Sharon Gregory began her bridal business in 1996 and has built an unblemished reputation as a bridal gown and accessory expert. As a qualified fashion designer, she knows exactly what each bride needs from a gown on the big day. We sat down with Sharon and got the know the lady behind the expertise.
What attracted you to the industry?
I didn’t always specialise in bridal. I started out as a general fashion designer, dipping my toes into all aspects. I have done everything from bikinis to jockeys’ silks, finally deciding on bridal as my specialist preference.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started in a studio under the Mallow College of Design and Tailoring, with the help of Mary Cashman (MCDT), with very basic means and a small loan given to me by my grandmother, building customers, contacts and building the business from year to year. At the start no member of my family was safe from having a job to do! My mother, to this day, still works with me. Every fashion show and gala I could go to, I went, often taking me all over the country. I was on the road every second night.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the excitement and happiness you can give to your customers when they are heading out the door with the most important dress they will ever wear and you were part of that special moment! The friendships built up over the months or year, seeing the feedback later with stunning photos and lovely notes really makes my day.
What’s the most difficult part of what you do?
Like in every business, its making sure that every person coming in the door leaves with a smile on their face, that you have done everything possible to make their whole experience the best that it can be. Dealing with the public can be very challenging at times but thankfully I have been very lucky with my brides and customers! Now with online buying, it is becoming very challenging to compete. You just hope that people realises you get what you pay for!
What’s the best piece of style advice you’ve ever received?
Look on the positives not the negatives. Enhance your best features!
What’s the best piece of style advice you can pass on?
Be yourself. Wear what suits you not what is the latest trend. Work with the body shape you have, not what your told you should look like.
Style is how you carry yourself.
Who is your style icon and why?
I love the oldies. I don’t have just one in particular: Grace Kelly, Rita Hayward, Lauren Bacall. They just oozed style and glamour. If I was to pick a modern day icon, maybe Michelle Williams, for her Hollywood style and glamour too.
For ease and assessable style, I am loving Holly Willoughby at the moment!
Who is your business icon and why?
Walt Disney! Fired by his employer for not being creative enough? The creator of so many iconic characters to this day? Not everyone will see what you see.
What plans do you have for your business over the next 12 months?
I have acquired two new suppliers – one for bridal and one for accessories. I am going back to basics and delving back into the design and making. I had pulled back a little over the last couple of years and had forgotten just how much I love it!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully still in business! I would love to do my own collection. I have been talking about it for a long time but now my kids are getting to the age where I’m not as in-demand. It is definitely something I will be looking into.
How do you stay motivated?
Honestly? Holidays! I work to live. For me it’s not about money, it’s about doing what I love to do and knowing that at the end of it I can take off and explore.
What advice would you give young people who want to break into the industry?
It’s tough to keep things afloat these days.
You have to be a grafter. Nothing is handed to you.
Be willing to try everything and work your way up. When we were in college, we were told to take any position or work experience, even if it was just sweeping a floor for two weeks. It’s amazing what you can learn by just being there and keeping your ears open. You never know what it will lead to.
Sharon Gregory Design Studio
2 Bridge Street, Mallow, Cork