Thursday, February 29, 2024

How a local boutique changed the bridal industry in the Midwest

At one point or another, most little girls dream about their wedding day — or at least what dress they will wear. Marie Gabriel Bridal aims to be the place where those dreams come true.

Owned and operated by Young Colling alongside her daughter Anne-Marie Colling, the luxury bridal boutique has been outfitting Hoosier brides at its Castleton location for 11 years. Despite recently rebranding, expanding and relocating to 5830 E. 86th St. in November, Colling said the goal of her shop remains the same: to dress each bride as if they were her own daughter.

“Whatever I do, I take ownership of it,” Colling said. “So, this job, I took ownership. I look at things differently.” 

Born and raised in South Korea, Colling said she grew up in a time when educated young women were expected to become teachers. However, her love for classic literature and travel led her to Hong Kong, where she worked for Cathay Pacific for several years as a flight attendant. 

Her first introduction to fashion began when she met her husband, whose family worked in fashion manufacturing. For 15 years, Colling learned the inner workings of the industry, from fabric cutting and sewing to clothing design and styling, patterns and dress making. 

In 2002, Colling’s family relocated to Indiana. Although she had no bridal experience, Colling said her knowledge and skills in fashion landed her a job at Demetrios Bridal, where she studied bridal careers.

Young Colling decided to open her own bridal boutique in Indianapolis alongside her daughter Anne-Marie Colling 11 years ago. (Photo/Lenny White)

“To me, bridal is combining everything that in my life I’ve done over three decades, almost going into four decades — designing, fabric, patterns and all that to the retail,” Colling said.

Colling would spend more than a decade in the industry with Demetrios, overseeing 12 of the company’s shops from Minnesota to Texas. However, during this time, Colling noticed how the industry encompassed a very small group of designers in America and it was “very territorial,” which meant American brides were limited in their options, having no exposure to European designers, Colling said. 

This was something Colling was determined to change.

Marie Gabriel Bridal

Anne-Marie Colling, who has worked alongside her mom for the past 11 years, said she started working alongside her at Demetrios on weekends when she was in high school and college. After she graduated, Anne-Marie Colling said discussions of opening their own boutique began to become real.

At that point in time, European designers had not yet broken into the U.S. bridal industry, Colling said. She and her daughter traveled to Italy, Spain and other countries for weeks to find the designers they wanted to introduce to American brides. 

“Truly, Marie Gabriel was born to bring the world that I know to the brides to show that; to bring different things to them,” Colling said. “We’ve been traveling everywhere looking for unique designers all over the world, and that’s what we brought.”

For Young Colling, bridal is a social responsibility, and she treats every bride as if they were her own daughter. (Photo/Lenny White)

When opening the new location, Anne-Marie Colling said no detail was spared. She said they traveled with their interior designers to get inspiration from the best bridal shops in Paris and the Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton flagship stores to bring the best experience back home to Indianapolis.

Brides by Young

When Colling worked for Demetrios, she said the lack of inclusivity extended to dress sizes. In the Midwest, the average size of a bride was between a 12, 14 or a 16, Colling said, but most designers only provided samples no bigger than a size 6.

Colling said she convinced the designer for Demetrios to create a plus-size line of dresses for her to travel with and model during trunk shows. When Colling opened her second shop, Brides by Young — a sister shop dedicated to Indiana’s mid- to plus-size brides — she said she used her relationships with global designers to get them to drop “the plus-size fee.” 

“I really went out [and] had a personal meeting. I really persuaded them; gave them a reason,” she said. “And then, now, plus size, you don’t pay plus-size fee. That’s what the Brides by Young and I personally have actually achieved for inclusive sizing … because once one big name did it, the rest had to follow.”

Brides by Young, one of two of the first plus-size bridal shops in America, was always part of the original plan, Anne-Marie Colling said. Rather than combining everything into one shop, Anne-Marie said her mother wanted brides to have a welcoming and uplifting bridal experience catered just to them — with a fully trained team of consultants and a comprehensive dress selection.

“It was always a very clear thing that my mom talked about, of wanting to create the proper bridal wedding dress experience for these women who’ve been ignored for so long,” Anne-Marie Colling said. “We decided that this type of experience and community that we want to build needs to be just like everything my mom does: 100% correct, which is creating its own space, its own brand, its own community.”

Today, Brides by Young has locations in Indianapolis, Rochelle Park, New Jersey, and Schaumburg, Illinois.

Bridal Responsibility

Anne-Marie Colling said it is rare that anyone gets to take a look behind the scenes of small businesses like this one. Each bride who walks through the doors of Marie Gabriel Bridal will get the best luxury experience because her mother is a unique business owner who pays meticulous attention to every detail.

Young Colling decided to open her own bridal boutique in Indianapolis alongside her daughter Anne-Marie Colling 11 years ago. (Photo/Lenny White)

Colling said it is more than just business; her shops are not just everyday retail where folks come and go. The elevated and luxury bridal experience her shops provide includes the same level of care her daughter, daughter-in-law and other family and friends received when they got married, she said.

“It truly is doing everything the way that she would do it for me, for every single one of her brides; I think it’s really special,” Anne-Marie Colling added. “Even if it’s 4 a.m. in the morning, she will be steaming a dress because she sees one wrinkle.”

Marie Gabriel Bridal is located at 5830 E. 86th St., and Brides by Young is at 5252 E. 82nd St. #202. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit mariegabrielbridal.com and bridesbyyoung.com.

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