Brides Do Good is not your average independent retailer.
You might not see it establishing a chain on high streets around the UK anytime soon, but its humble ecommerce platform is certainly making a difference in the world.
Founded by Chantal Khoueiry, Brides Do Good is a social enterprise and retail hybrid that invites women to sell their pre-loved designer wedding gowns. They receive a third of the sale back, while the remaining two-thirds is split between the operations of Brides Do Good and donations for charities that work to end child marriage.
“The idea for the social enterprise Brides do Good came me eight years ago,” Chantal told Retail Gazette.
“I was having dinner with friends and learned that one of them had spent £8000 on a wedding dress which was now in a box in her attic, another friend stated that she would love to have a designer dress but as she has just started on the career ladder, she simply couldn‘t afford it.”
She said “inspiration struck” that moment, with the realisation there would be hundreds of once-loved dresses relegated to dusty attics.
“That night, all I could think about was: ‘why shouldn’t these dresses be given a new chapter?‘.” Chantal recalled.
“How many women out there have dreamt of a designer wedding dress they could not afford? How many young girls cannot even get to an age where they can dream of their wedding day as they are forced into marriage at a young age?
“It was a no-brainer.”
“How many women out there have dreamt of a designer wedding dress they could not afford? How many young girls cannot even get to an age where they can dream of their wedding day as they are forced into marriage at a young age?”
Born and raised in Kuwait to a Lebanese father and Ethiopian-Italian mother, Chantal lived in Beirut and studied international law at the world-famous Sorbonne University in Paris.
At uni, she did some work with UNESCO before switching to retail with a stint at Polo Ralph Lauren in 1998 – a job that provided her the opportunity to move to London In 2000.
In 2001 she started working for Value Retail, initially as group HR director and working her way up to her current role of chief culture officer.
Since moving to the UK, Chantal made several personal trips to India and numerous parts of Africa for volunteer work with various charities. It was during those travels that she was first exposed to child marriage, which cemented her desire to use her business skills to make a positive contribution to the world.
“I had never imagined that the bridal sector would be somewhere I‘d find myself setting up a business with a charitable end-goal,” she said.
“But with Brides do Good, I am able to combine humanitarianism with my commercial skills.”
Brides Do Good was only launched in October last year, and so far Chantal has been humbled by the generosity of women donating their dresses.
The business also provides bridal designers and retailers a solution to move excess inventory, with a portion of the sale donated to Plan International and Too Young to Wed.
“It is amazing to see how many designers and retailers have joined the Brides do Good movement by donating sample wedding dresses to support the cause of ending child marriage by 2030, which is one of the UN sustainable goals,” Chantal said.
“Ultimately, it is up to us all to protect our children and future generations. If there is no reduction in child marriage, the global number of child brides will reach 1.2 billion girls by 2050, with devastating consequences for girls, their families and their countries.
“Ending child marriage is a global commitment.”
“It is amazing to see how many designers and retailers have joined the Brides do Good movement by donating sample wedding dresses to support the cause of ending child marriage by 2030, which is one of the UN sustainable goals.”
Currently, three full time employees work at Brides Do Good, and Chantal‘s role as founder and chief executive means she tends to be very hands on – from driving the pipeline growth to working the shop floor. She also still works for Value Retail, dividing her time and energy between her two jobs.
“There are many entrepreneurs in the world who successfully manage multiple businesses and roles, when you are passionate about things, you find the time,” Chantal told the Retail Gazette.
“The [Brides Do Good] team manages the daily operations and escalates anything requiring my immediate attention, otherwise it‘s mainly out of hours and weekends, although I don’t look at this in such a way as I tend to work out of hours and at weekends in my role at Value Retail as well.
“There is an understanding that whatever I do for Brides do Good, it will not impact on the deliverables of my role.”
Chantal said one of the key objectives in Brides Do Good‘s first year include being recognised within the industry as the “go-to” sample retailer for aspirational wedding dress designers while enhancing advocacy for the end goal.
“I hope that Brides Do Good will be recognised as setting an example of what can be done, even by small independent retailers to impact positive change for future generations,” she said.