A Conversation With Megan Ziems, Founder and Creative Director of Grace Loves Lace

Megan Ziems has completely reimagined what shopping for a wedding dress looks like. The Grace Loves Lace brand and experience is now beloved by brides worldwide. Ten years into her journey, she’s just getting started.

Over the last ten years, Megan Ziems, Founder and Creative Director of Grace Loves Lace has turned the bridal industry on its head. Now touted as the world leader in modern bridal, the brand has revolutionized how bridal gowns are sold and speaks to an entirely new generation of digital-first brides. 

When launching GLL in 2010, Megan was inspired by her own journey to reimagine what shopping for a wedding dress looked like, and felt like. She wanted to liberate women from the old traditions, styles and expectations that she felt stifled by when searching for her wedding gown. The GLL team went on to build an innovative e-commerce model that would make quality, sustainable bridal wear accessible, and would make the bridal shopping experience feel unique to each customer. 

With every individual showroom designed to feel like an extension of Megan’s own home, and every new dress design directly inspired by customer style suggestions, GLL has threaded authenticity throughout the entire shopping experience.

The result? Grace Loves Lace is now one the most loved bridal brands around the world, with the most pinned wedding dress of all time. And it continues to rise to success. One of the first bridal brands to launch fully-virtual styling appointments nearly 10 years ago, the D2C brand saw 100% growth in sales of its bohemian-inspired gowns amidst the pandemic. 

We caught up with Megan to learn more about the story behind Grace Loves Lace, and her thoughts on the future of the bridal shopping experience. 

Hi Megan, tell us a little about what inspired you to launch Grace Loves Lace. 

I started Grace Loves Lace when I was searching for my own wedding gown and found that the industry was disillusioned with the structured, traditional wedding “uniform” that dominated the market.

I saw an opportunity for unique, luxurious and accessible wedding dresses that were effortlessly stylish and comfortable to wear. So, I set out to revolutionise how gowns were designed and sold, liberating women from the traditional bridal shopping experience through an innovative e-commerce model. Since then, we’ve expanded our network of showrooms globally, but our design principles remain the same. 

Our gowns are still ethically made in Australia in our own atelier, and we employ a versatile and innovative approach to fabrics and patterns, including the use of luxurious stretch fabrics for an easy and effortless fit. We also exclusively sell through our own channels so we can provide the tailored bridal experience our customers have come to expect and deserve. 

I set out to revolutionise how gowns were designed and sold, liberating women from the traditional bridal shopping experience.”

Who are these customers, and how do you make sure your styles are designed for them?

The GRACE bride is a woman of effortless style, substance and passion. She is sophisticated, captivating, authentic and knows exactly what inspires and motivates her. She is certainly not traditional – the passion and soul we infuse in everything we do is very much inspired by our customer. With an in-house production team, we can respond to her demands – we listen, observe and adapt with feedback which has been a crucial part of our design process. 

From the beginning, our signature aesthetic has been luxury you can dance in. We are known for the way we layer and mix fabrics and trims in unique combinations and silhouettes that are comfortable and allow you to move. Our gowns cater to the relaxed, laid-back bride as they are handmade with lightweight fabrics with no restrictive elements like zips, boning or heavy materials.  

It seems like social media played a big role in the brand’s initial success. Can you tell us a little more about that? 

When I was creating Grace Loves Lace, social media – particularly Instagram – was beginning to gain traction. Being a D2C e-commerce brand, it was clear that there was an opportunity to have a two-way conversation with our audience and inspire them through curated, authentic content. Today, we have an incredible cult following of over 775K, with our community growing daily. 

Overall, what I feel really sets us apart to this day, is asking for and responding to customer feedback. Whether it be asking our community what gown style they’d like to see next, or crowdsourcing interest for our next showroom location, we truly value the input from our community across the globe.

How do you approach creating experiences for this global community?

We pride ourselves on our unique service method and it’s our mission to ensure each bride has the experience of a lifetime when in a GRACE space. Each of our showrooms is uniquely designed to feel like an extension of my home, where guests are made to feel comfortable, at ease and relaxed during their appointment.  

