I'm pretty sure I inherited it from my grandmother, my mom's mom, who is still one of the most stylish women I've ever known. She'd dress up to go to the grocery store. The woman has 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 random items from bygone eras and reconfigured them into high school kid clothes. I made my prom gown and friends' prom gowns… creating pretty things is just second nature to me.
My first job in fashion came a few months after graduation. I got a temp job at J. Crew making photocopies and picking thread colors for the men's division. Then I moved into an assistant designer position for a contemporary collection when I was just 19 years old. Over the next few years, I worked at a few different kinds of companies, including a mass market company that created millions of units of awful ladies shirts for WalMart. I remember thinking that I was literally helping to create a landfill. It was a terrible feeling to know I wasn't being true to myself, but a girl has got to eat -- and learn the ropes.
Did you start working in the industry after graduation from fit?
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. 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.
When did you decide to branch out on your own?
In early 2009, I had to shut it down and eventually went back to working for a larger company in a position that I was not happy in. I struggled with feeling like I was forcing myself to fit into jobs that didn't speak to my heart. I had this love of craftsmanship and real design and I wasn't doing anything with it. I had made my own wedding dress when I got married in 2006, and I 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, right there in our apartment. I launched an Etsy store and had 20 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.
The recession impacted small businesses everywhere. How did you respond?
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 big names, like Oscar de la Renta, but they chose my gowns instead! The business started doubling each year and bit by bit I found my footing and self-respect as a designer. I realized that once I followed my passion and combined that with my love of making women feel truly beautiful, that the business would be sustainable.
Is that where the bridal collection was born?
Where did your love of fashion come from?
When I was in high school, I made a simple drawstring skirt. Friends kept asking where I got it from, so I started selling them. I always had a love of business, and that entrepreneurial instinct was there since I was a kid. I also realized around that time that I didn't want to be bored in my career. I was a great student but I didn't want to spend my life writing papers or being stuck in a "grind." So I decided to take a risk and attend The Fashion Institute of Technology and dive straight into my passion.
At what point did you realize you wanted to turn this love into a career?
I want women to be free to be authentic. The bottom line is that women are told by society that they should look all sorts of specific ways if they want to be seen as "beautiful." But that's just a pile of lies! I understand intimately how horrible it feels to be shoved into a shape that doesn't fit you. I want our brides to feel cared for, to be free to be unique, and to be the best versions of their natural selves. That's what drives my passion every single day.
What is the heartbeat of Rebecca Schoneveld Bridal?