Anomalie, a direct-to-consumer bridal startup, lets you custom design the wedding dress of your dreams
While shopping for her wedding dress, Harvard Business School graduate Leslie Voorhees encountered the same problem as many brides-to-be: She couldn’t find the “one” that matched both the style she envisioned and to his budget.
But then the stars aligned in several ways. At the time, Voorhees was overseeing manufacturing in China as head of product operations at Apple and learned more about the Suzhou area, which makes the majority of wedding dresses globally. So, she had the dress of her dreams custom made and had a business idea to turn the traditional wedding dress buying experience upside down in the process.
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Along with her lifelong partner, husband Calley Means, whom she met at Harvard, she founded Anomaly, a direct-to-consumer wedding dress company that essentially allows a bride to design her own dream wedding dress.
“It’s unbelievable,” Vorhees said, on the phone from San Francisco from the Anomaly offices. “I have spoken to thousands of brides over the past year and one thing is painfully clear: almost everyone feels left out of the boutique experience. I have heard so many stories of women feeling embarrassed to be tall, too tall, too small, their marriage too early, their budget is not [big] quite… “
The Anomalie direct sales model helps a typical bride stay within a clothing budget typically ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 1,500. Once the design process is complete (more details below), manufacturing and delivery takes approximately three months. To compare: a traditionally custom-designed gown can cost up to $ 10,000 and the typical wait time for delivery can be up to a full year.
To start the Anomaly design process, a bride-slash designer fills out a 15-question survey; then, via a personalized dashboard interface, she uploads “inspiration” photos to a “Pinterest-like” mood board. Inspo images can range from existing clothing designs to actual “PowerPoint platforms,” which Voorhees says are very useful. One of the eight designated stylists will help guide a bride through the design stages. The stylist also liaises with the production team, who “aligns” the design with up to 130 sartorial variables on the back-end. The customer then receives a proposed dress sketch, along with fabric samples, for confirmation. Made-to-measure dresses are also made to measure. So far Anomalie has designed dresses from size 00 to size 30.
After the custom design reaches the production stage at one of the factories in Suzhou or Guangzhou, China, progress reports and photos of the dress are sent to the customer on a regular basis. “We find it also brings joy to the bride, because [she can] feel part of the creative process and that really gives brides a sense of transparency and alignment throughout, ”says Voorhees.
A peek at the gallery of custom designs spans the gamut from minimalist jumpsuits and short fit and flare lace dresses to full length beaded illusion dresses and all types of personal styles in between. The dress color options are white, ivory, champagne, and blush only, as Anomalie buys their high-end silks and fabrics wholesale to keep end costs as low as possible. Of course, the bride can add lace, trims, beads, sequins, and embroidery details as she sees fit. For now, Anomaly is focused on wedding dress silhouettes, including separate tops and skirts and mini-me flower girl looks – as well as accessories, like veils, jackets, and capes. Bridesmaid dresses and pant styles, like the pantsuit and popular jumpsuits, aren’t options – for now, at least.
Voorhees credits his business school internship in the operations of luxury footwear brand Mr Gemi with the inspiration to set up manufacturing in China. “The founders [at M.Gemi] had the insight to use incredible skill and craftsmanship with Italian luxury shoes that were underused in Italy. There is capacity in the factory to support [more] brands, “she explains, of Mr Gemi producing shoes in the same factories as” Prada and YSL. “Quality is luxury without passing the price of luxury on to the end customer.
The majority of high quality silks are purchased near factories in China, while some fabrics are also sourced from South Korea and Taiwan, ROC Voorhees also makes a point of visiting factories “almost every month” to work in. working closely with local staff and constantly seeking new suppliers for lace, pearls and trims. The proprietary back-end customization process in factories draws on Voorhees’ engineering and manufacturing experience, as well as Stitch Fix alum’s expertise on the technological production side and design expertise. technique by Monique Lhuillier and Reformation.
Despite the technological thinking behind the Anomaly design process, customer service is still very old-school. A bride’s dedicated stylist will drop by the phone to speak to a bride about any questions during the design process (or by email or message through the dashboard). During production, a team of experts maintain regular communication with the bride, and post-production experts will facilitate orientation with tailors (and postpartum issues). Anomaly also connects customers to highly rated “partner” tailors for metrics relevant to customization during the design process and to make any changes after delivery. According to Voorhees, the company has “a long tail of 80 cities” spanning all US states.
Also note: Anomaly company policy forbids copying existing wedding dress designs, but that’s rarely a request, anyway. “We don’t really have to say ‘no’ that much, because everyone wants something unique and it’s always a combination of [different dress designs],” she explains.
Since its launch in December 2016, Anomaly has raised $ 4.5 million in venture capital – according to PR, it is “the most VC-funded wedding dress company ever” – and has generated $ 1 million in income during its first year of operation. “We had over 1,000 weddings last year and we’re growing very quickly this year,” says Voorhees, who also had 10,000 registrations in January alone, an average of 300 per day. “We have very big aspirations to carve out a good part of the market.”
Well, so far we can certainly say that Anomaly breathes life into an industry traditionally reluctant to change – and gives the bride a lot more choice and power.
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