Love stretches far beyond romantic antics and fairytale-like happy endings. It’s a contagious concept rooted with deep compassion towards one another. If you think about it, love starts with compassion. This happens to be the main focus of Tina Wong, owner and founder of Grace and Ivory.
Established in 2017, Grace and Ivory is a Chicago-based made-to-order and made-to-measure bridal gown store that allows brides to try-on wedding gowns within the comforts of their own homes. Not only does Tina help brides find their dream gown, but she also encourages them to support local businesses that give back in order to make ripples of changes in the community.
Before starting her business, Tina used to work for foreign aid nonprofits in Washington D.C. to which she shares that her “passion lies in a career that would help others and contribute to the greater good”. When she lived abroad, she was presented with an opportunity to be able to “fill the gap with what brides really wanted and what was being offered in the market,” she says. Combined with compassion and her desire for social change, Tina predicts that social enterprise within the private sector would make an even more meaningful change within the community. She modeled Grace and Ivory and its team to not only answer to the needs of Brides who want to be able to accessibly find their dream wedding gown, but to also be a proactive social enterprise that is set to make a difference. This roots from her goal to help a certain target audience alongside her deep empathy towards helping others which is now being evidently accomplished.
Since last year, Grace and Ivory has partnered with the Chicago Period Project which is a “community-based organization” whose aim is to “help the homeless and in-need people to experience their periods with dignity”. The bridal brand partnered with CPP in order to help with its grassroots effort through contributing a small portion of its sales and by putting a donation box where people could donate menstrual hygiene products such as pads and tampons in the showroom of Grace and Ivory. Before partnering with the CPP, Tina shares that they have previously partnered with Plan International which is a global non-profit geared to helping children. “We focused on women and girls because we focus overall in supporting and advocating for women and raising awareness on women’s issues and wanting to support programs on equity and equality” she says. Indeed, part of her core that is tied with her business is the consistent push to make an impact in society through social change. An impressive trait that not many may possess during this time of crisis where some business owners are still strategically navigating their way out of the damages brought by COVID-19.
With Grace and Ivory’s business model of having brides try-on the wedding gowns from their catalog in their own homes, it allowed them to securely traverse the surge of the pandemic, allowing their business to survive, grow, and thrive in the middle of a crisis. Tina shares that “brides were afraid to go out but they still want to look for wedding dresses” after having sent a whopping six hundred gowns since the inception of their try-at-home service. Love truly prevails, and weddings are still happening.
Tina’s brand finds more brides who are open to the try-at-home service, and why shouldn’t they? She describes her Grace and Ivory brides as independent, modern women on-the-go who have found love. “They might be really busy that they may not have the time to make a formal appointment or they want their experience to be more personable and would want to have a try-at-home party with their close friends” she adds. As Tina puts it, her brand focuses on “today’s modern women and women getting married on their own terms”.
Even with the business going well, Tina never forgets to be a proponent for social change. On a regular basis, she encourages others to be more aware of how social enterprise could be pivotal to certain changes in the society. She differentiates it from corporate social responsibility as it isn’t something that is just doing an act of change for a day, but more of having that act of making a difference be part of the brand’s core values, vision, and mission. “It’s about playing an active role in our community to give back whether it’s financially, whether it’s donations, and it’s not just a side project which I think corporate social responsibility can be seen as,” she explains. Largely, Tina wants to be part of “the shift for future businesses to really have that social aspect whether it’s in the local community, nationwide, and globally”. With her kind vision for the future, there is no doubt that she will be bringing social enterprise and her business to the next level whilst reaching different feats.
As a business owner, she wants to give power and value into the consumers’ hands given how made-to-measure has significantly created an impact with how wedding dresses are produced that goes alongside with how they want to be presented as a brand. With the brand's image in mind, she definitely advises those in the verge of building their own brands to take their time and that being consistent will surely build one’s brand value and name. At the same time, Tina shares that those who want to establish their own fashion brand that, like in all things that needs to be built, it will take time. “We live in an age where we expect things to come faster than they really do and to remember to just stick with your vision and what you want your brand to represent,” she advises. It is also very helpful to “know what your brand archetype is like and where you sit in your market.” Albeit it may be difficult but it could be done.
With all of the great things coming Tina’s way, there are a lot of exciting things to be thrilled about. One thing is for certain, compassion goes a long way and with Tina’s big heart translating towards her business, it has definitely proven that a social enterprise whose values are rooted with a deep sense of love and care for others inspires and sparks the changes we want to see around us.