I'm excited to be back with the second edition of Southern Spotlight, and today's feature is another entrepreneur that I had the fortunate opportunity to work closely with. Gregory Ellenburg is a designer and boutique owner out of Greenville, South Carolina, and this feature could not come at a more appropriate time. In North Carolina, it happens to be Miss NC week, where 41 beautiful contestants are currently vying for the title, and one lucky girl will be crowned. Five years ago, I had my own opportunity of competing at Miss North Carolina for the very first time, and I got my entire wardrobe from Greg. From my swimsuit to my talent gown to my evening gown, my wardrobe was an absolute dream. I was eventually awarded first runner-up, and it is a memory that will last a lifetime.
How did Gregory Ellenburg Enterprises come to fruition?
I actually began working for Stephen Yearick and we worked together for nearly six years. In 1995, Stephen moved to NYC and I began designing evening wear for pageants out my of home in the North Main district of downtown Greenville, SC.
After doing that for two years, I realized that I needed more space and decided to open “Gregory Ellenburg Pageant and Special Occasion.”
Is designing what you have always done?
No, but I have always been involved in the arts and the arts community. As a matter of fact, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and actually taught school (high school band) for seven years. In 1988, I left public education and moved to NYC and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology before going to work for Stephen (Yearick).
What are the current trends for bridal?
Right now, we are seeing quite a bit of three dimensional elements in bridal design. We have designed gowns with handmade silk floral elements, coque feathers, and even tassels in today’s gown designs.
We have also seen that many brides like to incorporate some type of heirloom in the design of her gown. We have used lace / fabrics from three generations in a bride’s gown recently – that was a wonderful experience to see all three women (bride included) involved in the gown!
What is your vision for the bridal market?
My vision for the Gregory Ellenburg bridal market is to attract a bride that wants to stay away from mass production and mass retail. We love working the one on one experience with a bride and designing her dream gown. Oftentimes, we will even fly to NYC to select fabric for designs – if a bride is looking for something very specific.
What are the characteristics of a Greg Ellenburg bride?
We enjoy brides that have discerning taste and that are really looking for a one of a kind, couture gown and experience. She can be any size, shape or age.
Any advice to brides?
My advice would be to do lots of research and homework before they come to see us – and they usually do!
We are in the age of technology where most brides walk in with their iPads, iPhone, loaded with images and ready to discuss ideas and wishes. It really helps me understand what her dream gown should look like.
How about advice to other entrepreneurs?
Someone once told me, “You have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you run.” I have always taken that approach to business growth and entrepreneurship. In 1997, we started very small with a very slim inventory of gowns. Today we have fabrics from all over the world and work with ladies from across the country to create dream wedding gowns.
How do you stay motivated?
My clients keep me motivated! Each day we have new clients that walk in the door with new ideas. Ladies are more fashion forward than ever and that motivates me to constantly create designs that each client will love forever.
I personally love Greg's designs - he recently designed Ali Rogers FauntLeRoy's gown from pieces of her mother's and grandmother's, and it was absolutely incredible (featured above in black + white). Be sure to head over to Greg's website and follow along on Instagram + Facebook. Whether you are a bride, a pageant gal, or you are just looking for a dress for that special gala or function, I can promise you won't be disappointed.