Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Hollie Briant, founder of You&IBridal, an exclusive boutique with emerging and established designers to make every bride feel special on her big day. With a passion for bridal gowns, Briant followed her heart to build. an unforgettable experience for each bride-to-be who walks through the boutique’s door.
Emirates Woman sat down with the brand’s founder to learn about her career path and how she’s converted her passion into a full-time business.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Textiles and Art, I have a very creative brain and a very hands-on personality. I love the thought of having a blank canvas and I create something from nothing and unique. Anything to do with numbers and big heavy science textbooks was always last on my priority. Give me a needle, thread, paint and canvas any day.
What was your first job?
Working as a Saturday girl in a bridal boutique steaming and rehanging dresses. The same thing I am doing 20 years later. I clearly love all things wedding gowns. On my first day, I learned the hard way how to steam a wedding dress correctly and pin a bride into a gown. I burnt my hand and pricked my finger so badly, blood transferred onto the sample gown. The next Saturday, the girls I worked with brought me a pair of oven gloves and Disney princess plasters as a little joke. As my father always told me, if you don’t laugh you will cry.
What brought you to Dubai?
After finishing my textile degree in the UK, a good friend of mine and her partner moved to Dubai and he sent me a photo of her standing on the Pier of the 360-degree restaurant in Jumeirah Beach Hotel. I was like WOW, I must come to Dubai. Four days after graduating and throwing my graduation cap in the air, my bags were packed and I had a one-way ticket to Dubai. Nearly nine years have passed and it feels like only yesterday I stepped off the plane. I have never looked back and am incredibly grateful for the opportunities Dubai has given me.
What inspired you to enter the bridal space and launch You&I Bridal?
Living in Dubai for eight years, I found myself in several conversations with brides discussing about how they are worried about finding their dream wedding gown with the lack of options for brides looking for more contemporary styles of gowns. I worked within the bridal industry in the UK and then the beauty industry in Dubai where I worked in the Design field. I was itching to start my company, wanting to work with women, make them feel amazing and build a bridal boutique where women can feel at home, relaxed, confident, and remember the day they found their dress. Using my bridal experience, graduating with a BA Hons Degree in textile design and working with so many inspiring, boss women in the beauty industry. I set off and travelled the world to find Bridal designers which are not yet in Dubai, and I know Dubai bridals would love, hence You&I Bridal was born. My dream was to create a bridal boutique where women can feel at home, beautiful and confident while searching for the perfect wedding gown. I wanted my boutique to be a place that builds an unforgettable experience with each bride-to-be who walks through our door.
Talk us through the inspiration of your pieces.
I wanted to bring around eight to nine designers to Dubai that are not available to the Dubai brides, all designers to You&I Bridal are exclusive to You&I Bridal. For two years I researched many different designers and traveled to many countries to see them. Each designer has its own unique look and feel, and I wanted to stand out and be noticed when they are all in one boutique. Mikaella bridal gowns are simple, elegant and focused on the women’s silhouette. Miss Chloé is for modern romantic brides. Jenny Yoo is for the modern city bride that loves the chic and minimalist look. I have a variety of sample sizes, from 8-14, normally bridal gown stores have a set size 12 sample. Our order lead times vary for each design but we have the option for brides who are in a rush to have a gown eight weeks I have picked the samples for the silhouettes of the gowns that will suit certain body shapes. Having options of syles is key in bridal as every woman is different. After years of working on Bridal, the show normally says this dress is me. That’s when you know it is the one for her.
As crazy as it sounds, I set myself three very simple rules when I was searching for my designers.
- If I would not wear the gown and the women I know would not wear the gown then it can’t be a You&I Bridal Gown.
- Can I walk and most importantly dance in the gown? A bride will be in the gown for many hours on the day, from the ceremony, photos, greeting guests, dinner and the reception. I want women to feel very comfortable and enjoy the feeling of being in their gowns. It is the most important dress they will wear.
- Options of fabrics, silhouettes, cuts and price points. I also understand that the cost of living in Dubai has gone up, and many brides are saving for a dream holiday or a deposit on a home while also planning their wedding. That’s why I offer a range of price points for my gowns so that every bride can find something that fits her budget. There’s more to You&I Bridal than bridal gowns.
What are the key elements of your role?
