I saw that I needed to remember… my poor husband is always finding me a pen to borrow!

BB: Was there a specific event or person in your life that led you to begin designing?

KS: My beautiful and amazing Aunt Jo Ann. She was Fashion Director for a major department store chain and would come home from the runway shows in Milan and Paris with amazing stories and even more amazing clothes! I always admired her work ethic and how absolutely chic and fashionable she always looked. She was the one who taught me how to trend forecast and initially sparked my interest in design. She recently dug up all of her old slides from the fashion shows she attended in the 80's and 90's. I remember looking at these with her as a young girl and I dreamed that someday I too could be part of this magical world of fashion!

Hillary Clinton via
Daily Mail 

BB: If you could give any famous woman a makeover, who would she be and how would you style her?

KS: I secretly have always wanted to give Hilary Clinton a makeover. She is such a strong woman and I think she is sometimes afraid to look feminine in the predominately male world of politics. I would love to see her in more feminine silhouettes and gorgeous jewel tones colors. She has a very regal look to her and is a beautiful woman; she just needs that little extra oomph!

BB: What high school trend are you embarrassed to admit you followed?

KS: Oh my, you should see the pictures with my teased hair and blue eyeliner! I also owned some big scrunchies! (Shh… don’t tell!)

BB: If you weren't a designer, what career path would you have chosen?

KS: I can’t imagine being anything else besides a designer! My job encompasses everything that I am passionate about and has allowed me to focus only three core values of family, fashion and philanthropy!

KS in her Karina peacock
feather earrings

BB: What's your favorite piece in your collection?

KS: The Karina peacock feather earrings in gold are my favorite piece. They are so fabulous and sculpted making a statement every time I wear them. They take me from the soccer field to a red carpet event and everything in between! They are also a favorite of Hilary Duff and Rachael Ray!

BB: Any hints to what in store for your new collection?

KS: My Resort collection showcases some new sparkling, super-faceted stone shapes. The new additions to our feather collection are gorgeous!        The colors are bright, bold, and beautiful, making for that perfect pair of earrings or chic necklace to pull you out of the cold weather rut!

Pink Abena Cuff via Kendra Scott Jewelry

BB: Do you have any accessory rules to live by?

KS: Don't be afraid to make a statement and layer, layer, layer! I love layering necklaces and bangles all the way up my arm!

BB: What's in your purse?

KS: My purse is filled with everything! I'm a mom of two little boys, so I always have Band-Aids and hand sanitizer… boys are messy! You can also find my iPhone and a mini mason Pearson brush, my favorite brush on the planet. I am also never without my lip-gloss; it is my staple beauty product!

Thank you Kendra!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meet & Greet: Jeana Lee and Charlotte, owners of Birmingham

Jeana Lee (left) and Charlotte
on her wedding day in a
LulaKate custom gown

Through thick and thin (and even tornadoes!) sisters Jeana Lee and Charlotte have stuck together and made Birmingham’s Bella Bridesmaid a total success. Since opening their store in March of 2007, these southern sisters have collected many exciting stories and experiences that we were dying to hear about. We were lucky enough to catch up with these lovely ladies and get the scoop…

BB: What did each of you do before owning Bella?

JL: I did sales and service for State Farm Insurance.

C: I did marketing for SunTrust Bank.

Sisters pictured with their father at a fundraiser

BB: Why did you want to become part of the Bella franchise?

JL&C: We wanted to become part of the Bella franchise because we saw a great need for a Bella Bridesmaid in our city. Birmingham had nothing that even compared to a Bella Bridesmaid from the utmost excellence in customer service to the chic and modern dress selections. It was a no brainer for us. We immediately jumped at the opportunity and never looked back!

BB: What is the most memorable moment so far in your boutique?

