Entrepreneur

This M'sian Found A Second Chance At Business By Fixing One Crucial Thing

As the wedding day draws near, every bride hopes and prays that her walk down the aisle goes smoothly and without incident. She hopes that she doesn’t stumble and fall, that the music isn’t too loud or too soft, and that her wedding photographer is ready and waiting to immortalise the special moment.

But most of all, she also hopes to look like the prettiest woman in the room. That’s where The White Atelier aims to impress.

Founded in March 2017 by Careen Tan, 28, The White Atelier (or TWA for short) hopes to be a breath of fresh air among the sea of bridal houses and wedding vendors found in the Klang Valley.

Located in a small but well-stocked studio in busy Damansara, TWA does custom wedding gowns and shoes for brides and bridesmaids, as well as gown rentals and a choice of select footwear for non-brides.

Image Credit: Dennis Yap Photography

Petite Beginnings

“My wedding was when it all started,” Careen said. “The dream to one day start a bridal boutique had been dormant in my heart for many years. But when it came to my own wedding dress, I struggled to find a gown that suited someone as petite as me.”

Careen sent out surveys to friends and family and discovered how this problem also applied to other petite females. This was when she made the decision to push ahead with the bridal boutique dream—first starting with gowns catering to smaller frames, but also hoping to eventually cater to plus-sized females as well.

“I personally believe that nobody is too small, too big, or too skinny to look beautiful on their wedding day,” said Careen. “And with the right design, fit and fabric, any shape and size can look amazing.”

Careen operates the fledgling bridal house alongside her sister Loveen, a Fashion graduate who handles the technical side of things such as measurements and alterations. Then there’s also her husband Boon who helps out with finance and accounting.

Left: With husband Boon and son Tyler; Right: With sister Loveen / Image Credit: The White Atelier

With the core team kept small, TWA also relies on external manpower to keep the gowns coming.

“We work closely with a team of talented local seamstresses and pattern drafters, and we’re blessed to have found this amazing team who have decades of experience in the gown-making industry.”

The Road To The Atelier

Careen, now also mother to 2-year-old Tyler, brings along prior business expertise into the running of TWA, having operated online boutique Chiq Fliq for over 3 years. The lessons she’s learned along the way have allowed her to get the foundations right when starting TWA.

“I’ve learned that I cannot do everything alone,” she said. “With Chiq Fliq, I did everything by myself. Aside from some part-time help, I handled everything else alone, which caused me lots of stress and spread me out too thin.”

This experience taught Careen the importance of delegating, and focusing more on what she’s good at.

“One thing I’d like to share with other entrepreneurs is to hire people better than you.”

“I know my strength is in visualising, designing and communication, so I focus on servicing my customers, doing the key designs, and directing our social media channels,” she explained.

She now leaves the technical aspects to Loveen and her suppliers, and tasks her husband with the aforementioned finance and accounting side of things.

“It’s all helped us to focus and function optimally.”

Strictly Business, Highly Personal

All consultations are by appointment only, making the gown-making experience at TWA a very personal one—something Careen is very proud of.

Gowns by TWA are available as made-to-rent (where TWA buys back their custom-made gowns) or as made-to-own (with brides getting to keep their gowns after their wedding). Prices start at RM3,000 for custom made-to-rent, and RM3,500 for made-to-own pieces.

Image Credit: The White Atelier

“Our aim is to make each client’s encounter with us the best bridal experience she can get out of her wedding planning journey,” Careen added.

“We have many clients who have become our friends after the few months of working with them on their gowns and shoes,” she adds. “It’s one of the best parts about our business and something we truly cherish.”

Image Credit: Ben Yew Photography (Left) / This Is The Galeria (Right)

Growing Into The Gown

Today, TWA has served around 150 brides, and now faces a different challenge—the task to meet demands as quickly as they come.

“We’re truly grateful that business has been way better than what we expected in the beginning,” Careen said. Within their first year, they’ve managed to amass 4.8k followers on Instagram purely through word of mouth and sharing relevant and engaging content, all without spending a single cent.

She notes the positive reception as a result of the emphasis placed on serving every client wholeheartedly.

“We hope that even if they end up not engaging our services, they’ll still look back and say, “TWA still gave me the best and most memorable bridal experience”,” she said.

“The only way forward is to be excellent in all that we do.”

A White, Bright Future

As for the future, Careen has big hopes to expand her business and openly states her desire to see TWA become “the go-to bridal boutique for amazing quality and service”, not just in Malaysia, but all over the world.

Image Credit: The White Atelier

“As it is, 30 to 40% of our clients are from overseas, coming from countries like Singapore, Australia, Brunei and the UK,” she stated.

”We wish to be able to grow further and expand our custom made gown and shoes services to brides from other regions.”

  • Founded in 2017 by Careen Tan, The White Atelier is located in Sunway Nexis Damansara, and offers brides and bridesmaids custom-made gowns, gown rentals, and footwear.
  • All gowns are made in-house, with made-to-rent gowns starting at RM3,000, and made-to-own pieces costing upwards of RM3,500.
  • You can check out Careen’s blog and The White Atelier’s Instagram page for a dose of bridal inspiration.

Feature Image Credit: The White Atelier

 

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