Essense of Australia is one of the leading bridal fashion brands in the industry with the award winning labels of Stella York, Essense of Australia and Martina Liana, as well as bridesmaid label Sorella Vita.
We had the chance to catch up with Martine Harris, Chief Creative Officer of Essense of Australia to tell us about the success of her company, why Essense is a favorite pick amoungst brides and how she is giving back to the global community during the unimaginable pandemic.
Martine, Essense of Australia has been in business for 20 years. What would you say are the key elements that has made the brand so successful over the years?
Thoughtful, planned, and controlled growth has enabled us to uphold our core company value – always delivering a quality product on time and doing so with exceptional customer service. Our gown designs and marketing efforts are all built around what our customers – retailers and brides – need and want from us, which also keeps our brands consistently relevant and desirable.
Starting out, did you ever think Essense of Australia would become a leading bridal fashion label in the industry?
When you start a company because bridal is your undeniable passion and run it out of your living room – which is exactly what we did – it takes many years before you seriously begin to dream as big as becoming a leading global brand. Over the years we remained focused on listening to retailers and helping them be successful, and that success became a mutual reality. Our growth has truly been an organic journey, which makes it even more humbling when we take a moment to stop and think about that tiny living room in Perth, Australia, where it all began.
With 4 brand names under the Essense of Australia portfolio, can you tell us about the design team and what makes each brand a favorite amongst brides?
An international design team is at the heart of our aesthetic, and the various points of view and worldly flavors that they bring to each label create the global appeal for stores and brides. Our designers intentionally create gowns that showcase a bride’s true natural aesthetic for Essense of Australia, while at the same time turning up the volume on glamour and fun for Stella York.
Martina Liana has always spoken to brides that recognize, enjoy, and demand a timeless take on runway trends, showcased in the finest natural fabrics, high-end embellishments, and perfect-fit silhouettes.
Brides also want to show their fashion sense throughout their entire wedding party and Sorella Vita becomes an easy favorite with styles that not only offer limitless color and fabric combinations, it has every bridesmaid feeling on-trend and comfortable.
With the arrival of COVID-19, how has Essense of Australia been pushing forward throughout the current pandemic?
Creating and maintaining the safest environment possible for employees and retail partners has been our top priority throughout this entire situation. Initially we utilized our teams throughout the globe for researching and sharing with retailers how to best maintain their businesses and work with brides, as well as proactive steps to take in order to reopen successfully. Simultaneously, we’re focused on ensuring that the core pillars of what we do – customer service, deliveries, design, marketing – actively continue so that we can be ready to move forward and support retailers and brides as the world heals, stabilizes, and reestablishes itself.
And now you are now giving back to the global community with the launch of Verasano. Tell us about it.
Verasano is a separate company we established to supply personal protective equipment to businesses, organizations, and individuals. In response to the overwhelming needs created by the global pandemic, we wanted to act quickly in working toward solutions that could support overcoming the worldwide health crisis, as well as protecting our retailers, surrounding communities, and employees.
How were you able to source medical grade products and who can order?
We found ourselves in a very unique situation where our strong, long-term relationships with a variety of first-class factories and logistics specialists could be utilized to create and source everything from basic to medical-grade protective equipment. This is how Verasano came to be, and its products are available to everyone from medical entities to individuals at Verasano.com.
What are your hopes or goals for Verasano in the near future?
Staying prepared, responsive, and ready to support others as the needs of the world change is truly our hope moving forward.
The bridal industry has also taken a hard hit with the shutdown of businesses, cancelled industry events and weddings. What is your outlook on the state of the bridal industry for the future?
The bridal industry has always been resilient, as a direct reflection of the fact that love remains resilient no matter the state of the world. There will be changes, there will be uncomfortable realities, we will all have to adapt and be willing to think about how we do business with a fresh perspective, but business will continue…because love continues.
What is your advice to bridal retailers who are struggling to get back on their feet after the shutdowns?
Don’t take for granted that anything is the same as before – brides, your staff, social media – look at everything with fresh eyes and see it for what it is today. Focus on what brides and your staff need to feel safe and comfortable and communicate it through social media and direct channels. Proactively addressing fears can go a long way to show how prepared you are as a boutique, and this can get brides past the point of worry and back to the level of carefree excitement they previously enjoyed. Celebrate your short term, daily successes, as eventually they will add up to long term stability once again.
As an entrepreneur starting from the ground up, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My father is one of the hardest working and insightful people that I know, and, to this day, I am still guided and motivated by these words of his: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Till your good is better and your better best”.
We would like to thank Martine Harris for this interview.
For further information on the brand and collections, visit Essense of Australia