Meet Elli-Nicole Sazeides, a wedding dress and shoe designer known for creating stunning, ethereal designs! Having previously been a finalist of the prestigious Elle Rising Star Award, Elli has gone on to create beautiful gowns for brides across South Africa! Being both a designer and entrepreneur, Elli discusses the importance of attention to detail, financial acumen and harnessing your creativity…
Full Name: Elli-Nicole Sazeides
Educational Background: BA Fashion, LISOF (2011)
PDBA from The Gordon Institute of Business Science (2013)
Current Title/Position: Owner and Creative Director of Elli-Nicole Bridal Atelier & Elli-Nicole Shoes
Current City: Johannesburg
Elli, you are currently the Founder & Creative Director of Elli-Nicole Shoes, a business that focuses on creating beautiful, customized wedding shoes for brides-to-be; as well as Elli-Nicole Bridal Couture in which you create bespoke and ethereal wedding gowns. Tell us about the journey to starting these two successful businesses – has the bridal industry always appealed to you?
I had always loved designing from a very young age, becoming a bridal designer was a very organic process – I suppose one could say it chose me. My future sister-in-law asked me to make her wedding dress and from there it just grew. I have been a bridal designer for 3 years now and the decision to start Ell-Nicole Shoes stemmed from feedback from my brides. They kept saying they could not find beautiful, high quality, well priced wedding shoes. I have always loved footwear so I came up with an online platform where brides can customize their shoes online. The bridal industry is very special and it’s so wonderful to be part of making a bride’s dreams come true.
Your couture bridal gowns have been featured in numerous prestigious magazines and your collections have previously been showcased at SA Fashion Week! What would you say is the main contributing factor to your label’s success?
I think it’s that I never stop dreaming and thinking about my goals maybe they will take time and strategic planning to achieve but always believing that my business will grow is what keeps me motivated. Also I have found my niche and what works for me and I keep being faithful to my aesthetic and developing my brand.
As the owner of Elli-Nicole Shoes & Elli-Nicole Bridal Couture, do you see yourself as a creator or as a businesswoman and entrepreneur? How do you think your talent supports your business endeavours?
I love this question because it can be challenging to balance two very different ways of thinking, I think I have to assume all of those roles at any given time and sometimes the creative and entrepreneurial support each other beautifully but other times they don’t see eye to eye. The key for me is to consider all aspects of a job, creative, financial and strategic to achieve the best result. I would say however that a person can be incredibly talented but if the entrepreneurial thinking and support is not there it is very difficult to grow and develop that talent so it is important to be business minded at all times.
Tell us more about your dress ranges and the design process you follow for each gown?
When I am designing a range I like to draw on things that inspire me, film, travel, reading sometimes even abstract concepts and apply them to my bridal ranges, again it’s about balancing the traditional bridal aesthetic with unique and inspired details ad of course remaining true to my brand which is always about mixing elegance with ethereal and unexpected details. Then I start to sketch and sketch and sketch! Ideas flow and I love it! After that I go fabric shopping for inspiration as well as costing my gowns to ensure that even though the designs are beautiful and unique, they are still competitive in the market. After that its onto production with my team and after a good few months of sweat and toil we can proudly present a gorgeous new collection!
Elli-Nicole Shoes has to be one of the most innovative ideas in the bridal industry! Brides who land on the site (http://elli-nicole-shoes.myshopify.com/) are able to create their very own wedding shoes using beautiful, high quality leather as the base and choosing from a variety of embellishment to complete the shoe – what inspired you to come up with this idea?
My brides kept telling me how challenging it was to find beautiful shoes for their wedding day. I will never forget when I was told by and Elle Rising Star judge that I had a talent for accessories so I decided to investigate designing shoes but to take it one step further and allow the customer to be the designer too! I thought a wedding dress is such a personal and bespoke process why should brides not have the opportunity to apply this to their shoes also?
What do you believe the South African Bridal industry needs?
I think need we need to own the space especially when it comes to wedding gowns. I know there are amazing designers overseas but it would also be wonderful to see more local bridal shops stocking local collections. The bridal talent out there is amazing and to showcase it on a storefront platform would be wonderful.
Take us through what a typical work day looks like for you?
I usually start my day at 5am with a cup of coffee. I take 15 minutes just to be mindful and to focus then I prepare the studio work for the day, answer emails and schedule times for appointments. I then brief the staff. After that each day is different, you might find me sourcing fabrics, meeting with suppliers, designing or working in the studio, no two days are the same and I love it!
As a designer and business woman, what have been some of your greatest challenges and how have you overcome them?
I think starting any business is challenging. There is so much fear and uncertainty, no one prepares you for what it entails, you work very long hours without any guarantees, sometimes you can fail or become demotivated but the following pointers really helped me in the beginning to be strong and press on!
- Keep your business lean and it will help you through the start-up phase
- Have mentors around you- learning from the mistakes of others is also powerful
- Always strive to learn and improve the way you do things it saves you time and money
- Its ok if you are not having an inspired day, be kind to yourself
- Be confident and positive in everything you do, direct good energy towards your business
- Make sure you have a good understanding of how money works in your business don’t be scared of the numbers.
- Make sure you have people in your life who support you and understand what you are trying to do
- Prioritize! Spend your time in a productive way, don’t get hung up on the small stuff think big picture
- Its ok to fail, when you lose in life don’t lose the lesson, get back up and solve the problem
Advice for aspiring designers and businesswomen?
Intern as much as you can so you can learn and see if this lifestyle is really for you. Educate yourself – whether it’s a formal qualification or learning through other experiences – so that you can be prepared to respond to the challenges you will face. The most important thing is to believe in yourself, it may sound like you have heard this before but I mean really know yourself, be your biggest fan, defender, protector, motivator-sometimes critic, but above all be honest with yourself.
From a practical perspective know your stuff. Make sure your finances are in order, strategize and make informed decisions, make sure your products and services are of a high quality and that you treat your employees well as that then translates to care being extended to your customers. Your name is everything protect it and cherish it.
Morning or night? Morning but only if there is coffee…
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order? Thuli Madonsela and I think her and I would love some ribs!
I wish I knew how to…Tap dance
South Africa is… Complicated, beautiful, inspiring
Worst money mistake… Giving stock on consignment and not budgeting properly
Best investment… Your people
Motivation in 3 words…Success, change, inspire
Connect With Elli-Nicole:
URL: www.ellinicole.com www.ellinicoleshoes.com
Facebook page ELLI-NICOLE ELLI-NICOLE SHOES
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org info @ellinicoleshoes.com