End Child Marriage by Donating your Wedding Dress | Brides do Good

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I had the pleasure of being invited to a VIP press event at Bicester Village this week courtesy of revolutionary women’s social enterprise; Brides do Good to celebrate the launch of their bridal pop-up boutique and share some important news with you.

The topic?  Child marriage.

Not a pretty subject, but I knew I wanted to attend. Even more-so when I heard Nu Bride Ambassador; Ian Stuart was involved with the project and speaking on the panel.

By Salt TV

The Ugly Truth

Too Young To WedImage courtesy of Too Young to Wed

1 girl every 2 seconds is married against their will.

14 million girls each year are forced into marriage before they turn 18 and the idea of Bride do Good came about so that brides, women like us who have voices, can do something to help child brides, who don’t.

Child marriage can be mistaken as being an issue that doesn’t affect us as westerners. It does, it is a global issue.

It’s not the first time we’ve addressed child marriage, Bridal Musings did an epic campaign to raise awareness last year with UNICEF which we also spoke about on the blog.  It’s an enormous issue and one many of us can’t fathom.

While you and I are able to share in the sheer beauty and joy that marriage brings, to enjoy the indulgence and frivolity, it is incredibly hard to imagine that the meaning of marriage can be so sinister for others. With children as young as 8. Yes 8, being forced to marry men decades older, notwithstanding the physical and sexual abuse that often goes hand-in-hand. Astonishing. And to think some governments still haven’t changed their laws on under age marriage. I have no words. Completely untenable in 2017.

About Brides do Good

Brides do Good is a pioneering social enterprise founded by Chantal Khoueiry that offers brides-to-be the opportunity to purchase beautiful pre-loved and sample designer wedding gowns at an affordable price and with the unprecedented charitable proposition to address the global challenge of eradicating child marriage by 2030 (one of the United Nations sustainable goals) through partner charities Plan International and Too Young to Wed.

Women are becoming much more conscious with what they buy, they are looking for experiences more than just possessions.

Leading Brands such as; Alexander McQueen, Oscar De La Renta, Valentino, Marchesa, Rosa Clara, Lela Rose, Temperley London, Stewart Parvin and Phillipa Lepley, Ian Stuart to name a few are already involved. Making it easier for brides who appreciate designer products to access them at a price-point they can afford with up to 50% off, whilst simultaneously donating a percentage of the sale to this great cause.

About The Founder

Brides do goodFounder Chantal Khoueiry  Brides do Good

I had the pleasure of interviewing Chantal. Her passion for the cause is truly palpable. Born to a Italian-Ethiopian mother and a Lebanese father the very elegant and richly diverse Chantal, has been exposed to and able to explore African, Middle-Eastern and European cultures.

I am exposed to different things that happen within these cultures. Witnessing first hand many women affected by child marriage in these communities.

The idea for Brides do Good came 8 years ago and started to come into fruition 2 ago. I started to think about how may women invest in and own designer wedding dresses, worn only once, now sitting in a box in the attic.

Wedding dresses can be re-purposed.

It made me think, what can we do to give them a new love story? How can we create a commercial solution to help the work that these organisations [Too Young to Wed and Plan international] are doing and that’s when I had the idea of Brides do Good.

Brides do Good allows women to get an amazing wedding dress at a fraction of a price and whilst doing some good. We have already had wonderful women donating beautiful dresses from 1984 . They have written a letter to the new beholder about the dress and their wedding day, it is such a beautiful way to connect real women and protect girls from child marriage at the same time.

Chantal clearly understands retail and she understand the wedding industry. An industry that for the most part it is aspirational and commercial, it always will be. She also understands that we all have influence and reach we can use to improve the trajectory of child marriage, so she came up with the concept in a way that contributes and resonates from the humanitarian aspect and is also commercial. Very clever.

The Challenges and Solutions

Brides do Good | Nu Bride

During the VIP event, an eclectic and eloquent panel talked about many of the challenges faced with child marriage. Chantal Khoueiry the founder of Brides Do Good, was joined by host and BBC journalist Jane Corbin and panelists; TV presenter Louise Roe the wonderfully elegant founder of Browns Bride Caroline Burstein, leading designer and Nu Bride Ambassador Ian Stuart, and absolutely formidable woman; Caterina Occhio the founder of SeeMe (handmade luxury jewellery made by women in Tunisia who have suffered violence), Christina Piaia Director of Projects and Legal Counsel, and Tanya Barron CEO of Plan International.

