After more than two decades as one of Atlanta's premier bridal salon owners, Joan Pillow wasn't looking to expand her business. But an opportunity in Houston "kind of fell into my lap," after several longtime high-end bridal shops had closed in the Bayou City, she recalls.
As a former Neiman Marcus executive in Dallas, she was familiar with the Texas woman. So it seemed like a great opportunity.
That was five years ago and Pillow hasn't looked back. "From the time we opened, every person who came in bought," she says. "It was like divine guidance."
The biggest bridal trend now: Color, from blush shades to pale pastels, pioneered by Monique Lhuillier, who remains a top seller.
Her Highland Village store is stocked with gowns from some of the top names in the bridal industry, including Monique Lhuillier, Oscar de la Renta and Marchesa, along with Naeem Khan, Jenny Packham, Anna Maier and Berta, a Israeli designer with a large social media following.
"I'm passionate. It's my art. What I buy is my art," Pillow says.
Over the years, the spectrum of brides has grown — Pillow's customers now range from brides just out of college whose parents are footing the bill to older career women with the resources to buy their gown without questioning the price. But some things never change.
"The customer doesn't want to look like everyone else," Pillow says.
When Pillow started her business in the late 1980s, off-the-shoulder gowns were the predominant style, "even though the bride had no mobility," Pillow recalls. In the early 1990s, the strapless gown premiered and continues to draw the attention of brides because the style is flattering.
The biggest trend now: Color, from blush shades to pale pastels, pioneered by Monique Lhuillier, who remains a top seller. Prices have gone up over the years, too — "what was $2,000 is now $5,000," Pillow says. The quality and intricacies of design can even entice a bride to splurge on a gown that cost five figures.
Pillow finds that Atlanta brides are a tad more conservative than Houston brides, who are willing to take risks. "As a buyer, what's delightful for me is to really go forward with fashion and have it accepted and appreciated. I've been told it's so nice to come in and not see the same thing, " she says.