Sparkle has replaced sweat in a corner of Holmfirth, with the transformation of a former gym into a vintage bridal boutique.
Evelyn Taylor Bridal was unveiled earlier this month by owner Shannon Martin, a 26-year-old from Golcar with a wealth of retail experience and a passion for bygone fashion.
She hopes that her 1,200 sq ft shop, with its wooden floors, high ceilings, chandeliers and huge, gilt-edged mirrors, will offer a luxuriously homely destination to brides looking to stretch their budget. There’s even champagne and afternoon tea on offer.
“We market ourselves as a vintage wedding store – that’s definitely the look of the shop,” said Shannon. “It has a 1920s style and it’s even named after my great-grandma. It’s a hundred per cent what everybody wants. Somebody will come in and say they want a lace vintage dress, and we’re like ‘oh, great – another one’!”
She sells second-hand dresses – which in this business are always called “pre-loved” – and sample dresses, which currently make up about 80 per cent of her stock. The first of these came from the shop where she bought her own dress, but which closed down when the owner had twins, but the others come from mainstream bridal stores across the UK; once they have sold their stock, they need to divest themselves – literally – of the “try-on” dresses.
“The dresses really pull people in. My mum and I disagree on this, but I’d say about 60 per cent of people will buy a dress just for the designer,” said Shannon.
“Wedding budgets go fast, so if you can save a little bit of money on the dress, you can spend it on something else.”
She’s not joking about the budgets. The average price of a wedding dress, according to Brides magazine, is £1,340 – for a garment most women will only wear once. By contrast, Shannon sells hers for between £300 and £1,000.
She also has a seamstress “with 50 years of experience” and is branching out into accessories. But that’s just the start.
“I like to work with local businesses, so I can refer customers to a tailor, a cakemaker, a hairdresser, a photographer, a florist, and someone who does wedding stationery,” said Shannon.
“It keeps it local and I only recommend people who I know will do a really good job. The tailor, for example, made my husband’s wedding suit, and the photographer did our pictures.
“Ultimately, I’d like to get into wedding planning, so we could sort out every aspect of a customer’s wedding. I also really want to have a chain of shops - I don’t want to settle for just one. I’d like to take the brand across Yorkshire – to Barnsley first, and over to Uppermill – and ultimately take it down south.”
If the last two weeks are anything to go by, she may not have to wait too long. She rang up her first sale on the day she opened the doors of the first-floor shop, which is next to Holmfirth’s Methodist church, and has been attracting increasing numbers of customers, and dresses, ever since – many of them via the decidedly un-vintage media of Facebook and Twitter.
“The number-one reason why people come to us is service. There can be a stigma with some of the big bridal stores – they might feel a bit snooty, or make people feel they shouldn’t be shopping there. But I’m very down to earth. I want service to be second to none, whether a customer’s buying a £1,000 dress or a £300 dress.
“And this is a growing market. There was a debate when I was at [vintage design chain] Cath Kidston about whether the bubble had burst. But I think we feel at home with old-style things – maybe they remind us of our grandparents. I don’t think it’s going out of fashion any time soon. Well, I hope not, anyway!”