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A design room with a Vue

Custom bridal gown maker is growing, reorganizing and moving.

January 18, 2013
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A design room with a Vue
Shannon Gale operates her bridal-gown store, Vue Design, out of the Peacock Building in downtown Grand Rapids. Photo by Johnny Quirin

A creative downtown business is creatively restructuring. The business is also in the process of moving due to the almost instant success since it opened a little more than a year ago.

Shannon Gales is planning to transfer her firm, Vue Design, from MoDiv, a new business incubator at 40 Monroe Center, to a larger space that will better accommodate the growth her business has achieved. Within the next few months, Gales will relocate to the Peacock Building at 150 E. Fulton St., just blocks east of her current location.

“We’re going to restructure a little bit for a few months and we’re looking at the Peacock Building and gearing up to be there halfway through the year. We did move the workroom and expanded it there. We just had no space here,” she said.

Vue Design, which designs and makes custom bridal gowns, opened in MoDiv in October 2011. By November of last year, Gales saw she needed more space. “It’s been very good,” she said of the growth her business has had.

“There are blessings when you grow quickly, but there also are pros and cons when you grow too quickly or too slowly. But I would say we’ve been very, very blessed. We had some great opportunities last year, which enabled us to have to start looking for new space. That’s a good problem to have,” she added.

On the other hand, moving means having to find the energy and financial resources to do so. Then there is the restructuring part, like figuring out the new space’s staffing. Then there are the backroom decisions that have to be made.

“You’re not necessarily looking at how much business you’re bringing in,” she said of the move. “You’re looking at the back end of things like, do we have enough space for this, how’s my equipment? Because I consider us to be vertically integrated — not that we grow our own materials, but we make everything.

“We design it. We produce it. Everything is in-house, and so it’s not just getting things shipped in and then marking them up and selling them. There is a design process for us and the sourcing of materials. We deal with shipping and with shipping delays. So all of those kinds of things factor in.”

Gales said Hurricane Sandy, which devastated portions of New York and New Jersey, caused a delay in getting some key materials Vue Design needed. She added that’s part of being in business, as sometimes things don’t go as planned. And sometimes, as she also knows, things turn out better than planned, such as when the Downtown Development Authority upped the two grants it gave the business by more than $4,000 to help her with the move.

For Gales, Vue Design is fulfilling her life-long dream. Her mother taught her to sew when she was 8 as a way “to keep her busy and out of her hair.” By 10, she was creating things on her own. Two years later, she pored over fashion magazines and began to sketch bridal gowns. At 18, she designed her first gown. Gales then enriched her career pursuit by studying at Calvin College and the University of Manitoba.

She has designed a lot of dresses since she graduated college. But Gales said she can’t put her finger on a favorite. “I can’t say that any one stands out as being better than another because I’m so passionate about girls finding a gown that really reflects their personality and who they are. “I feel I’m very good at that,” she said.

“I get to look at all of them and just get blown away at how gorgeous they are in something I’ve created.”

Gales characterized her design process as one that is very personal, meeting one-on-one with a client until a design emerges. And she has used those intimate client consultations that result in customized dresses to create her first ready-to-wear line of bridal gowns. Her new line will make its debut Friday and Saturday as part of the Winter Bridal Show at DeVos Place.

“I’ve done many different things, but I’ve never actually launched my own line like this. I had someone in mind when I designed those gowns. That’s exciting — to create in a different way,” she said.

Gales has a full-time employee and also a contract designer working with her, a skilled individual she hopes to make full time in the near future. “She is brilliant at pattern designs. It’s a rare skill-set to have,” she said. Those skills are even more vital for a wedding gown manufacturer not located in a garment district.

Vue Design has to vacate MoDiv by the end of this month, but business will continue on an appointment basis. Appointments can be made by calling (616) 460-6128 or by going to vuedesign.net.

Gales fully believes that 2013 will be another good year for Vue Design. “I think we’re starting some different ways of doing things, and I’m very excited about that.”

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