Photo Credit: Chellise Michael
an interview with designer and founder, rebecca schoneveld
Q: where did your love of fashion come from?
A: It was inherited from my grandmother, my mom's mom, who was the most stylish woman ever. She'd dress up to go to the grocery store. The woman had killer instinctual style. My resourcefulness in discovering my own style came from my mom. She taught me how to sew at the age of four, and I was hooked. We didn't have any extra money when I was younger, and so my love of sewing and fashion was born out of necessity. I couldn't buy new clothes, so I went to the thrift store and bought gowns from the 1970's and recreated them. My prom dress was created from a dress pattern from the 1950s.
Q: At what point did you realize you wanted to turn this love into a career?
A: When I was in high school, I made a simple draw string skirt. Friends kept asking where I got it from, so I started selling them. I always had a love of business, and that entrepreneurial itch was there since I was a kid. I never considered myself a designer, though. Even after attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, one of the most prestigious design schools in the world, I always thought of myself working in the industry, but never considered myself a designer.
Q: Did you start working in the industry after graduation from fit?
A: My first job in fashion came a few months after graduation. I got a temp job at J. Crew making copies. My next job was picking thread colors for the men's division. Then I graduated to an assistant designer position for a contemporary collection when I was just 19 years old. I was let go from that job and spent time working at a few different companies, including a mass market company that created millions of units of awful camp shirts for WalMart. I remember thinking that I was literally creating a landfill. I hated feeling that my impact on the industry was creating crappy products that were going to end up destroying the environment. I wasn't being true to myself.
Q: when did you decide to branch out on your own?
A: It was March 2006. I had recently met the man who is now my ex-husband and he encouraged me in my talent as a designer, and I started embracing that maybe that's who I am. I had always loved dresses, back to my thrift store and home sewing days as a teenager. I started Schone Maternity, an eco friendly collection of contemporary dresses and separates for pregnant women. Within two years, I was getting purchase orders from Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and some of the other larger retailers. I was on the forefront of the up and coming design initiatives with the first ever eco-friendly maternity collection, which was so much of where my heart is. Then the bottom dropped out in 2008.
Q: the recession impacted small businesses everywhere. How did you respond?
A: I had to shut it down and went back to working for a company that I didn't like. I struggled with feeling like I was forcing myself to fit into jobs that didn't speak to my heart. I wasn't being authentic. I had this love of fancy dresses and I wasn't doing anything with it. I had made my own wedding dress when I got married, and wanted to get back to the roots of what I loved. After a series of crazy events, including our house catching fire and moving to California temporarily, I found out I was pregnant. I knew I couldn't continue working in jobs that were sucking my soul, but I wanted to be able to contribute to our family financially after my son was born. So, pregnant belly and all, I decided to use some leftover fabrics from Schone Maternity to start a new collection of cocktail gowns that I was making in our apartment. I launched an Etsy store and had 40 orders in my first month. I started getting contacted by brides who wanted the same dresses I was selling to be customized to be long and white.
Q: Is that where the bridal collection was born?
A: Yes! Out of necessity, since we didn't have much budget to work with, I started doing mix and match collections of bridal gowns. I wanted each bride to feel like her dress was uniquely her style, and the customization aspect was important to me. I started hearing from brides who had been to the majors, like Oscar de la Renta, but they chose my gowns instead! I finally started accepting the title of "designer" at this point. The business started doubling each year. I realized that once I followed my passion and was true to my love of evening wear, and combined that with my love of making women feel beautiful, that the business was sustainable.
Q: what is the heartbeat of rebecca schoneveld bridal?
A: I want women to be free to be authentic. I understand how easy it is to feel like you're being shoved into a mould that doesn't fit you. I want our brides to feel cared for and free to be unique. That's what drives my passion every single day.