Bridal atelier Grace Loves Lace sells their winning bohemian chic bridal looks to the world from their headquarters in Burleigh Heads, Queensland. From the very beginning the business was a hit online. Grace Loves Lace counts more than half a million followers on social media and is a finalist in this year’s Premier of Queensland’s 2017 Export Awards for the ecommerce category (they won the category last year!). We chat to Grace Loves Lace founder Megan Ziems and chief operating officer Tammy Simpson.
How did you start your business?
Megan Ziems: I launched Grace Loves Lace in November 2011 after a year of planning and preparation. I realised there was a huge gap in the bridal world for bridal fashion that was an alternative to the regular ‘uniform’ everyone was wearing. Basically, I wanted to offer something cool and different.
What did day one of Grace Loves Lace look like?
Megan Ziems: I kept my day job in Brand and Sales Management for the first year and a half. I worked on Grace Loves Lace every night, every weekend, every spare second. I think I hired my first part-time helper at about the one year mark.
Do you remember when you received inquiries from overseas?
Megan Ziems: Yeah, it happened quite immediately. I had a strong game plan for attracting an online customer anywhere in the world from day one as part of the business model.
Tell us three countries that have placed orders this week?
Megan Ziems: USA, England, Canada
You employ tailors in Australia. If someone was studying fashion or textiles in Australia — should they give you a call?
Megan Ziems: Definitely, if anyone can sew. We’re proud to say we manufacture in Australia and we’re always looking for someone that can use a sewing machine.
What’s the best thing about running a business from Burleigh Heads?
Megan Ziems: I live here so it’s easy, accessible, quiet and beautiful. I’ve never liked being in the hustle and bustle and having children it’s important that work and home is able to mix fluidly.
Your bridal look is distinctively Australian (there’s no heavy boning, it’s for a comfortable, relaxed, stylish bride). How does living in Queensland influence your style and outlook?
Megan Ziems: To be honest, I think my childhood growing up between Europe and Australia and being surrounded by very strong, confident women has influenced the designs more. The fact that we don’t use heavy restrictive fabrics and garment construction means we embrace and celebrate the body, encourage comfort and sexiness. Grace Loves Lace women are confident and feminine. I think this goes hand in hand with a lifestyle that loves the beach and warm climates.
You’ve been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings and The Knot. Was there any press you received where you were like, we’ve made it!
Megan Ziems: Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and Elle naming us the most popular wedding brand on Pinterest and noting our cult following made my heart swoon.
Pinterest is so popular as a wedding planning tool and you have a huge following on Instagram. How important is social media to your business?
Megan Ziems: It’s really important as it’s a way to communicate and show incredible content in all different forms. You don’t have to rely on someone getting to your website in order to show them what you want them to see.
You set up a showroom in London. How do you do that? What were you looking for in a space?
Tammy Simpson: We look for exclusive, private and unique. We’re by appointment only so whilst we need easy access, we don’t want street frontage. It’s a VIP experience so the space has to represent that. I walked many streets in London looking at spaces, while a few were great, nothing was perfect. While viewing another property in Charlotte Road, I told the agent I needed something unique with lots of natural light (if that was possible in the UK!), he then took me to a building not far from where I was looking that was still under construction. As soon as I walked in I knew it was the one! At that moment, I called Meg and sent her images, and told the agent, “We need this space, who do I need to talk to, to make it happen?”
You have a showroom in Venice, Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a famously huge sprawling city, how did you know where to begin?
Tammy Simpson: We had someone in LA looking for the spaces for us and Meg was unsure of the one we were going to sign with and asked me to go to LA to personally look at it, which was lucky we did, as it was not the right space nor location for our brand. We always thought Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice would be a great location, but it was very expensive and not many free spaces available.
Again, I walked many streets in LA trying to find something different and unique. We were actually very close to signing another property when we found our space, it was like it was meant to happen, the owner was holding out for someone special and just fell in love with our brand and story. Abbot Kinney Boulevard had an incredible architectural style building that was available so we jumped on it as soon as we saw it. It’s generally quite hard to find a space that ticks all our boxes so it’s very instant [decision] when it does.
How many people do you employ worldwide? And how do you keep in touch? Email? Slack? Text? Timezone apps?
Megan Ziems: We’ve got over 40 in our team along with a production team. I’ve got a great management team and collectively we have a very strong team dynamic that communicates on phone, email, Skype, everyday. Although we are countries apart you would never know by the way we all talk formally and informally. It’s a great buzz. We’re a very close team that consider ourselves an extended family. We love social events and celebrating the highs collectively.
What’s the most unexpected thing about running a business across three continents?
Megan Ziems: I recently got to see our brides in each of our showrooms, it surprises me the types of brides we attract and the different cultures.
Is there another location on the horizon?
Megan Ziems: At the moment we’re growing at a rapid rate, so we need to ensure we can cope with the demands, but who knows maybe Sydney or NYC!
Congratulations on being a finalist in the 2017 Export Awards. What’s been the best thing to come from the awards so far?
Being recognised for the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, being the winner of the Queensland Export Awards last year definitely opened some amazing doors for us.