It’s hard to believe, but this week marks 15 years since we first opened the doors to Ellie Sanderson. Since then, we’ve helped thousands of brides find their perfect dress – winning pretty much every wedding award going in the process. It’s been one heck of a ride, and we’re so excited about what the future holds. To mark this very special occasion, we chat to our wonderful Ellie about all things bridal fashion, what it means to play such an important part in a bride’s big day and what’s next for the brand. Here’s to 15 years of Ellie Sanderson – we’ll drink to that!
What made you decide to set up Ellie Sanderson?
Truth be told, I have always loved wedding dress design – I blame Princess Diana for that. I recall having the day off school as a little girl and sitting watching her arrive for her wedding. From that moment I was obsessed – I drew dresses, played in my mother’s wedding dress, wore veils (net curtains!) as often as I could and used to play at weddings with my friends aged six.
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What’s been your proudest moment?
The year we opened Oxford, our second studio, we went on to win the ‘Best UK Bridal Shop’ and ‘Best Retailer Website’ in the Bridal Buyer Awards, ‘Best Bridal Shop’ as voted for by Wedding magazine and ‘Best Wedding Shop’ in the TWIA. My head was spinning.
How has the wedding industry changed since you set up Ellie Sanderson?
Massively – but mainly how we engage with our clients. 15 years ago I advertised in a number of wedding magazines, took part in composite adverts with our suppliers, attended The National Wedding Show twice a year, along with local ones, to make sure that our name was out there. Now we focus on our social platforms, create in-store content and spend a lot of money of SEO
Also, we now travel the world to buy new talented designers for our studios. Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Poland and America all produce some incredible products which our brides love. A lot has changed in those 15 years of Ellie Sanderson.
How have bridal styles changed over the past 15 years?
The rulebook on tradition has been chucked out. Covid helped de-construct wedding dress styles, but it was well on the way before then. Brides are now making fashion conscious decisions for their wedding look, pushing boundaries on what used to be the norm, to feel fabulous and, most of all, comfortable in their own skin. That doesn’t mean that classic style is not available – it 100% is, but it’s classic modern. Great labels like Suzanne Neville utterly nail it year after year.
What do you love most about your job?
Buying new labels and watching my brides react to them, nurturing new talented stylists, developing new systems that engage with our clients and most importantly staying ahead in a world that is moving so fast. I love working and love developing, and strive to do everything better – it drives my team nuts!
And what’s the hardest part?
Throughout 15 years of Ellie Sanderson, the hardest part was lockdown, no question. The shock and pain of cancelled weddings and shattered dreams will always haunt me.
How would you describe today’s Ellie Sanderson bride?
The Ellie Sanderson bride is confident and fashion forward, looking to be a fabulous version of her real self on her wedding day. The Ellie bride is looking for a dress that is not mass-manufactured. She is looking to understand the provenance of her dress and accessories, and wants her outfit to be different and unique. The ES bride wants to customise her gown and make it her own. She has high expectations and knows that we pick only the best suppliers in the world – that is why she trusts us and she engages totally with our professional and supportive service.
What’s been your favourite celebrity wedding dress from the past 15 years?
Oh this is easy but I need to have three!
1. Hailey Bieber in Virgil Abloh
2. Sophia Bush in Monique Lhuillier
3. Olivia Palermo in Carolina Herrera and her blue Manolo Blahniks
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Can you pick your favourite dress you’ve stocked in the past 15 years of Ellie Sanderson? Or is that impossible?
YES, YES, YES! Adair by Suzanne Neville. Love it!
What does the future hold for Ellie Sanderson?
Lots and lots! We are in the process of relocating our Woodstock studio to our forever space, just three miles up the road. It’s an incredible space – a light and airy glass-sided barn – housing all our new collections, which we are expanding. It’s going to be our new flagship and we are working with a wonderful architect design firm to create a space that is just perfect. There are over 20 parking spaces and soon our own electric charging bay. We have our celebration room, our welcome suite and we are simply in meltdown over how incredible it looks.
Beyond that, we are opening another studio, but my lips are sealed…
Any dress trend predictions for 2023, Ellie?
Strapless is back, but this time with detachable tulle or lace sleeves.
Finally, what has been one of the most important elements of Ellie Sanderson’s success?
Women; wonderful, hardworking women. I surround myself with women who have a zest for life, love what they do and love coming in to work every day.
I am blessed to have one such woman that been with me the whole distance – my lovely, lovely Laura, our Production Manager, who’s been with me for the full 15 years of Ellie Sanderson. Then Sarah, my business manager, who is a real powerhouse of a gal. I have had some other magnificent women too, who have left to have babies or retire, like our gorgeous Eira, Claire and Miss Bea (aka Barbara).
Find out more…
Our gorgeous new Woodstock bridal studio opens on 24th September. Get in touch here to book your appointment in this most fabulous of spaces. We can’t wait to see you!