It’s to make a bride feel special, as I never want her to forget the feeling of visiting You&I Bridal and finding her dress gown. At You&I Bridal, we believe that every bride should feel like the most beautiful and confident version of themselves on their wedding day,” “That’s why we offer a personalized shopping experience for each of our brides. We will work with you to find the perfect gown and accessories to make your wedding day dreams a reality. You’re unique, modern, chic, and sleek – dress like it!” The name ‘You&I’ signifies it will only be ‘you and I’ when you come in to find your dream gown. From start to finish, you will have one point of contact to guide and support you. I simplify a very complicated and unknown industry that women only enter as soon as they get engaged. Anything before that they would have no interest in lead times, designer, fabrics, silhouettes, taking measurements, alterations, etc.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I am a part of the 5am club which has changed my life and the amount I can get done in a day. I used to be a night owl, but now I am an early bird. Coffee is my morning petrol, Its very bad but I can’t function without it. I had my teeth whitened for my friend’s wedding last year and I could not drink it for three days, let’s just say I turned into a sloth. Check all platforms Instagram, Facebook, and email, for any inquiries, and messages from brides. I set myself a five-hour response window. Customer service is key for any business and I know people hate waiting for a response. No bride should have to wait. I have major OCD so every morning I tidy and prepare for a bridal boutique appointment. I like it when all the gowns are evenly spaced, the cushions are fluffed and I even polish the china.
Meeting incredible women/ brides from all walks of life, diversities, ages, and nationalities. Having a private bridal appointment is a very personal experience and not a rushed process. I sit with the brides and talk to them about their weddings and also get to know them. The gown must represent their personality. I usually have an evening call with my designers for brides or bridal and bridesmaid appointments for late-working brides that need to find a gown out of office hours. Once this is done, I always have an hour of time out with my partner to catch up and unwind.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Don’t give up! Being an entrepreneur is like carrying a boulder up a very steep hill (sometimes feels like a mountain) and you can’t drop the boulder. Just remember the boulder are you growing and making your dream happen! Trust the process, everything happens for a reason – a path is never straight, you just have to follow it. Help others, a candle will never go out if you light another candle. The world is a big enough place for everyone to be successful and have their own dream.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Follow your gut instinct, as women we all have one and it is so powerful when you start listening to it. I have made so many great discussions that have benefited and impacted my career and business. Don’t listen to anyone else. Listen to your ladies’ gut!
And what is the worst?
Just jump straight into it. I have been told this advice a lot, especially in business. Unless you have an endless amount of money and time for making mistakes. Some things you can not just jump into and these can be a good thing. I have made a lot of mistakes by rushing into decisions such as by signing the first work contract, etc. But if I just waited and thought about, researched, asked for advice, and write down the pros and cons then my reply or even what I agreed to would have been different. When you rush, you can make mistakes and mistakes can have a huge impact on your career or business.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
I am severely dyslexic, I was told when I was a child that I would need to go to a special school to help me read and write. I was mortified and scared of this thought, I still remember the wave of sickness I had in my stomach when I was told this and the thought of having to tell my friends that I won’t be going to the same school as them and why! Instead of sitting on a pitty step, blaming others, and making excuses, I studied and studied to improve my learning. I got accepted into a primary school where all my friends were going. I also made it to university when I graduated with a 1st class BA Honours degree in Textile design. This caught me, if I don’t like something in my life only I can change it or make it better. I had many people laugh and kick me down on grammar, reading and spelling but this is a part of me and made me so much stronger with how hard I have had to work for something that does not come naturally to me. People ask me why I started my business, I say freedom. People always think I am referring to time or money. I have the freedom to speak openly about being dyslexic. I always was ashamed or tried my best to hide it but now, I have learned to embrace it. Being dyslexic you have to think on your feet, find solutions and overcome many challenges – This is everything you need to have your own business and I have put it into mine.
I did not know but most Entrepreneurs are dyslexic, such as Steve Jobs, Barbara Corcoran, Richard Branson, Jamie Olive, Tommy Hilfiger, Steven Spielberg, and even Walt Disney! Who does not love Walt Disney? By all means, I am not referring to myself as Steve Jobs or Tommy Hilfiger but I do find them very inspirational and I do think we need some more women on this list – Come on ladies!
What are the future plans for your brand?
You heard it here first, I want to launch an e-commerce site where you can purchase You&I Bridal accessories. This is something I am busy working on now – Watch this space! My brides have a million things on their to-do list, always on their phones looking for wedding inspiration so I want the site to be vo for them to be adding an additional element to their wedding look. I want to be the most highly recommended bridal boutique in Dubai, I believe that you can spend as much money and time as you want on Marketing but the word of mouth for your business is everything. This will only happen by putting brides first and keeping consistency.
For more information visit youandibridal.ae
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