When a beloved PDW Directory Member hits an impressive & exciting milestone (like a 10 year anniversary, for example!) we simply HAVE to celebrate right along with them and share some vendor love on the Polka pages. We were lucky enough to speak with Alera from White Lily Couture in “Then & Now: White Lily Couture Interview For Their 10 Year Anniversary” who gave us a flashback to the White Lily of the past, what the wedding gown trends were then, what’s changed over the years in the wedding business and what’s ahead for White Lily. 

Image: Creative director Alera

Let’s start by describing White Lily Couture, your gowns, and your approach to wedding gown couture.

In all the years of White Lily, we have always strived to make it a place for brides to feel special, supported, and cared for knowing that they are in the hands of true experts. The industry has come a really long way in terms of inclusion but back when we started a truly memorable client experience wasn’t really available here in Brisbane – so I sought out to change that! I always wanted to ensure that our collection offered varied looks, sizes, and budgets and our commitment to this has never wavered. Today our collection offers looks for the minimal bride through to the luxurious and everything in between. Our sample size is a spectrum just like the beautiful clients we dress every day.

You’re celebrating 10 years in business this September. When a bride and her wedding party came to the studio 10 years ago to choose a gown what were they looking for in a gown design? Was it all about the design and style of the gown, and what styles were popular?

Funnily enough, I was looking through images of some of our first styles recently and it’s quite incredible how different yet how similar some of the gowns were to today! In 2013 it is safe to say that mermaids and fit and flare dresses were in fashion for sure. Ruffled skirts especially in taffeta, organza, or satin were loved and often paired with a diamante belt or feature. Colour hadn’t hit the market quite yet so ivory or light golds and blush tones ruled as well as the odd pure white gown which were still very much in demand. Back then customers were not exposed to social media as much yet so they were more focused on finding a gown that made them feel beautiful and to suit their venue rather than ensuring it was the latest fashion trend.

Were there any details that brides were particularly looking for and were popular in weddings of the day – such as beading, frills, lace, etc.?

The lace trend hit hard about a year or two in for us. Everyone wanted it and it was exciting to see all the new varieties come through, used in unique ways to make a modern impact. Sweetheart necklines were still popular but then we slowly started seeing more demand for detachable sleeves or bolero’s – the start of the two-looks-in-one phenomenon. Buttons were also much loved and a simple feature that often made the gown special.

Was it always about the dress at that time, or were you asked for pants suits, or other styles of wedding attire?

Suiting and pants weren’t in high demand for us at White Lily – we have always been lucky enough to work alongside professionals in suiting and would refer clients to them if requested. There was a period when tea-length gowns were in hot demand but often when tried many brides opted for the full-length version.

What were gowns and accessories/veils and the choosing of them like 10 years ago? Was it important for the veil and accessories to coordinate with the gown, or were brides as open to things like flower crowns, or jewelled hair pieces as they are today?

Yes – the accessories were huge! Those were the days of full lace trimmed veils – mantillas were popular in matching lace to the dress. Here at White Lily, the accessories are just as important to the dress so we have always made it a part of our appointments to showcase them. Veils were popular in fingertip length as well as cathedral and chapel lengths and, unlike today when brides are opting for minimal details, back then they were trimmed with either lace, ribbon, or crystals. A crystal and pearl comb often paired with the veil which matched the belt or feature on the gown. Having a coordinated look was what many brides desired and accessories played a big role in this.

Was there any ‘etiquette’ around what the wedding party was expected to wear all those years ago and how has this changed?

Interestingly enough the etiquette is still similar in that the wedding party wears the same or similar outfits. The thing that has changed is the switch to more modern, fashion-forward styles allowing the bridesmaids to feel comfortable and stylish – that has really shifted. The trend of wedding parties wearing different looks within a specified colour palette has come and gone many times but ultimately it comes down to the couple’s vision.

Images: Creative director Alera in Barcelona for Bridal Fashion Week

How have weddings changed over the years? What were important to couples then on their wedding day and are there any differences now?

I have loved watching how couples have injected more personality and personalisation into their weddings. The creativity today is delightful to witness and doesn’t even compare to weddings 10 years ago. The priorities today have shifted – fashionable outfits (often multiple for the bride), beautiful decor, fantastic food, and fun experiences. I feel that the weddings of today better express what is important to the couple rather than simply doing what is expected. It’s a modern way of referencing traditions and celebrating the uniqueness of their day.

What hasn’t changed over the 10 years with the brides themselves and also with your business?

We and our customers have always agreed on one thing – that they deserve a truly memorable shopping experience. Buying gowns online or shopping from fashion brands is part of the bridal landscape but that once-in-a-lifetime ‘say yes to the dress’ experience is in demand now more than ever. That’s why we have never taken shortcuts in offering that experience. From the champagne on arrival, to the dedicated lounge for the bride and her guests, to the one-on-one consultant throughout as well as the welcoming and supportive team every White Lily bride can count on us to deliver that dream experience.

Images (T-B): First White Lily Couture shop in Milton, Brisbane / New shop front in Red Hill, Brisbane

What have you learned over that time?

I have learned that you cannot stand still for very long, especially if you want to lead the way like we do. Creative thinking is key to making it in this industry and our customers deserve nothing less. Staying ahead of the curve in terms of trends, going above and beyond to meet our client’s needs, and maintaining a culture that embraces individuality and inclusivity are key elements of our ongoing success. I will never stop learning and I am lucky enough to work with a truly special team of people who work hard to ensure that the White Lily name continues to evolve.

What’s next for White Lily Couture in the following ten years?

As the bridal landscape changes so will we. In what direction, you will need to stay tuned!

Image: Industry event at White Lily Couture

What does wedding wear look like going forward? What changes are ahead?

I think the desire to wear a gown and embrace that tradition will still be with us for many years to come. How we interpret that and create it in a fresh, modern way – only time will tell. I believe that we will continue to see the lines between fashion and bridal continue to blur, giving a nod to more mainstream looks with a more relaxed feel. On the flip side, I also believe that the resurgence of true tradition and the fairytale dream will live on as brides recognise that this is the one day for them to wear a gown like nothing else in their wardrobe. One thing is certain – everyone getting married will want to feel beautiful, special, and one-of-a-kind.

Memorable moments that particularly stand out for you?

As an entrepreneur nothing is more rewarding than crafting a crazy idea, putting it into action, and then actually seeing it work! I have made more mistakes than can be counted but I certainly feel proud when we get it right and the customers embrace it. Whether it was our first big sample sale when some brides queued up from 4 a.m. with a winding line behind them or finding out that White Lily has become one of the top retailers for a brand in all of Australia. The constant “what if we tried this” never goes away and I hope it stays that way.

About White Lily Couture: At White Lily Couture, our team is all about kindness, knowledge, and professionalism. We aim to build relationships with our brides to better understand how we can help. We are a Queensland multi-award winning bridal store stocking wedding gowns from brands such as Pronovias, Atelier Pronovias, Enzoani, Stella York, Nicole Spose, Zavana Couture, All Who Wander, Wedding Societe, Mori Lee, Erin Clare Bridal Emmy Mae Bridal, Modeca, Studio Levana and Rosa Clara.