JL: The day that Charlotte and I loaded up EVERY single dress that was awaiting a pick up into her vehicle amidst a tornado. It was April 27th, 2011 and on this particular morning we woke up to news reports that early morning tornados had destroyed several large areas in Birmingham. It really hit close to home because one of our dearest friends, Heidi Elnora, a bridal gown designer, sustained a significant amount of damage from one of the twisters. It really made Charlotte and I think about what we would do if all of the dresses that were awaiting pick-ups by bridesmaids for weddings taking place in the next few weeks were damaged, destroyed or better yet found in someone’s front yard in another state. The meteorologist adamantly warned that the worst was yet to come. The weather conditions were ideal for that of extremely violent tornados. The entire city was a ghost town as everyone was at home in their safe place heeding to the tornado warnings having seen the destruction that the early morning twisters had caused. After a few minutes of convincing Charlotte that yes we do have insurance but that State Farm would not be able to magically reproduce the missing dresses needed in the next few weeks she finally gave in to my action plan of packing ALL of the dresses into her vehicle. Being that it was April 27th we were busting at the seams with dresses that were awaiting pick-ups for all of our May and June weddings. The weather was getting nasty and we were racing against the clock as we loaded Charlottes vehicle to the absolute brim with dresses and then of course all of our important documents. We just kept looking at each other in passing with arms full of dresses saying, "Can you believe that we are doing this?" From there we parked her vehicle in our parents basement. Thankfully Bella Bridesmaid was not in the direct path of destruction for the deadly tornados that wreaked havoc throughout our state that day. Although the loading and unloading was quite the undertaking we agreed that we would do it over and over again if it meant avoiding the nightmare of something happening to those darn dresses!

BB: What are your favorite bridesmaid dresses that are hanging in your personal closets?

JL&C: Having been in a combined 27 weddings (Seriously...Charlotte has been in 16 and Jeana Lee 11), we have quite the combined collection of bridesmaid dresses. Our personal favorites are Lula Kate and Amsale. We have SO many short Lula Kate dresses in our closets because they fit so well and they are so adorable.

Charlotte & Jeana Lee pictured with their mom
in their fave Amsale gowns
JL: My absolute favorite is the Lula Kate "Zoe". I own it in 5 different colors and it's my "old faithful, go-to dress".  My black and white Zoe (white bodice and black waistband and skirt) is nicknamed the "sisterhood of the traveling pants" dress. It has been so many places and to so many events and it fits every single person that borrows it.

C: My favorite Lula Kate is "Maggie". No joke, we could possibly open a Lula Kate freestanding store with just the Lula Kate dresses that are in our closets at home.

JL: On the flip side we adore our Amsale chiffon dresses because they are so elegant. My favorite is G425C but I just ordered G660C for an upcoming event in December.

C: My favorite Amsale gown is G462C. The Amsale chiffon dresses are great because they can be paired with a fabulous pair of statement earrings, pearls and heels for a black tie event, or you can pair it with gold hoop earrings, gold bangles and a great pair of gladiator sandals for a more casual feel.

Dylan Lauren via VOGUE

BB: What is your fave celebrity wedding dresses?

JL&C: One that stands out in our mind is the dress that Ralph Lauren designed for his daughter Dylan Lauren. It was simple yet effortlessly chic.

BB: What are your go to dresses in the store?

JL&C: It really all depends on the bride and what her specifications are for her bridal party. What kinds of body types she is trying to flatter and if she is open to the option of different necklines and any other special request that she may have. Lula Kate almost always ends up being the go to because what girl doesn't like to have options of getting exactly what she wants plus an added bonus is that you can add a ruffle to any Lula Kate dress. Birmingham gals love their ruffles! Amsale is the go to for the brides that want long, flowy dresses.

BB: What is the best wedding trend you've seen recently?

JL&C: When the bride chooses one neckline for her bridesmaids and then allows each bridesmaid to choose the skirt for the dress. Simply reversing the trend of choosing your own neckline. We have done this with several weddings and it is great because the bride still gets the uniformity of all one neckline while still adding that individual touch of getting to choose the skirt that is most flattering for each bridesmaids body type.

Sisters photographed with girls in Bella dresses!

BB: We heard you both recently went to South Africa. Could you tell us a little about your experience and what you did there?

JL: Charlotte and I worked with a township of about 60,000 people in South Africa called Kayamundi. They all live in aluminum sheet houses that have literally been thrown together, no indoor plumbing, no indoor water. There is a program there that works to get the children motivated in their educations and furthering themselves to be better all around. It teaches them dance, sports and a number of things that keep the occupied after school and out of trouble. Even though they live in the slums there are still a number of normal things that they do such as have proms and dances at their schools.

