In her own words, Julie Ewen fell into the fashion industry – and it’s been a match made in heaven ever since.
The mum-of-two spent over a decade working across the globe for Disney, playing different characters in the brand’s well-loved theme parks.
And after spending a considerable amount of time in and around costumes, she grew increasingly fond of their intricate details and dazzling colours.
“When I eventually came back to the UK, I planned my wedding and fell in love with all things bridal,” Julie said.
“From there, the seed was planted. After I had my children – Charlie, seven, and six-year-old Finn – and went through a divorce, I really wanted to sell my wedding dress so that someone else could enjoy how beautiful it is.
“Unfortunately, there was nowhere in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire that offered this service. So I decided that I wanted to own a preloved bridal boutique.”
Julie did just that and launched Heritage Boutique in January 2017. But due to a surge in popularity, she decided to open up her own store just several months later, which is based on Huntly Street in Aberdeen.
She carried out extensive research beforehand, and found that preloved garments were something that brides were interested in purchasing for their ‘big day’.
Julie said: “Budgets aren’t as big as they used to be and preloved gowns sell for a fraction of retail value, which is why I think many people were interested.
“When I started the business, which was done working from home, it was a wild dream that I wasn’t even sure could work.
“However, after doing some bridal showcases and meeting other industry leaders in the city, I became really passionate about weddings.
“I soon decided the business needed to grow and become a real go-to name in the city and, with the help of other local wedding suppliers, we began to host bridal fashion shows within local hotel open weekends.
“My love for wedding dresses and helping brides who are on a tight time frame or budget gave me a really great sense of accomplishment.
“I was delighted when the shop opened in April 2017. And since then, I’ve never looked back.
“Yes, starting a new business is not for the faint-hearted, but I used Business Gateway to help with the start-up and they were amazing.
“There is a lot to learn when you start your own boutique and the pressure is really on, but I do find it really rewarding now that we’ve been going for almost four years!”
Julie carries out the day-to-day running of the boutique as a one-man-band. However, she explained that this works well as it allows her to build solid relationships with her customers.
And with a superb array of gowns and accessories available, brides are spoilt for choice.
She added: “Working alone, I can really get to know what my brides are looking for.
“Heritage Boutique offers past brides the chance to sell on their beautiful dresses – most of the time these expensive dresses are cleaned, boxed and put in the loft never to see the light of day again.
“But by selling your gown on, you are able to recoup some of the expense and buy yourself something more practical to remind you of your big day, while also giving future brides the chance to purchase their dream gown at a very reduced price.
“We provide private one on one appointments for brides-to-be and their bridal party to come in and try on a range of styles and materials, and narrow down what suits them best to find the perfect gown.
“All our dresses are priced under £1,000 and are ready to take home with you the day you say yes.
“The boutique also offers a resale service for any bride who has purchased from us, as well as a dry cleaning service and a boxing service for brides who do want to keep their gowns in perfect condition.
“I must emphasise that we do not own the dresses, we simply provide a neutral space for sellers to allow potential buyers to view and try them on, while still offering a real bridal shopping experience.”
Heritage Boutique stocks over 200 gowns at any one time in sizes 6-28, meaning there is always something for everyone.
While the store is currently closed due to coronavirus restrictions, Julie decided to launch a ‘Try at Home’ service in order to boost sales.
“Sadly we have been massively affected by Covid-19,” Julie added.
“Alongside the whole weddings and event sector, we have struggled to adapt to ever-changing rules and regulations surrounding our industry.
“The boutique closed for over six months last year. We also now require our brides to wear masks when trying on gowns and appointments are fewer as I have to sanitise the boutique and gowns after every appointment.
“However, I have just launched a Try at Home service, which allows brides to have a virtual consultation with me to discuss what they are looking for, before sending them images of gowns I think would suit them.
“I then give them 48 hours – after a deposit has been paid – to try them on at home before collecting the dresses they don’t want to keep. I normally send out four gowns.
“2020 was set to be our biggest year after having an amazingly successful weekend at the Your Wedding Exhibition in January 2020. However when coronavirus struck, that all went to pot.
“My main hopes for the coming year are that we can reopen and rebook as many brides as possible. We are very lucky to be able to offer gowns to take away, which will really help all the brides who have been unable to shop for their gowns due to lockdown.”
Heritage Boutique’s waiting list is open for new appointments. Bookings will be arranged as soon as restrictions are lifted.
To book a place on the boutique’s waiting list or for more information about our try on at home service, email email@example.com