We created the appointment experience by asking ourselves what we would really want from an appointment if we were the bride. We’d want to take photos, try on multiple gowns, sip bubbles and not pay for an appointment. So that’s what we offer, and it sets us apart from our competitors.

What is the most important aspect of this experience?

For us, it’s always been about making every brides experience a destination experience and a day to remember. The complimentary, one-on-one appointment allows our brides to settle into the space and feel comfortable trying on an array of gowns, in a no pressure sales environment. 

Our friendly and down to earth stylists understand how stressful the wedding dress shopping experience can be, which is why they have been exceptionally trained to help with all styling needs. At the end of the day, it’s about ensuring our brides are offered a best-in-class service experience from start to finish and that they walk away feeling inspired, confident and empowered.

For us, it’s always been about making every brides experience a destination experience.”

How was Grace Loves Lace impacted by COVID? What challenges, or opportunities did you encounter, and how did you adapt to them?

During COVID, we received hundreds of enquiries from desperate brides-to-be whose wedding dresses were being held in offshore factories throughout Asia. Being Australian-made, we were fortunate that we were able to continue production during the global pandemic, as each gown is crafted in our sunlit studio using traditional and artisanal methods.  We design,  pattern  make,  cut, hand  sew,  quality  control,  gift  wrap  and  deliver to  brides globally. Every one of these processes takes place out of our headquarters and production studio in Burleigh Heads, Australia, which means we control every step in the supply chain and were able to deliver to over 80 countries worldwide during the pandemic.

Being a digital-first business, we were able to lean on our virtual appointment services – an offering that’s been around since the brand’s ideation almost 10 years ago – to further amplify the customer experience during COVID. Our passionate and skillful team of stylists offer a personalized consultation to support brides-to-be in selecting and styling their wedding outfits, all from the comfort of their own homes. Luckily for us, the gown was still seen as an essential item for COVID weddings and as such, we saw a 100% sales increase via our online channel YOY.

Grace Loves Lace is a highly digital brand, what role do your boutiques play? 

When I started GRACE, I offered a small collection of intricate, boho-inspired gowns online only, which no bridal brands were doing at the time. We had no plans to offer physical boutiques, however, our bricks-and-mortar expansion was driven by overwhelming customer demand. 

Whilst a lot of sales are still driven from our e-commerce site, we are thrilled we can now offer our award-winning service experience to more women than ever before. We’re now focused on expanding our physical presence globally, giving brides the chance to try on their dream gown before investing. We’re set to open a new showroom in Boston next month and have a further three new locations in the pipeline for 2021. 

We’ve been so inspired by your latest collection, Amitié. What motivated you to launch it, and how does it fit into the future-vision of Grace Loves Lace? 

Amitié – meaning ‘friendship’ in French – was created to celebrate women and the beauty of kinship. There are six fuss-free and effortless styles in this range, all made with our new eco satin. This eco satin is made out of 97% recycled materials. For every metre of fabric, there are 7.6 recycled plastic bottles. 

We wanted to create slip dresses that are timeless in their simplicity but exciting in their choices — they have a sophisticated allure about them, all the while also supporting Australian dressmaking and sustainable fabric sourcing. I am passionate about championing sustainable practices, ethical manufacturing and authentic design, which is why I wanted to create this collection for our customers. I am committed to continue these practices as the business grows. 

You have had such a successful journey, and have clearly played a role in shaping the experience for today’s brides. What do you think the future has in store for bridal wear? What’s next? 

Since the pandemic, I think – and hope – we’ll see more consumers doing their due diligence and ensuring their wedding dress purchase aligns with their values. Brides should be asking themselves questions like; ‘Who do I want making my wedding dress?  What is their age,  skill  level and wage rate?  What are their workplace conditions like?  What’s the long-term impact of mass production?’ 

Each bride has this decision to make, as we did. We have made the decision to remain Australian made, and we have grown our fully-integrated manufacturing team as the company has evolved. I believe the future of bridal shopping is in the customers hands and I am confident that brides will want to align with brands who champion sustainable and ethical manufacturing and continue to deliver affordable well made luxury.