Jeana Lee & Charlotte photographed
with children in South Africa
Charlotte and I helped to orchestrate a "lending library" for all the girls in the program for proms, dances, etc. What they do is look through the catalog of dresses. Decide which they would like and then a town seamstress fits it to them. After the event the dress is returned to the dress library. We took 200 lbs of discontinued dresses that we had been saving up not knowing what exactly for but knew they would one day come in handy. We got to go to the township and help them pick out the ones they wanted for their prom which takes place at the end of this month, as they attend school year round and it is now South Africa's spring season. It was an awesome and humbling experience.

Thank you both!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our Interview with Lindsie Jones of Haute Bride

Image by Hellybee Photography, Los Gatos

Most gals can’t help but be distracted by sparkly things. Lindsie Jones, of Haute Bride, knows this all too well. Lindsie founded Haute Bride in 2002 where she began selling bridal accessories that made our hearts melt with pure shimmering joy! Now selling nationwide in over 130 bridal salons, including our very own, Lindsie has made brides and their bridal parties perfectly accessorized from bracelets, earrings, custom veils, and headpieces to couture bridal footwear. Lindsie has you covered from head to toe! We took a moment away from gazing at those gorg accessories to chat with Lindsie…

Image by Hellybee Photography, Los Gatos

BB: What do you think has been the most important factor in the success of your business?

L: I have such a passion for accessories and creating fashion forward pieces- that can be worn again. I worked very hard (and still do!) in the first 5 years of my business, trying to create great quality bridal accessories and develop a national brand name at the same time. I believe the number one factor is good quality, handmade pieces, followed by excellent customer service. I believe we provide both. 

BB: When designing your gorgeous bridal accessories, what are your inspirations?

L: I am constantly buzzing with inspiration. It may be a pattern that I see on a dress in a window, when Swarovski launches a new color or shape of a rhinestone, or when one of our material vendors launches a new product that we can build with! Inspiration is everywhere, from nature to the red carpet. I seem to make designs mentally when I am sleeping, there’s never a dull moment in my brain! 

Image by Hellybee Photography, Los Gatos

BB: Was there a specific event or person in your life that led you to begin designing?

L: I made my own accessories for my wedding (just celebrated my 10 year on 8/25 with my wonderful husband!). I was in search of a specific look for my hair and couldn't find it, so I set out to make it. After my wedding, I started selling my hairpins on EBay and became totally overwhelmed by the response and sales! It was during the dot com phase when I was working as an HR manager in the tech industry and my company was laid off. I took a few months off and started creating more and more accessories for EBay, local boutiques and friends. In 2004 I attended my first bridal market in Chicago with our Haute Bride line.

B: What recently married or currently engaged celebrity would you love to accessorize for their big day? And what accessories would you pick for her?

Kim K. Image by Michael Simon via Style News
L: I would probably want to style Kim Kardashian. Although the headpiece that she wore was a compliment to her Armenian roots, I felt that it took away from her beauty and her dress. I think just a diamond or rhinestone comb tucked into a side low chignon would have been perfect.

BB: What high school trend are you embarrassed to admit you followed?

L: Big white metal hoops, heavy ones. Thanks to those hoops, I'm unable to wear the kind of earrings I want to wear!

BB: If you weren't a designer, what career path would you have chosen?

L: I really enjoy photography, web design and graphic design. I do quite a bit if the work for my company, as I just can't let go! I tend to be a bit of a control freak. ;) 

Image by Hellybee Photography, Los Gatos

BB: What's your favorite accessory in your collection?

L: I love my chunky necklaces! I hardly ever wear earrings- unless they are studs. Because the Haute Bride line is so versatile, I find myself wearing cuffs and necklaces every time I go out.

BB: Any hints to what in store for your new collection?

L: Not just yet, you will have to wait until October! 

Image by Hellybee Photography, Los Gatos
BB: Do you have any accessory rules to live by?

L: I honestly don't believe in over –accessorizing. I also love that you can wear amazing accessories with a $29.99 dress from H&M and your outfit looks like a million bucks!

BB: What's in your purse?

L: My must haves: iPhone, raw almonds, Superhero figurines (gotta have 'em- twin, 4 year old boys), Chanel lip-gloss, and a little notepad for taking inspiration notes!

Thank you Lindsie!