Nuorikko: Breaking the Bridal Industry
Haute. Modern. Bridal.
The Bridal Industry is broken. Just ask Kaitlyn Thomas, founder and CEO of Nuorikko, farm girl turned fashion designer, and all around bad ass. We knew Kaitlyn from our times in product development pre-Chiix & Co., and recently, she's continued to challenge mundane fashion by launching her own custom bridal line, Nuorikko. If you've ever shopped or help shop for a wedding dress, you're no stranger to the long lead times, skyrocketing prices for customizations, uninspired silhouettes and colors, and a hastle in general having to book appointments just to TRY on a dress. Nuorikko aims to change all of that. Be individual, stand out, and be effortlessly you; that's what fuels Nuorikko's mission.
Nuorikko actually started years before Kaitlyn would even think about quitting her designer job at a major activewear brand. As a young bride frustrated with the lack of options for a wedding gown other than your standard princess dress, Kaitlyn ended up making her own wedding dress. Fast-forward ten years, and she was still frustrated with her limited options for a vow renewal gown.
After plenty of blood, sweat, tears, and at least a few cases of wine (both red and white, she doesn't discriminate), Nuorikko was born. Offering modern brides major aesthetic differences, short lead times, and no need for fitting appointments, Nuorikko delivers a fully customized product in just eight weeks (that's about half the time of most bridal brands), completely made in Los Angeles, California.
One of the hardest parts of making her ambitious goals for crafting the modern wedding dress a reality was finding manufacturing in the USA that could pull off the efficiency and skill set needed for the gowns. Eventually, she came across an L.A. based factory run by a forward thinking woman and technical design genius who's managed production for the likes of Guess and Bebe. After finding the perfect lady boss run factory, merging technological data for fit with handmade aspects of slow fashion, Kaitlyn created her niche in mass customization bridal, while still allowing for highly customized pieces.
We sat down with Kaitlyn to get the low-down on launching Nuorikko, as well as find out what drives her to constantly evolve the wedding dress:
How did you come up with the name "Nuorikko"?
/noo ree KO/ [FINNISH]
Nuorikko is Finnish for "bride". The next question I always get asked is this: Are you Scandinavian?? Yes, I do have some heritage from that part of the world, but that's not the reasoning behind our namesake. Nuorikko is influenced by a Scandinavian, minimalist approach to design, and we are focused on an aesthetic and a design ethos that has as much to do with functionality in design as it has to do with beauty. Who says bridalwear needs to be more about symbolism and tradition than comfort and individuality? Or, for that matter, who says that bridalwear needs to exclude non-brides? I believe that a beautiful piece of fashion that is worthy of wearing on your wedding day is also worthy of wearing in other aspects and occasions of your life.
Nuorikko stands for the idea that our brides are empowered to write their own story, to create their own individual style. And we are adamant that it need not be difficult, expensive, or exclusive to do so.
You grew up in rural Wyoming, so to end up creating such a modern, elegant, and fashion-forward brand is very different from your upbringing. How do you think the small-town life shaped your passion for fashion, and the inevitable creation of Nuorikko?
I've always stuck out as an "odd [sometimes ugly] duckling". Seriously, I won't share them with you, but if you could find pictures of me in middle school you'd know what I mean. Back in Wyoming, I was most definitely not interested in fitting in to what was considered "normal" fashion there. I did, however, learn the basics of sewing and design in 4-H, of all places.
My driving force has always been the engineering of the garment, the magic of seeing a design come together and watching a friend or a customer fall in love with it. As an aspiring designer, I didn’t exactly swoon over the high fashion or glamour of the industry in cities around the world, being from a state that had less than a 1/2 million total population and was solidly adrift in the middle of the country. I fell in love with the construction of the product.
What has been your favorite part of starting you own business, and attempting to shatter the outdated standards that the bridal industry operates under?
Nuorikko began as an outlet for a personal frustration. It was a way for me to design some bridalwear that I’d actually want to wear, but as I’ve crafted the company’s social expectations and manufacturing standards, it's taken on a life of its own as a way for me to address everything about the industry that I both love and hate.
I already knew that there were issues with the apparel industry, but the more I learned about how bridalwear is produced, the more I realized it's even farther behind than any other product category, making it a poor experience for both factory workers and the end consumer.
My absolute favorite part of Nuorikko, is the fact that I can address both white space in the design industry, creating a new product that is sophisticated, minimal, and not overly fussy or exclusive, at the same time that I work on changing some of the expectations around what apparel manufacturing is. As a new, and therefore very responsive line, I have a lot of freedom to create the business model that I envision. I literally have aspirations to write the book on how to produce this type of product. Let's give the customer what they want, and let's also make sure to respect the planet and our manufacturers at the same time.
What are your most common sources of inspiration?
After many years of studying and worshipping the work of masters in both U.S. and European design and tailoring, I've honed my aesthetic into what it is today. And, honestly, it changes often. Day to day, or season to season, I take both personal and professional inspiration from what happens both in the fashion industry and in the world around me. My main focus has always been on the fit and function of the garment, and on the best ways to execute those principals while making sure that my designs are both beautiful and interesting.
Some seasons, I literally take my design inspiration from my own closet. More often, I comb blogs and street corners to find styles that feel fresh. While I love to look and understand the construction and muses of some of the masters in the design industry, very rarely do I ever take my inspiration from those sources.
What advice would you give to a woman wanting to start their own label in the fashion industry?
I would say two things, and it sounds like they are in direct opposition, but they are actually very symbiotic:
1) Get many mentors, and as much advice and customer feedback as you possibly can. This is a very cutthroat business, and its expensive to start a fashion line. I've known too many talented designers who fizzled out before they had a chance to get their concept to market because they either didn't know how to start a line or didn't understand what their customers truly wanted.
2) Listen to your gut. Being a designer means you, inevitably, are ahead of the curve, which means that most people probably won't understand you. Listen to the advice that helps you make a smart business, but don't let anyone change your heart. Without heart, you're no different than any other girl who thinks that the fashion industry sounds "cool". Those who make a difference are the ones who are persistent enough to translate their vision to the masses, and that takes a lot longer than you'll ever anticipate.
Next up for Nuorikko is implementing 3-D modeling and body scans on their website (and future app!) to help the customer visualize how something would look on their body from the comfort of their home! Sound amazing? It is; but she needs our help. Nuorikko is currently raising money through Indiegogo in order to make this next step in revolutionizing the bridal industry a reality.
In accordance with our mission statement at Chiix & Co., we wanted to help this amazing girl boss reach her goals in bringing a better bridal option to all of you by offering some fun perks that help Nuorikko's Indiegogo campaign, which ends December 3rd.
Donate $5 to Nuorikko's Indiegogo campaign, and get $5 off any order at Chiix & Co.!
Get $10 off the exclusive Nuorikko clutch and receive $10 off any order at Chiix & Co.!