Spotlight: East Meets Dress Takes Wedding Fashion in New Direction

Weddings offer an opportunity for couples to showcase their unique style, while also pulling in important aspects of their heritage and culture. Sometimes, it can be tough to mesh the old with the new. But East Meets DressEast Meets Dress wants to help Asian American brides tow that line.

Vivian Chan and Jenn Qiao launched the business when they personally experienced a gap in the industry. So they set out to solve the problem for future brides. Read all about their journey in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Sells Chinese wedding dresses with a modern twist.

Vivian Chan told Small Business Trends, “East Meets Dress is the first fashion company to modernize Chinese wedding dresses (known as cheongsams or qipaos) for Asian-American women and bring more representation and inclusion to the traditional wedding industry.

“In addition to our modern Chinese wedding dresses, we also have a collection of men’s outfits, dress accessories, wedding favors, and mother of the bride/groom dresses.”

Business Niche

Mixing modern and tradition.

Chan says, “If I had to pick an area that East Meets Dress (EMD) is known for, it would be our modern designs. That’s our bread and butter and the reason why we wanted to create EMD in the first place–to allow you to celebrate your culture in style.”

How the Business Got Started

Based on Jenn’s experience as a bride.

Chan explains, “She wanted to honor her culture on her wedding day but struggled to find a modern wedding cheongsam that allowed her to celebrate her culture in style. The options were limited to sketchy online sites that she never heard back from or only a few styles and sizes in Chinatown. As her Maid of Honor and best friend, we decided to start East Meets Dress to help other brides around the world solve this problem.”

Biggest Win

Seeing the impact of their business on loved ones.

Chan says that one of the company’s defining moments was when friends purchased chongsams from the site. They didn’t realize that Chan and Qiao owned it. They just heard about it from another friend.

Biggest Risk

Bootstrapping the business.

Chan recognized that bootstrapping leads to slower growth. She also said they constantly had to reinvest money back into the business rather than turning s profit.

She added, “Nonetheless, bootstrapping East Meets Dress definitely made my co-founder and I better entrepreneurs.”

Lesson Learned

Variety is important.

Chan explains, “When we initially launched with one dress, we naively thought that we already understood the tastes and preferences of all Asian-American brides. Based on our own personal experiences, we initially believed that every bride would want something very modern for her Chinese wedding dress.”

However, they soon realized that some others still wanted traditional designs. But other retailers were not meeting their needs for other reasons. So EMD stepped in for those brides as well.

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Setting up physical retail options.

Chan adds, “One of the most common questions we get asked as an online only e-commerce brand is whether we have a physical storefront to try on dresses before purchasing. While we do currently offer a sample kit of dresses to mail to them, if we had an extra $100,000, we would use it to launch pop-up shops and trunk shows nationwide to provide our brides with the in-person experience they want and allow them to see our dresses and styles in person.”

Team Tradition

Wheel of wins.

Chan explains, “Starting a business is not glamorous so it’s important to celebrate the little wins whenever you can. For us, we made a “Wheel of wins” filled with ‘fun exercises’ to do (i.e. dance to a Beyonce song, do 10 burpees) that we spin each time we make a new customer’s dress. Since we don’t have too much time to always go to the gym, this also serves as our workout for the day.”

Favorite Quote

“Execution is the only valid currency in business. Ideas alone are worthless. Your execution determines your success.” – Paul Jarvis

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Image: East Meets Dress; Vivian Chan and Jenn Qiao

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.