SOMETHING OLD: Chantal Khoueiry is looking to break the sad cycle of wedding dresses, which more often than not, spend most of their lives turning yellow in the attic.
She’s set to launch a e-commerce platform called Brides Do Good, which aims to offer women the opportunity to buy pre-owned and sample high-end designer wedding dresses, with one-third of the proceeds going to charity.
The business model is set up so that the seller, the site, and two women’s charities get one-third each of the proceeds from every sale. The charities that will benefit are Plan International and Too Young To Wed, which support girls at risk of an early marriage.
Both charities invest in local programs to empower girls and educate communities, with the aim of eliminating child marriage by 2030, one of the United Nations’ sustainable goals.
Brands available on the Brides Do Good site include Alexander McQueen, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Marchesa, Paule Ka, Rosa Clara, Lela Rose, Temperley, and Philippa Lepley, among others. The average price of a dress is 2,000 pounds, or $2,540 at current exchange.
Khoueiry, who currently serves as chief culture officer at Value Retail, and was formerly the organization’s group HR director, pointed out that 14 million girls are forced into marriage before the age of 18 every year, or one in three in the developing world. Their education stops immediately, and around 70,000 a year don’t survive giving birth.
She said she’d long wanted to undertake a project with a strong humanitarian angle, and the early part of her career was spent as a project leader at UNESCO, supporting various humanitarian global initiatives. Khoueiry grew up in Kuwait with an Italian-Ethiopian mother and a Lebanese father, and said she’s always been sensitive to international women’s issues.
She got the idea for the site after listening to a married friend admit she could not “emotionally let go” of her wedding dress. “How many women feel the same way?” asked Khoueiry. “We’re giving them permission to let go of the dress.”
The feel-good factor, she added, is so high that many of the women who tested the site pre-launch have opted to donate their personal chunk of the proceeds to charity.
She said her aim is to support the United Nations’ vision of eliminating child marriage “by creating something commercial,” and that the site is designed to recreate the intimate, high-end experience that many women crave when shopping for a wedding dress.
She’s even gotten retailers involved: “While for most brides, weddings are the stuff dreams are made of, for many out there, less fortunate than ourselves, this is quite the opposite,” said Caroline Burstein, owner of Browns Bride in London. “We are in a position to help and support something that we feel strongly about.”