This week we continue to celebrate the past 25 years of Richard Designs by looking at how the company transformed from local bridal florists to a national bridal wear accessories supplier. I caught up with founder and Managing Director Elaine Dicks to find out more.
Why did you change the focus of the business?
Brides used to bring veils in to attach to floral headdresses, which were then delivered on the wedding day to the bride’s house with the wedding flowers. We started getting lots of requests for adjustments to veils we were given. Brides couldn’t get veils they wanted because manufacturers did not generally offer shops a made-to-order service; that is when we realised there was a gap in the market.
How did you go about changing the focus of the business?
After making a few samples and showing them to shops, there was an overwhelming response; being able to offer different colours, sizes and designs made the Richard Designs veil label very popular. Because our focus was on modern designs and the service was good, demand grew and grew. Our first BBEH was at this time, in March 1991, we’ve only missed two since then – so that makes 37 so far I think! Once we had established the veil side of the business we started to get a lot of requests for silk hats, which veils were attached to in the early to mid 1990s. We spent a lot of time researching and developing unique styles and materials before launching our own range of hats.
What was your inspiration?
To be able to fulfil the need for made-to-order items which brides wanted but they couldn’t get. To make the perfect wedding accessories; weddings are so important to people and such happy occasions, so contributing in our own way to that is really wonderful.
Was there a defining moment when you knew that you had created something unique and special?
When we first made the hats, we went to Harrogate, September 1992 I think it was. We took 5 riding hats, they were totally different from what else was on offer at the show and they sold so well that when we returned home we had to immediately expand and take on our first temporary premises. It really was a cottage industry at that time – and we’ve got the picture of our first premises to prove it!
This is the cottage we rented on a temporary basis and it started things really moving for us, we stayed for just a year as we outgrew the tiny space very quickly. That’s when we first hired staff, they were Amanda Gillett, Sandra Lester and Christine Stimpson and they still work with us today.
What is your abiding memory of the 1990s for Richard Designs?
Style-wise it was big fluffy dresses, puffy sleeves and 3 tier, heavily embroidered veils. Hats were great and we pressed 100 – 150 a week in the mid 1990s. When they started to go out of fashion, that’s when tiaras started to come in. They were all gold – no one wanted silver, not like today. Gold with clear or AB crystals, white or ivory pearls was what people wanted.
On the business side it was just a phenomenal time of growth, in 1995 we moved to Lancaster Way Business Park and that was a big moment for us. To give you an idea, although we’ve expanded our floorspace by around 40%, we’re still in the same place. We were like peas rattling round in a pod for the first couple of years!
Thank you for your time Elaine.
With thanks to Stevies Gowns for the use of pictures.