Elvi Design ~ Creating one off Bespoke Custom Wedding Dresses

Happy Valentines Day! What a perfect day to celebrate L O V E with todays local #Girlboss Sandra Searle from Elvi Design.

Welcome to TPC Blog Sandra. We would love to know how was Elvi Design was founded? 
People often ask how long we’ve been in the biz and how did we get into it. Well, I just happened to be chatting to the lovely Jess (@butcherbakersylist) at a party about 5 years ago and she was telling me about her struggle to find a unique wedding dress. At that time there were no wedding gowns with sleeves and ‘tea-length’ didn’t even exist!! She briefly described what she was after and I was like ‘yeah, I can do that!!’. With a background in fashion and a love for couture, Elvi Design was born and before we knew it, making wedding gowns became our full-time gig!

When we started in 2011, I was working alongside my Mum and now we have four staff members working out of our studio.

How would you describe the style of a Elvi Bride?
An Elvi Bride is a bride looking for something different, whether it be long lace sleeves or a tea-length wedding dress. She appreciates craftsmanship and beautiful fabrics. When creating the perfect wedding gown for her special day, we’ll focus on the style of her wedding (vintage, relaxed, bohemian, minimal etc), her individual body shape (because we all come in different sizes, right?) and her personality to come up with a one-of-a-kind wedding gown for her special day.

Where is your studio? 
Our studio is located in Kalamunda and it’s by appointment only. We offer a complimentary design consultation where you can try on our gowns and then I can sketch up a design to suit you.

Generally speaking how long does it take you to make a custom gown? 
Our brides will book in with us anywhere from 18 months to 6 months before their wedding. We start on their wedding gown 6 months before their wedding day. Then, they will have four or five fittings (every 6 – 8 weeks) before ending up with the perfect wedding dress! We always hand over our gowns at least two weeks before their wedding so the bride knows the dress is finished and is exactly what she wants.

Where did your business name come from?
Elvi was the name of my Finnish grandmother who was also a seamstress. Elvi taught my Mum how to sew and my mum taught me. I have many fond memories of making dolls clothes on an old Bernina (which we still have!). Both Birgitta and I have since completed formal training at the West Australian Institute of Fashion & Textiles.

What do you find is the biggest challenge when owning you own business?
As most girl bosses do, I really struggle with all the different hats I have to wear as a small business owner. In one day I can be the “bookkeeper”, “employer”, “sewing machinist”, “social media account manager”, “web guru”, “receptionist”, “designer”, “production manager” and “client fitting specialist”, the list goes on! Every day is jam packed with things to do. I’m slowly beginning to let go of my need to do everything (yes, I’m a perfectionist!!) and starting to delegate. As most of our brides would know, I won’t hand over a gown unless I know it’s perfect. We pride ourselves in our workmanship and fit. Even now, I still hand sew the buttons on to each of our bride’s wedding gowns.

As manic as our work life can be, I love the fact that everything is constantly changing, we are always working on new projects and no two dresses are ever the same! It’s such a wonderful feeling knowing you’ve been able to create a wedding dress that suits the personality and body shape of your bride.

Your best moment so far in your business? I have a few!

Every time I watch a friend walk down the aisle in an Elvi Design wedding gown I get so nervous. I get sweaty palms and the jitters, I probably feel more stressed than the bride! It’s all worth it though because it’s seriously the greatest honour to create such a special dress for a friend. I love nothing more than sharing the lead up to their wedding day with them and then experiencing the joy of the day.

I’m never going to forget the day I quit my day job. I couldn’t look at my bosses because I’d cry. I was sad, I was nervous, I was scared and I was excited. I was lucky enough to move from a full-time role into a part-time role so I could test the water and make sure I had a small income to live off. The day I quit marked the day I leaped into my own small business. I knew I had projects on the go but I also knew it was all up to me to make a living now. I had to believe in myself and my business, there was no other option.

