Leap Of Faith – Vow Bridal Gallery

Lisa Smith and Dave Gallagher, the dynamic duo behind the new Vow Bridal Gallery talk to Kate McAuley about following their passions, creating something beautiful from scratch, and how things have developed during their first year of business

It’s always  impressive when you hear stories about people who have changed their life completely to both follow and realise a dream. It goes without saying that it takes a lot more than just money to make such a move – you have to be brave, passionate, hardworking, enthusiastic and, above all else, you must be able to ignore all your self doubts and any other naysayers that will try to stop you in your tracks.

This is no easy feat, but Peterborough native Lisa Smith and Yorkshire-born, locally-based (for twelve years now) Dave Gallagher have managed to pull it off with aplomb. In September 2011, they opened Vow – a bridal boutique with a difference.

It’s been tough, but exciting. Harder getting our name out there than maybe we had anticipated, but we thrive on challenges and finding new ways of doing things, and we’re really please with how our first year has gone. We’re very proud of our brand and glad we put so much time and effort into it, along with accepting excellent professional advice from the outset

says Lisa.

The pair met while working for a government agency. At first the shift seems slightly incongruous, but it all becomes clearer as they begin to explain the process that brought the Vow to fruition.

“I wanted to do something more creative,” Lisa tells me in what soon becomes her typically enthusiastic and friendly manner. Lisa originally studied performing arts before obtaining a management position within the public sector, but the work was no longer fulfilling, and Dave – an environmental scientist by trade – felt the same way. “I’d been working in a structured, scientific organisation for too long. I’d wanted to do something different for a while. We started by buying property in Orlando [Florida], but soon we wanted something more.”

But that still begs the question: with so many other options available, why choose to open a bridal boutique?

We love the elegance and extremes you go to in bridal. We wanted something that would encompass a total look, and bridal gives you the whole experience. We also were excited about designing the interior

And upon visiting the boutique it becomes obvious that no expense has been spared. The two-floored space, located in the historic Haycock Hotel in the village of Wansford, has obviously been fitted out with much care and attention. “We got it as an empty shell,” Dave adds. “It was supposed to be a music centre. So, we had to completely start again.”

Starting from scratch obviously suited Dave and Lisa. The space is so well-designed, with an area for the male members of the bridal party downstairs, which is decked out in more masculine colours, comfy chairs and a swish coffee machine to keep the groom and his mates happy.

The space is really cool for blokes. We wanted to make the experience of choosing a suit enjoyable rather than a chore. We opted for a bachelor pad look, decorating in chrome and steel

says Dave.

Upstairs is the women’s domain. Polished hardwood floors stretch the length of the space, the walls are painted white and the layout is very similar to an art gallery. Nothing is crowded; the dresses hang freely, while a number are suspended in frames. It is also beautifully decorated with chests of drawers standing on carved feet and vases of flowers that call to mind childhood fairy tales without lapsing into the land of the overly kitsch – think 18th century chateau rather than Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
The Vow Bridal gallery is a place that you will most certainly want to spend time in.

We want customers to have the full experience and enjoy our hospitality. It’s not about coming in and simply finding a dress, we want to understand the type of wedding our clients want and work with them to fulfil their wishes. A wedding day is special, and that feeling should be with our clients from the moment they come in and see us

Lisa explains.

While the menswear collection is classic and available in a range of sizes – originally only to hire, but now also for purchase, and made to order – the gowns have been sourced from three of Britain’s more contemporary bridal designers – Natalie Gladman of Madeline Isaac- James, Sanyukta Shrestha and Annabel Jenkins.

I wanted to stock gowns that were just that little bit different. And I’ve been true to this aim

Lisa says by way of explanation.

That’s not, of course, to say that she’s gone out on a wacky sartorial limb. Instead, what you’ll find at Vow is a range of alluring, unique gowns that are thoroughly modern. Each of the designers offers something slightly different in an effort to match varied tastes.

We’ve got slinky, glitzy and quirky gowns. But we also stock fairy tale traditional as well. We’re design-led, not brand led, although our designers themselves are still industry leaders and award winners in their own right

The Madeline Issac-James label was chosen for its myriad styles, while Bridal Innovation 2011 winner Shrestha is predominantly guided by ethical and environmental considerations when designing her delicately bohemian creations. Annabel Jenkins, meanwhile, produces gowns of a more quirky design.

“We’ve built up a relationship with these designers,” says Lisa. Those relationships are developing all the time. “We have recently been able to extend our range of bridal gowns with the renowned designer Terry Fox, and have been accepted as a stockist of world famous designer Jenny Packham’s bridal accessories. We’ve also added some great bridal shoes to complement our gowns.”

The relationship with customers seems to have been no less successful.

We’re extremely proud of what brides and grooms, and their families, have said about our customer service and the quality of our goods – that ‘it feels more like making friends than a business arrangement’ – something they don’t necessarily get on the high street with major chains. And after all, that’s what it was all about for us!

And the future? “We used our 2013 Collection Launch to establish greater links with others in the industry such as wedding venues, hair and makeup artists, florists, photographers and so on,” says Lisa. “Looking ahead to 2013, we are experiencing much higher footfall already as a result of positive word
of mouth so we hope our reputation continues to grow to give us an even better second year in business!”

Vow Bridal Gallery
The Haycock Hotel
London Road
PE8 6JA.

01780 781 101

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