Would You Wear Your Wedding Dress Again… With Jeans? This Sydney Designer Wants You To
MANY PEOPLE DREAM ABOUT THEIR WEDDING DRESS FOR YEARS IN ADVANCE. BUT AFTER ALL THAT CAREFUL PLANNING, NOT TO MENTION THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS SPENT, THAT DRESS IS USUALLY ONLY WORN ONCE. NOT SO FOR LILIA CASS. SHE SET OUT TO MAKE A LINE OF BRIDAL ATTIRE THAT’S ELEGANT ENOUGH TO BE WORN FOR A WEDDING, BUT ADAPTABLE ENOUGH TO BE DRESSED DOWN WITH A PAIR OF JEANS. SHE FILLS US IN ON THE DETAILS.
Image via Lilia Cass
WARDROBE CRISIS: Hi Lilia! Many might think sustainable wedding attire an oxymoron. After all, this is an industry where the accepted dream is to buy the fanciest dress you’ve ever owned, then wear it ONCE…How did you start out and why are you rocking this particular boat?
LILIA CASS: “My eye-opener to sustainability was six years ago when I made the shift from designing, pattern-cutting by hand, sampling and producing small runs of boutique fashion in New Zealand to buying fashion on bulk scale in Australia.
“My first ‘fashion design’ role in Sydney was for a large fast fashion retailer where it was my job to shop for on-trend garments (“samples”) then send them to factories in China with a few hand written notes on explaining the tweaks required to copy with a few changes. I lasted three months then I moved to a role buying homewares, and my fashion design degree was no longer required.”
WARDROBE CRISIS: Wow, was it all bad?
“Buying on such a large scale opened my eyes to the scale of waste. But I’d also like to share some of the very important steps that we must follow (and that are starting to be followed by some of the big companies) to achieve a more sustainable retail world.
“[In that role] I created genuine relationships with off-shore factories. I focused on accreditation, sustainable forestry, packaging, and rules around pollution and waste. Sometimes the Chinese government will close an entire factory with no warning, halting production to clear the air because the pollution is getting so bad. It’s great to see how far the industry has come in the right direction in just five short years since I have been in the industry. Of course, there is still so much to do - not least re-educating consumers not to buy ‘throwaway’ items and help reduce the demand to create so much.”
Image via Lilia Cass
WARDROBE CRISIS: Is the bridal industry finally ready to take circularity seriously? LiLIA CASS: “Minds are shifting around buying clothing for only one day. I would never spend $600 on a cashmere sweater to wear once. There are financial, keepsake, and sustainability gains to be made in choosing wedding pieces that can be restyled and worn again.”
WARDROBE CRISIS: Tell us about your shop. How do you make ceremonial clothes flexible to re-wear for other occasions? LiLIA CASS: “The name is intentionally Ceremonial rather than Bridal. I apply the same concept to a bride’s outfit that I would a bridesmaid or guest at the wedding. The most important question I ask myself when designing these pieces is: How can this be dressed up to have that ‘wow’ bride factor but also styled again to wear out for lunch"? Most garments can be worn several different ways, or teamed up with other bridal pieces to look special on the big day, then styled a different way with more casual clothing for a relaxed look. For example, the ties on our blouses are long enough to create an exaggerated bow with tails touching the floor to mimic a veil but they are also the ideal length to be wrapped twice around the waist to shorten the bow for a relaxed look worn with denim. I hope that by marketing more of these pieces, people will get more creative and re-styling will become a standard practice.”
Image via Lilia Cass
WARDROBE CRISIS: Weddings are intensely emotional. Do you have a favourite wedding outfit story?
LILIA CASS: “I fall in love with every single bride’s story and journey, so it’s hard to pick one. Often when brides come in and tell me about the sort of outfit and wedding they want I feel like I’m talking to my engaged self pre-wedding!
“My favourite dynamic is the opinions I often see between mother and daughter in fittings, with mums wanting to go more traditional, and daughters that this is the trend now. I love hearing my brand mission explained by a like-minded bride.”
WARDROBE CRISIS: Where do you want to be in 5 years?
LILIA CASS: “I hope to have our make-to-order business model running smoothly on a larger scale. I hope for an easier order process to ensure we aren’t cutting wastage and customers can get the right fit. My biggest goals are purchasing materials directly to have more transparency in audits, ethics and waste management so that what we create has the smallest possible footprint. I hope to have in-house production and the best quality control management and care for the staff. In terms of the design side, my goal is to offer a wider size range for more inclusivity in our core collections.”
Interview with Claire Kalikman.