When I met Shilo we shared so many stories over coffee. From our histories, to our businesses, and of all the brides we have been blessed to know. Her bubbly demeanor was contagious and I knew I had to get to know more about her passions and her business: Ashbury Bridal.
Ashbury Bridal is the only consignment bridal store in the Okanagan, but it sure doesn't feel like one. Rather, it has the appeal of a luxury boutique with stunning gowns and pieces thoughtfully displayed and styled. It would not be difficult to find your perfect bridal look here. As soon as I stepped into Shilo's boutique she greeted me and apologized for the boxes of shoes and stunning dresses waiting to be laid out for her clients. She opened up a shoe box and revealed a Sex-in-the-City-esque (that's a word, right?) pair of blue feathered Johnathan Kayne shoes in immaculate condition. Truly a treasure that would be snatched up quickly.
"I have a very eco-friendly streak and I feel like these gowns can be re-worn." Shilo started our interview chatty and eager. It's clear to see she loves to share her philosophy on life and fashion.
"I have a strong belief in keeping things Canadian and supporting local economies. I don't order anything that comes overseas." Shilo sells products from local designers, and also offers a collection of accessories created by herself. This personal touch to Ashbury Bridal adds to it's unique appeal, speaking to the boutique style bridal shop many women look for. "I do a lot of the accessories myself. When people come in they want more custom stuff. Something different or unique... tapping into their personality. I work with local designers. Blush Bunny is one, Sweet Lollie, and I have a lady in Nanaimo who sends me very beautiful things (Blossom Beach)."
I wanted to know more about how Shilo styles her brides with accessories to suit not only their personalities, but their dress, and inspiration for their wedding days. Many of her clients don't know where to start. It's easy to get carried away with the wide variety of bridal accessories available in the market, and it's just as easy to clash styles if you are not focused on a vision. "When brides come in I learn about who they are. We find a base accessory and then add to it. You see different personalities come out in the accessories they choose. It's not only about helping them with the dress. Putting the whole look together by adding accessories is like a whole other experience."
The philosophy of quality consignment and an eco friendly mindset means a lot to Shilo, and I have to say it is so refreshing to see it in action in the wedding industry. "I love consignment. Some of the key essential pieces of my wardrobe are from a consignment store. You can afford to buy quality, it makes it a little more affordable. When you have these gowns that are made with love, and with good effort, and quality, and beading... it's beyond my thought capacity that these dresses would sit in closets. That they were worn for a couple of hours and then that's it. I have over 1,000 dresses and I think 'Wow, these were just sitting in closets and nobody knew what to do with them'. "
Shilo also works with brides on tight timelines. Purchasing gowns from traditional bridal boutique takes months just to order in the dress, followed by fittings and alterations. For them a beautiful and quality off the rack gown is the perfect solution. "I am seeing people come in looking for designer dresses. They don't have time to order a dress and there are all these dresses just sitting there."
For Shilo, consignment goes much deeper than clearing out your closets. Each dress a bride leaves with is one less made and it's the small steps we take that can help improve and protect our environment. "We should be more eco friendly and we should reuse. One less thing that is being made is doing my part to help Mother Earth. We are getting a little out of control with quality vs. quantity. When you come in and you buy a wedding dress it's OK to spend a little bit of money on it because it's going to stand up to do a resell. We need to think about Mother Earth a little more, and we need to stop being such quantity people."
One stigma around consignment is the misconception that used items are dirty items. Brides only wear their gowns for a few hours and once Shilo gets them into her hands she ensures the dresses are cleaner then they were when they were new. Sounds unbelievable but she has some good points to make. "Once they go to the dry cleaner they are actually cleaner from when they come overseas. You don't have the packaging chemicals in them. People are very sensitive to stuff like that. I use eco friendly dry cleaners who don't use a lot of chemicals. It's funny that women will actually question 'Are you sure this isn't a brand new dress, because it sure looks brand new'. No one's none the wiser."
Shilo also touched on a common issue found with online shopping. I for one have been a victim of the size 8 shoe that actually arrives as a size 10. "If people order online it's really hard to gauge size charts. Different countries use different sizing systems. It's shocking how much brand new stuff I get in here from people ordering online and it just doesn't fit. I get a lot of brand new accessories and a lot of cute shoes. Brides get excited and they want to get all of their stuff, but then when the dress comes in and it doesn't match up, what do you do with that? You have a whole bunch of accessories that you're never going to use."
Being mindful and eco friendly is a big part of Shilo's brand, but when it boils down to it, Ashbury Bridal is about making brides feel confident and beautiful. "I absolutely love helping women find a gown and you can just see on their face 'I feel great'. Honestly, that's what it is for me. Seeing a woman seeing herself for the first time in a dress that she just blows her own mind in. The look on their faces just gets me. To be able to meet so many beautiful women on such an emotional level is a privilege. To be a part of so many women's lives and go on this process with them and make sure that they're confident in making a good decision. It's your day and you should feel the most beautiful, and the most comfortable, and know that you chose the dress that you feel the best in."
So, we know all about Shilo's dresses, accessories, her passion for building women up, and her stellar philosophy on a sustainable retail environment. But I wanted to know a little bit more about the Ashbury Bridal Experience. What can you expect from such a unique consignment store? "I ask a million questions before you even sit down so I can get a feel for your personality. I will generally pull a dress that the bride will buy within 1 to 3 dresses. That is because I am asking them questions and listening to what they're saying. You don't even need to think about it. You should never feel overwhelmed when you are looking for your dress. I can help a woman make a confident decision and she does not need to second guess herself."
Shilo went on to tell me about how she strives to make her appointments as easy as possible for her clients. Her personalized consultations add to the calm atmosphere of her boutique and remove the stress you find in the busier free-for-all styled stores. "When you come here you're going to get a very full service appointment. You get to sit back and you get to just relax. There's no going through dresses... I try to avoid the emotional roller coaster. The yes-no-yes-no. I prefer to get on the yes train and go from there. I will do the work for you."
At the end of our interview, Shilo wanted to share a final piece of advice for brides searching for their dresses. "Don't underestimate your wedding day. A lot of women will come in with an expectation of what they want and they will leave with everything they told me they did not want. Come in open minded and allow yourself to change your mind. How do you know until you actually put on styles and make the confident decision as to whether you like it or not. Make sure you have everybody with you because it's hard to walk away when you are like 'This is the dress' but you came in by yourself. Come see me when you are ready because honestly, you will find your dress in here."
Book your appointment with Shilo today online or call 250-469-2371.