Ellalyne Brayman

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Elevating Fashion in Prince William

 By Jennifer Rader

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Labella Bridal owner Ellalyne Brayman takes pride in helping people look and feel their best for special occasions.

Ellalyne Brayman, owner of Labella Bridal and Consignment Boutique, has honed an exquisite attention to detail during her 23 years in the fashion industry. This is reflected in her thoughtfully curated merchandise and the dreamy window displays that draw passersby into her store on Mill Street in Occoquan.

Opened in 2007, the shop sells new and gently used gowns for every occasion and men’s formalwear, along with accessories such as jewelry, bridal veils and corsets. Alteration services are also available.

While the consignment pieces offer a huge savings over retail pricing, the atmosphere is as pampering as in any upscale boutique, with customers receiving individualized attention.

Meanwhile, the architectural details of the historic building are complemented by elegant decorations that encourage visitors to relax and enjoy their shopping experience. Labella Bridal’s service and setting, as well as the quality of its merchandise, have not gone unnoticed by customers. The store has a 4.5 star rating on WeddingWire.com.

Prince William Living caught up with Brayman to discuss the secrets to her success.

PWL:What is the story or inspiration behind your start?

Brayman: I started the company because I love working with brides. I gained [some of ]my background through studying fashion merchandising in England. My inspiration is based upon 23 years working in the industry with leading bridal designers, including Vera Wang, and managing [dress]stores in the Northern Virginia area. I worked at David’s Bridal in Springfield and Woodbridge, training incoming staff. Because of my sales success at David’s Bridal, I then had the opportunity to work sales at the Vera Wang Watergate store in Washington, D.C.

PWL:  How did working for Vera Wang, a renowned designer, influence you?

Brayman: She’s an incredible businesswoman. And the people that shopped her store spent an incredible amount of money on gowns. We served high-level clients, celebrities, politicians. I worked with [former U.S. Secretary of State]Colin Powell’s family for his daughter’s wedding. It was an eye-opener to the possibilities.

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Located on the Occoquan waterfront, Labella Bridal offers new and consignment dresses, suits and accessories for special occasions.

PWL: What made you choose the Prince William market for your location?

Brayman: Myself and my family reside near Occoquan and love this area. I stay very active in the community through the Prince William Chamber, BNI [Business Network International] groups, women’s groups, etc. I saw the potential for growth.

PWL: Who would you say has been the biggest influence in your life?

Brayman: I love fashion and was greatly influenced by my mother at a young age. My mother, no matter if she was just going to the grocery store, always looked her best. She said, “Life is an opportunity. You don’t know who you’re going to come across.” I took this philosophy with me to college in England, [while]studying both fashion and social work. … To this day my mother is my role model and mentor.

PWL:  Tell us about your custom work. Is any of it inspired by your birthplace of the Republic of Sierra Leone in West Africa?

Brayman: Recently we created a royal blue tuxedo and wedding gown for a couple. It’s all about having a complete look for us. We have also produced maternity bridesmaid gowns, unique prom gowns, gowns for breast cancer patients and those that have a disability. We’ve had women who just don’t fit in off-the-rack-dresses. So we custom make [gowns]for them.

I design African-inspired clothing myself. Currently, I’m redesigning a bathing suit with an African influence. I have also been asked in the past to design an African bridal gown.

PWL: Recently the Town of Occoquan suffered flooding after a storm. How did this affect your business?

Brayman:  We had a lot of help and support, and we had systems in place which helped us to resume [business]much sooner than expected. I spent the wee hours of the night moving all merchandise to the second floor of the shop. Thankfully, there [were]no damages to any merchandise. I then called in professional contacts that I have met in the community to help with getting back on track as quickly as possible. I was inundated with kindness and emails throughout the whole experience, letting me know about water levels and support in the aftermath. [It showed that] when my door is closed, people still care.

PWL: How can businesses prepare for emergencies, such as the flood?

Brayman:  There are two critical things to have for disaster preparedness: First, coverage, so your merchandise is protected. You need to sit down with an adviser and make sure you understand what is covered and taken care of through insurance. Second, have a money reserve for those items that cannot be covered.

PWL:What have you found to be the most effective way to market your business?

Brayman:  [Referrals by] our previous customers and getting plugged in the community. Last year we donated over 100 dresses and gowns to various charities as well as military families. … Many times we team with the military by providing gowns, as well as working with military groups to host and lead [fundraising]fashion shows.

[Also], advertising in bridal magazines and teaming with other vendors. For example, I’ve found a wonderful Turkish lingerie designer that has beautiful, 1940s classic-styled lingerie. I go out, learn and try to interject it into the Prince William market without costing our clients too much. … I have also taught my clients, many who were entering the workforce for the first time, the art of chic thrift store shopping.

PWL:What advice would you give to others considering starting a business?

Brayman:  Know your market, do your research and stick with it. Find the niche you want to be in and be consistent so people begin to know your name and brand. Be realistic that you aren’t going to start your business today and make a profit tomorrow. And, most importantly, be very driven.

As a certified massage therapist, freelance writer Jennifer Rader enjoys studying nutrition, wellness, fundraising and entrepreneurship as well as writing on various topics within her interests. She lives with her son and husband in Manassas. Rader can be reached at jrader@princewilliamliving.com.

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