Ellens Bridal Bride. The firm gives brides a room to alter their wedding dresses to fit what they want.

When retirement knocks, most people retreat to the comfort of their private lives. But Loise Mwaniki is among the few exceptions. She scribbled a different script and founded a bridal needs shop in Nairobi.

Mrs Mwaniki has always been passionate about fashion. Initially, she partnered with her friend Juster Miriti and opened their first store JayElle Styles that specialised on wears for both men and women. This marked the baby steps to Ellens Bridal Shop.

While in the UK browsing around bridal shops, her husband floated the bridal section idea. “He advanced us the money and we set out to Hong Kong to expand on our research on the bridal industry,” says Mrs Mwaniki. “We started small fully venture into the wedding industry in 2016.”

Mrs Mwaniki describes the wedding industry as challenging, interesting and beautiful.  “Its quite expensive to start up a bridal gown shop but the returns are not bad.”

Weddings have evolved from the conservative brides to the bold revealing brides who want to show off fashion, toned body and the best money can buy. Designers are getting more creative when making bridal gowns and even import exquisite materials and accessories.

Mrs Loise Mwaniki, founder Ellens Bridal. Ellen’s Bridal takes pride in designing a gown that could be shade into four different looks.

However, parents, the church and society still do have a voice when it comes to wedding ceremonies and what the bride wears is also an important factor. Mrs Mwaniki and her team are equipped with knowledge, expertise and accessories to ensure that the parents, the church and people get to see a modest beautiful bride while she also enjoys her big day without offending anyone.

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{ Read: IT’S ALL BLISS FOR WEDDING INDUSTRY IN KENYA }

“If your parents or churches want you covered during the church service we provide for that with the accessories, but our brides are getting out of that, and parents are slowly embracing the change. Brides are still conscious of what their parents will think and how people will take it. It is a scared moment but at the same time they want to enjoy,” says Mrs Mwaniki.

This leads to some brides having two gowns for the wedding ceremony. One for the church service and the other for the reception. Ellens Bridal provides a stylist when changing gowns.

During the fitting process, Mrs Mwaniki notes that they advise a bride to come with her mother and a sister but not friends or bride’s maids.

“Your mum cannot go wrong, your sister will tell you the truth. But friends most of the time are jealous of the bride and might bring very negative energy. We allow not more than three companions when the bride comes for fitting so as to avoid confusions,” she says.

Aside from giving professional advice based on the bride’s character and body shape, Ellens Bridal team also offers emotional support.

A bride wearing an Ellens Bridal gown during her wedding

“Brides are very emotional. I think the whole wedding arrangement takes them by a storm and they easily break down. We set up and offer them honest advice and remind them that it is their day, their ceremony, so they should do or pick what they want for their wedding,” notes Mrs Mwaniki.

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“At the end of it all, when we see a bride looking perfect and happy during her day, we feel satisfied with our work and they become part of the Ellens Bridal family,” she adds.

Further, in the first anniversary of the marriage, Ellens Bridal calls the brides to wish them luck on their day and sends them gifts. The beautiful experience brides have with Ellen’s brand has earned fans through word of mouth.

A bride posing for a photo shoot in an Ellens Bridal gown.

The wedding industry in Kenya has few players. This aspect has knit them together in the sense that they do not shy from referring clients to each other. The high cost of starting and running a wedding company has locked out players. While wedding stalls are many, they do not offer extensive services or meet the needs of a bride.

“If a bride requires certain services that my shop does not provide, for example dressing the bride’s maids, I will refer them to a player whom I know provides such and vice versa,” she says.

Ellen’s Bridal has diversified its services to fit the plus size brides who are mostly shunned by bridal wear stalls.

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“Beyond size 16, people think that the bride should just wear anything. But we have taken time to create designs for them that are flattering and beautiful,” says Mrs Mwaniki.

“Our plus size bridal wear have done really well because most of the brides do not get what they want in a wedding gown. We really aim at making the brides feel special no matter the body size,” she adds.

Passion, knowledge, focus and a listening ear are the necessary skills one has to posses to run a successful wedding company. Most brides know what they want in their gowns in terms of fabric, fashion and accessories thus it is very crucial to have a vast knowledge on bridal wear.

Ellen’s Bridal gives brides a room to alter their wedding dresses to fit what they want. “I remember a bride who for eight weeks altered her gown and it was still very beautiful. Our in-house tailor really understands our brides,” says Mrs Mwaniki.

A bride in Ellens Bridal gown

Wedding gowns are sacred items for brides after the wedding ceremony. Some keep it hoping their children or grand children will wear them during their wedding ceremonies. This factor makes Ellen’s Bridal design gowns that are timeless.

{ See Also: Wedding drama as woman storms church }

“Fashion changes all the time and what is a fashionable gown this year will not be trending the next year. We strive to ensure that the gown are not just fashionable but they can beat time; that is they are very unique. You will not find such designs anywhere,” says Mrs Mwaniki.

Ellen’s Bridal takes pride in designing a gown that could be shade into four different looks.

“It is just one gown but the bride wanted it to have different looks. One for the church service, the reception, the photo shoot and the after party. People kept asking why the bride changes her dress, but they didn’t know it was the same gown. That was master piece and we give the bride what she wants,” she says.

The brand can rent their consultant and stylists to the bride if she needs them during her wedding ceremony. The team offers a wide range of services from changing their gowns, hair styles, accessories and make up.

Mrs Mwaniki, who is slowly letting go of the bridal shop, has laid a strong foundation for her daughter Kendi, who is the brand manager and very passionate on the industry.

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It’s never all bliss. There are incidences where a bride is forced to return a gown due to either a failed marriage that led to divorce or the wedding failing to happen.

“These things happen and we sit down with the bride and listen them out. As I said, brides are very emotional and on the edge so we listen to them and try to reason out on the way forward concerning the gown. We are empathetic and we are still a business that has to operate. We don’t fail to reach an amicable agreement,” says Mrs Mwaniki.

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Brenda Gamonde is reporter with Business Today. Email: [email protected]

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