It was this point during the panel I started to well up: humanitarian and BBC journalist Jane Corbin recounted a young girl who had run away and at the tender age of 15, she poured petrol on herself to try to escape an abusive forced marriage. Sadly she did not survive. Chantal recounted that 70% of the women that have the courage to leave abusive forced marriages, always end up going back. Often as a result of having no education or job, completely dependent and unempowered, they don’t know any better. Brides do Good in association with Too Young to Wed SeeMe and Plan International set out to educate and empower women and communities.

Brides do Good | Nu BrideBrides do good | NU Bride

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere I am with Chantal founder of Brides do Good and wonderful Nu Bride Ambassador and panelist Ian Stuart

The Debate

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Is there a stigma to buying a pre-owned wedding dress?

Women are practical and also emotional and human. Brides who are looking to purchase a pre-loved wedding dress are looking for a couture dress at a price they can afford. There is a market and it is growing. Chantal Khoueiry

Nu Bride Ambassador and Internationally acclaimed designer Ian Stuart says:

The dresses have to be sold. Clients have different disposable income and those that can’t normally access couture dresses will feel happy to be able to buy a beautiful designer dress at a lower price point, whilst having a portion of the purchase price going towards charity. This can only be a good thing.

The money from the sale of these pre-loved designer dresses is then used to help women and children at the affect of child marriage to educate communities and provide training to re-build lives and empower women.

Caroline Burstein designer and founder of Browns Brides said:

This is an opportunity to do a tiny thing towards a huge issue. To donate a designer dress and allow a dress to be re-sold. The industry is very much about couture, a hands on, personal industry. This sense of love that has gone into a dress that can at the end of its day can A: help a beautiful girl who wouldn’t normally be able to afford to buy a couture dress and B: Know that money is helping towards a cause that can really do good. Even if that only improves one persons life and that’s why I am really happy to be involved and we’ll be letting all of our brides know about this fantastic enterprise and encouraging them to donate their dresses.

Louise Roe on How you can help

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALouise Roe fondly posing with a model wearing her beautiful donated Pronovias wedding dress for Brides do Good

Along with Chantal, I had the great pleasure of interviewing celebrity, digital influencer and newlywed Louise Roe; to get her thoughts on the topic and how you can help donate your dress. It was SUCH a delight to speak with her so openly.

Louise was one of the first to donate her couture designer dress to Brides do Good which is currently available to buy in store at Bicester Village for £4500, less than 50% off the original price.

Louise says; The juxtaposition of me being so lucky to have this wonderful Pronovias couture dress made for me in Spain and to only wear it once and then to find out about the complexity of child marriage, makes it very easy to help and very easy to donate it to this cause.

As a public figure  I carry enormous influence. I think it’s very important to give back in whatever capacity that works for you.  I am very lucky to be in the position I am in, but I also work incredibly hard which is often understated.

I feel I can always be doing more and I am very much into female empowerment, so when I was contacted by Brides do Good I knew I wanted to help.

Brides do Good | Nu BrideLouise Roe and I 

So much money is thrown at weddings, especially in LA, so its important for brides and couples to try to keep perspective. This is the first charity I’ve seen where it is so easy to get involved. Every married woman has got their dress somewhere which they can donate. I’m not underestimating that it’s difficult to pass on your dress, it is such a beloved possession, but that’s what makes it even more special, by passing on the dress and the meaning and memories to someone else so it can become their special dress for the day.

When I donated my dress, I wrote a note to the beholder.

My story is now becoming her story.

I shared how my wedding in October was the happiest day of my life, I shared about our wedding at Eton College, how I went to Spain with my mum to have the dress made and then went onto practical advice; e.g: to be careful not to rip the delicate lace sleeves when you put your arm in it! I went from poetic to practical!

I think we all need to be educated on the facts about child marriage, no matter how painful, we need to know more about what is happening, whilst helping train women and communities to teach them that they can be a single mum. Which is very hard in some cultures, so it’s not just about making child marriage illegal, it’s about the what next.

Keeping these women in schools and educating them and training them in a vocation. I believe this in turn will have an amazing impact on female empowerment and not just women in those communities, but in LA and London, in all of us.

Get Involved

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If, like me you think it’s time to dust off your designer wedding dress and do something extremely poetic and powerful with it, you can find more about donating here

If you’re a gorgeous modern bride and would like a beautiful sustainable alternative for your wedding dress with an emotional story, the Brides do Good pop-up is available at Bicester Village until the 19th February 2017 and online. I hope to see more Brides do Good pop up shops so more of you get to try an array of beautiful dresses on in person. But for now, don’t miss out, there are some beautiful designer dresses in season at the fraction of a price all going to a truly important cause to help eradicate child marriage by 2030.

Humbled.

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