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Encore Bridal Owner Swoons for Bespoke Elie Saab and Puppies

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Photos by Aubrie Pick

Anyone who has seriously considered bridal consignment has likely heard of Encore Bridal founder Julie Jones, whose carefully-edited selection of designer wedding dresses has been name-checked nationwide in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and here at Racked. Following a move from SoCal to NorCal, this buzzworthy boutique now calls San Francisco home.

We stopped by Jones's blue-and-white jewel box of a shop in Union Square to pick her brain about the bridal biz, what brought her to the Best Coast, and which would win in a cuteness showdown between puppies and hedgehogs.

Tell us about your life before Encore Bridal:
"I moved to Los Angeles in '97 to live with my best friends and avoid another Buffalo winter. I worked as speech-language pathologist for many years. At one point I realized my heart just wasn't in it any longer and began some soul searching."

What prompted you to start Encore Bridal?

I've always wanted to be involved in something that I felt passionate about — anything to do with fashion and weddings was a natural fit for me. In 2004 I married the love of my life. Having always had an eye for fashion, as well as champagne taste on a beer budget, finding a dress I loved and could afford became a real challenge.

Soon after my now husband and I were married two things happened: I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and I was becoming more eco-conscious. I decided to start EncoreBridal.com. The goal was three-fold: Make the best of the best couture gowns more affordable, provide an eco-friendly option for bridal wear, and give back to organizations that educate women about cervical cancer.

What is the best part of being a bridal shop owner? What is the hardest part?

As a bridal shop owner you get to connect with fabulous women. You get to help women during one of the best times of life (but also at a time that can be very stressful). Of course I love being surrounded daily by gorgeous wedding dresses. The hardest part? Let's just say emotions run high.

Describe the typical EB bride.

Practical. Friendly. Luxury loving. Savvy. No-drama.

Do you have an all-time favorite dress that has passed through EB?

Gosh, my favorite changes every month. I do have a most memorable dress: Soon after I launched Encore Bridal I received a $15,000 bespoke Elie Saab gown. Elie Saab was the consignor's family friend and had worked with her on the design. Ultimately the gown was never worn. It was fully beaded, and was breathtaking. It ended up selling for $9,000 to a woman who was an exercise physiologist in LA and starred in several exercise videos. Needless to say, she looked amazing in this gown.

Are there any myths about consignment that need to be dispelled?

Buyers occasionally question a wedding dress's "karma." They worry that somehow the threads hold bad "juju." Many of our dresses are samples or are being sold soon after the wedding day. I can assure you that when that dress was worn, there were happy feelings. Those are what the threads hold.

A lot of brides these days wear multiple wedding dresses. (Hello, Kim Kardashian!) Is that a good idea?

As someone who sells wedding dresses, I'm not going to disapprove. If a bride falls in love with a gown that isn't easy to move around in or is heavy, it might be a good idea to purchase another gown to change into before the dancing begins. When a bride starts to buy more than 2 dresses, however, she might want to think about how much time she is going to be spending in the dressing room. The average wedding reception is 4 to 5 hours which goes by very quickly.

What elements should a bride look for when buying a dress?

A bride should consider if a dress matches her personal style, (not her best friend's or mother's style), fits in with the style of her wedding (casual vs. formal), flatters her body type, and has a price that fits into her budget. Beyond that she should question if she's getting what she's paying for. Besides just looking pretty, find out what the dress is made from (polyester vs. silk), and look at the level of detail and craftsmanship. I've seen gowns that are $3,000 and are no better crafted than a similar gown that is $1,000.

And now, for the famous lightening round! Which celebrity had the best bridal gown of all time?

Grace Kelly.

Dogs, cats, or hedgehogs?

Dogs of course. I have a Greater Swiss Mountain dog that has my husband and me wrapped around her paw.

Something borrowed or something blue?

Borrowed.

Flower crown or veil?

Veil.

After the dress, the most important wedding detail is ____________.

Venue.

Encore Bridal's collection is viewable online or by appointment. For an appointment, call 310-545-1409.—Robyn Hagan Cain

· Encore Bridal [Official Site]
· 5 Spots for Scoring Divine, Discounted Wedding Gowns in SF [Racked]
· All Wedding Week Posts [Racked]