Brittany Haas | Disrupting the Wedding World

It all started at Cornell University in 2006. My sister’s wedding was approaching fast, and her budget had spun out of control. She was having about 150 guests at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City and had just booked her honeymoon to Bora Bora (which was just about as expensive as the entire wedding itself).

I was a junior majoring in Apparel Design, and my sister begged me to design her wedding gown. While I was happy to design it, sewing was not my strong suit. I encouraged her to go dress shopping, try on some styles, and see what she really wanted. As we shopped around, we were appalled at the high prices and low quality. I refused everything she put on her body due to bad fabric, bad construction and bad taste! The gowns we loved were upwards of $5000.

photo credit Happily Ever BorroWED

“Why would I spend $5000 on something I could only wear for 6 hours of my life?” she asked.

She finally found a dress in her price range, that I approved of from a quality standpoint, for about $2000. Her goal was to re-sell the dress after her wedding. She lived in a 600 sq. ft apartment in Manhattan and had no space to store her gown. (Not to mention the 2nd gown she bought for her ceremony) Wouldn’t you know, 2 years after her wedding, the dresses were still hanging in the hallway of her apartment, and she couldn’t sell them to anyone.

Senior year of college – my thesis was based on Sustainability in the Fashion Industry. Essentially, my experiments proved that it was impossible to be successful. With organics, sourcing all over the world and margins, keeping waste down in the fashion industry is faulty at best. The only thing that was sustainable in fashion was vintage product and sharing. The idea seemed so simple, but how could we encourage this action?

Collaborative Consumption is not a new concept, but it is the answer. Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before. With cost consciousness and environmental concerns on the rise, people are desperate to eliminate waste and save money.

image credit collaborative consumption.com

With this in mind, I set out to disrupt the wedding industry. It is supposed to be the most special day of a person’s life and often, we spare no expense to make the day perfect. However, the idea of a wedding party is quite antiquated and wasteful. We put ourselves into debt to throw a party that symbolizes our love. But we start our newlywed lives with credit card debt instead of a new house. And the number one reason for strife in a marriage…is money. While this may seem like a far-fetched idea, would you want to start your marriage on rocky terms because you just HAD to spend $20k on a Vera Wang gown?

Happily Ever BorroWED started because I noticed a void in the wedding industry.

Fashion is inherently wasteful. But your wedding style doesn’t have to be. Our mission at Happily Ever BorroWED is to provide accessibility, affordability and sustainability to brides all across America. We RENT bridal accessories to brides for their wedding day, so they can use that few hundred dollars saved towards their honeymoon, or inviting more guests to their wedding, or better yet – their future home.

We curate a collection of gorgeous designer bridal accessories from the top designers in the industry and then rent those pieces to our brides for 15% of the retail price. Everything is carefully managed within our control standards, we're getting brand new product straight from the runway, and we supply a pre-paid return label in each order so that all you need to do is “Rent, Wed & Return.”

I started the business with a dream and a vision. In talking to investors, mentors, designers and industry professionals, I pivoted the business to where it is today; an e-boutique renting bridal accoutrements with aspirations of wedding gowns, flower girl dresses and other product categories to arrive shortly. I bootstrapped all of my savings, learned to code to get the site up and running, and now Happily Ever BorroWED is fulfilling the dreams of brides across the United States.

Out of my sisters’ frustrations, grew a business model that is thriving and more importantly, solves a problem.

* * *

If you are looking for a business idea, have you noticed any problems that need to be solved?  

If so, do you you have specific strengths that could be applied to  find a solution? 

What do you already have on hand that would allow you to start a profit-generating business? 

Brittany Haas is Founder of Happily Ever BorroWED. Always drawing and designing, she graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Since then, she’s gained experience as a financial merchandise planner for several top fashion houses including Ralph Lauren & Hermes. She now brings her business savvy to the bridal industry. She has been featured on Women2.0, Forbes.com, and Yahoo Small Business. She is also the leader of @WedTech. Follow her on Twitter at @brittanyhaas and the business @happilyborrowed.

Carrie Hammer | Finding the Perfect Fit

I come from two very passionate entrepreneur parents who have made me realize that if I put my mind to something I can make it happen. My mother is an artist and had owned her own advertising agency and my father is a technology entrepreneur. I am an amalgam of the two of them and love anything that is the intersection of technology and design.

My passion for creativity and fashion lead me to enroll in an intensive summer program at Parsons Paris to explore whether fashion was truly something I wanted to pursue. By the end of that summer it was clear to me that I definitely wanted to be in fashion. I also felt strongly that whatever aspect of the fashion industry I chose to become involved in, I wanted to benefit contemporary professional women.

As I started my first job after college, I struggled to find suitable, affordable work attire. I was told again and again, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” but it was nearly impossible to find quality professional clothes with a contemporary fit at a reasonable price.

And price wasn’t the only problem: I consistently experienced issues with fit. Women are not all the same shape, yet off-the-rack clothes are still made with that assumption. Standard sizing was developed in the 1940s and has not been improved upon much since then. Different brands cut the same size in different ways depending upon their target audience and may employ vanity sizing (sizing larger clothes in smaller sizes) to move merchandise. Eventually, I began getting custom pieces made for myself through tailors online.

All of this was the inspiration and motivation behind my company CARRIE HAMMER. The concept behind the line is that each piece is completely made-to-measure and that every dress is tailored from ten measurements of each individual customer. Women come to my site and pick a dress style, their preferred color, and submit their measurements and fit preferences (such as sleeve and dress length/style). I work with a tailor to create designs that are reflective of current runway trends and my own personal style.

I wear my dresses nearly every day, which I’ve found to be a great sales tool – I get stopped on a daily basis by women asking, “Where did you get that dress?”

The most difficult part of achieving my dream of launching a business was just getting started. I knew I wanted to start my own business, but overcoming my fear of failure and rejection required a huge leap of faith. One day I came to the realization that the only way to start is to start. I came across a quote that gave me courage to begin: “If today is the day that you decide to jump off a cliff, you’ll either be given wings to fly or a ledge to land.” The idea that there could be multiple positive outcomes, even if it looked different than I had originally imagined, helped me get over my original apprehension.

Women are unique — no two women take the same exact career path, no two women have the same exact style, and NO two women have the same exact fit. I am ecstatic to be able to offer more fit and style options for the contemporary working woman. I firmly believe that clothing should be made to fit the woman, not the other way around!

Carrie Hammer is the founder of CARRIE HAMMER CUSTOM APPAREL. A graduate of UCLA and Parsons The New School for Design, Carrie worked in advertising sales for 4 years where she first realized the huge lack in contemporary women’s work wear. This inspired her to start her own line centered around beauty and fit.


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