There is nothing quite like seeing your work in print. We’ve been lucky to have many of our beautiful Elvi brides on the Hello May wedding blog but even luckier to have had two brides featured in print.

Most memorable challenge you had with a client or stockist?
The moment I mention I’m a bridal designer, I get asked “Do you deal with any bridezillas?’ To be honest, not really, we probably get one client every season that might be a little bit difficult but they are definitely not bridezillas! It’s not too bad given we deal with 50 or so brides a season. I learnt early on, that it was up to me to sort out the issue straight away. I’m a big believer in honesty and I’m continuously asking my brides throughout the process if they have any questions or if they’re happy.

Your favorite quote or mantra
Everything happens for a reason.

Who do you look up to for inspiration or admire for their Business growth?
Carla Zampatti, I think her designs are always different yet timeless and elegant. They appeal to women of all ages and that’s not an easy thing to do! Her dresses can be worn to the races, to a wedding or even be worn as a wedding dress! She’s stood the test of time and I think she is a pioneer of the ‘girlboss’ term.

What is your advice to Perth Women wanting to start their own business or turning their hobby into a small business?
Be prepared to work hard, day and night to make your vision come to life. It will most likely take over every facet of your life in the beginning but it will be worth it! I highly suggest that you find a job that you can do part-time or casually so you can focus on your business. You’ll need money to live off as it can be hard to make an income from your start-up business initially.

I’ve also learnt that the only person that knows what is right for your business is you. I’ve attended numerous training events and business development groups, they have all been really great but I’ve always left knowing that I had to find my own way. If you get stuck on how to do something, join a business group like the TPC or just google. It’s amazing what a little bit of research can do. I built my first website using google without any previous web experience!! Be hands on and be prepared to try anything!

What is your vision for your business in 2016?
We’re pumped for 2016, this year we’ll be launching our 2016 bespoke collection and we also have a new project in the pipeline. Last year, I did Move for Movember. This year, I hope to step it up and do a fashion event alongside it to gain awareness and raise funds for cancer. It’s a cause that is close to my heart.

Favourite WA Coffee That’s easy! The Haynes St Larder @haynesstreetlarder in Kalamunda (or sister café Jack & Jill @jackandjillkalamunda). They just won best coffee in Perth by the Perth Coffee Scene.
Favourite WA Fashion Label Morrison @morrisonclothing, they use beautiful natural fibres and manufacture locally.
Favourite WA Homewares First Avenue in Kalamunda @firstavenue_kalamunda, if you haven’t been, you have to! Their homewares and gifts are to die for! It’s a one-stop shop. And I also love Lillevenn in Denmark @lillevenn_denmark_wa, I’m a huge fan of Scandinavian design and this little shop was packed with so much goodness!
Favourite WA Bar My bar hopping days are few and far between (can’t afford to be hungover on a Saturday!) These days I enjoy an afternoon out in the Bickley Valley. The Core Cider House @coreciderhouse is a magical spot in Pickering Brook with live music on the weekend and yummy cider. I also have to mention Myattsfield Winery @myattsfield_vineyards and Fairbrossen Winery @fairbrossen, quaint little wineries in the Perth hills. Well worth the drive!
Favourite WA Restaurant Oh, this is tricky! I really enjoy Japanese when I dine out. I vote for Sushia, Nine Fine Food or Kishi Sushi Bar is my local!
Favourite WA Instagram Account I have to say my favourite insta accounts are that of the girlbosses I’ve been lucky enough to work with- @butcherbakerstylist @niknakssweetesttreats @mimiandmedesignco @jackandjillkalamunda
I also spend a lot of time stalking Perth’s wedding photographers for a sneak peek of my brides! Can’t go past @throughthewoodsweran @peggysaas @cjwilliams_photography @christinelimm
Current WA Wishlist ~ A Marimekko Sanja Dress available online at Lillevenn. As most of my clients know, I’m a sucker for a print dress!

(to the value of $225)
to each bride that mentions TPC when they book a complimentary design consultation and confirm their wedding gown by 31st of March 2016.