When Odyssey woman Grace Speights shared photos of her garden wedding, we marveled at how beautiful she looked in her immaculately designed dress. Grace’s beautiful blue gown was designed by renowned dress designer Alvin Thompson and stole the show in her ceremony, which was held in the Lawn and Terrace area of the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, VA.
Little girls all over the world daydream about their wedding day, and play dress-up, imagining how beautiful their dresses will be. Women purchase bridal magazines long before their actual engagements, just to fantasize about how they would look in the various gowns they see.
Unfortunately, the wedding industry is just another that has been decimated due to the impact of COVID-19. While many weddings have been canceled, those that haven’t have continued with various degrees of postponements and downsizing, leading us to consider the many small businesses that this affects.
Fashion designer Alvin Thompson’s business New Couture is one of the few who have been able to sway and adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. Grace’s beautiful wedding dress is one of the many that this fully custom design house is responsible for, and despite the usual setbacks of the pandemic, Alvin is still beating to a positive drum. He tells us that COVID-19 affected his business in the most positive ways. His advice in the new COVID culture? “Plan for the worst, but hope for the best.”
New Couture’s sew staff began working from home in late February in response to the pandemic. This is contrary to sewing industry standards, which tend to prefer that sewers, pattern makers, and finishers all work in close proximity. They even took the initiative to begin sharing a studio space in New York City with several other designers, a process that helped lower their footprint.
While on lockdown they rethought their business model. “Before COVID we were about 30% sustainable. Today we are closer to our goal of 90% sustainability,” Alvin said. This is an incredibly insightful approach, which is reinforced by the fact that they have used solar energy for sewing for the past seven years, and now source 80% of their fabrics from traceable houses. Simply remarkable.
Another change in how they conduct business is the frequency of their shipments from Europe. They have reduced the number dramatically, going from daily shipments to once per month, which has helped lead to the significant decrease seen in their carbon footprint. They also use more reclaimed fibers and are building that strategy into their new collections.
Their focus on sustainability is only one facet of what makes New Couture stand out from the pack. They are an in-demand full custom bridal company, which means that everything they design is meant to fit the specific desires of each client.
“Most designers create collections that are their own brand — the clothes they design represent their vision, not yours. At New Couture, we don't do that. We help you realize your vision; we help you create your own brand,” says the company’s website. Continuing: “All of our designs are 100% custom – nothing is ever ‘off-the-rack’.”
Because of their intense attention to detail and the care taken in making their client’s dreams a reality, brides generally plan their weddings a year in advance to take advantage of all that New Couture has to offer. Amazingly, although many dates have been pushed back, they have had no dress cancellations to date.
Alvin gives this advice to entrepreneurs interested in starting a business: “Think of your company as if it were a yoga movement. Start with small goals, build on them each day. Develop flexibility, stretch to strengthen, and don’t forget to breathe.”
Alvin proves that with enough flexibility, mindfulness, and forward-thinking, it is possible to continue to thrive even in an industry that has been dramatically impacted in such uncertain times.