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Amelii's approach to sustainable bridal wear: moving away from the "once-in-a-lifetime" dress

Anna Roos van Wijngaarden
June 17, 2024

For those who are fortunate, the big wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime event. The bride’s dress, usually dazzlingly white and richly embellished, is a deeply ingrained tradition. However, even though we don't call them "disposable," these dresses are typically designed to be worn only once, and the materials used are notoriously unsustainable. Latvian designer label Amelii embraces a different value system, challenging the standards in bridal wear. In conversation with designer Ieva Ruka.

How did you get into the sustainable bridal industry?

My journey began during my younger years with a deep love for fashion and design. I would buy clothes and take them to the atelier to modify, add unique details, and repair them. My classmates often laughed at me because I always dressed differently. My passion for fashion drove me to express myself and create something special for women.

I have a background in design and worked in the wedding dress industry for a while before creating my own bridal brand. Entering the sustainable bridal industry was fuelled by my desire to make a positive impact. Although challenging due to the nature of wedding dresses as typically one-time garments, we have found ways to achieve sustainability. Our designs are crafted to be worn again and again, moving away from the concept of a "once-in-a-lifetime" dress.

How unsustainable is the "regular" bridal industry?

The "regular" bridal industry is highly unsustainable. When a wedding dress is worn only once, it generates significant waste. When these dresses are also mass-produced, they create even more waste and it often involves poor working conditions. At Amelii we believe that the bridal industry can become more environmentally friendly if consumers choose handmade pieces over mass-produced dresses – which is also inherently more expensive. Unfortunately, the price does influence the customer's choice.

How do you define sustainable bridal wear?

Designing sustainable bridal wear starts with selecting better materials, like recycled polyester and organic cotton. We also work closely with suppliers to verify the sustainability credentials of these materials, but it's almost impossible to use only organic materials in this market. Our seamstresses are adept at reducing fabric waste during the cutting process. When designing new pieces and incorporate fabric waste into the designs, ensuring that nothing goes to waste. Additionally, our packaging materials are recyclable and reusable. Finally, we make our dresses in Latvia, which reduces carbon emissions associated with transportation and supports the local economy.

All About Love 2024 collection | Credit: Amelii

How do you approach the “end of life” stage of a dress?

To address the 'end of life' stage of a dress, we design with timeless styles in mind, such as bridal sets with tops and skirts that can be worn separately after the wedding or mixed and matched with other pieces from the bride's wardrobe. We use lightweight materials that are easy to wear and prefer classic silhouettes with minimal embellishments.

We also offer transformation services for our dresses. Brides can return to our bridal shop after the wedding to modify their dress by adding or removing details, shortening the length, or even creating an entirely new garment from the wedding dress. This approach ensures that the dress does not become waste and can continue to be a cherished part of the bride's wardrobe.

How sustainable are the decorative elements of a dress?

When it comes to decorative elements, we prioritize handcrafted techniques, such as hand embroidery. This approach has a lower environmental impact compared to mass-produced alternatives, as it requires less energy and machinery. Our main solution is to create minimalistic designs, embracing the philosophy that less is more.

Do you think sustainable dresses for the big day will become "normal"?

In recent years, sustainability has become a priority for us and our customers. We frequently discuss the sustainability of wedding dresses with the women we meet in our studio. It is this “trend” that inspired me to create bridal wear that can be used repeatedly. The market size and growth numbers are still emerging, and I do believe sustainable bridal wear will remain a niche market for the foreseeable future. But the shift towards sustainability is evident, and it’s a promising direction for the industry.

The "Desirable" Dress can easily be worn again | Credit: Amelii

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