“Problems and mistakes do not exist. They are just in your head. There are only solutions and learnings.” Karin Brettmeister, Founder of Ritual Unions
“Bridal for the bold,” is what’s written at the top of Ritual Unions’ Instagram feed, and BOY do those four words encapsulate this fiercely spirited, ever-inspiring, Berlin-based brand. Driven by the innovative mind and vision of founder and designer, Karin Brettmeister, Ritual Unions is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Having founded the label back in 2017, after a career designing for the likes of Marchesa and J.Mendel in New York, Karin discovered her calling: Ritual Unions. Taking a sustainable approach to her work, the designer masterfully creates bridal threads sewn with love, meticulous skill and finesse, and the achingly cool spirit that pumps, unwaveringly, throughout Ritual Unions’ veins. I managed to catch up with Karin of Ritual Unions to talk about her business journey and her version of Taking The Plunge, including the highs, the lows, the first jobs, the worst jobs and the tech she can’t live without…
Name: Karin Brettmeister
Business: Ritual Unions
Date you took the plunge: 1st of April 2017
Photography: The Saums | @the.saums
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“Ritual Unions is a Berlin-based couture brand offering elaborate occasion wear for the fashion-forward and unconventional.”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“After studying fashion design in Munich, I developed couture collections for Marchesa in New York. That time has definitely shaped me the most. My position was creative pattern maker, so a mixture of pattern making and designing. In my career I have always worked at different couture brands either in pattern making or design. But I discovered my love for the craft back in my childhood. My favourite thing to do was sewing in my grandparents tailoring studio. Via my jobs I came into contact with bridal from time to time, but always focused on fashion. With Ritual Unions I have the opportunity to combine both.”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“The goal of starting my own business and building something of my own has somehow always been in the back of my mind. To be honest, there was never really any other option for me. I just tried to gain as much experience as possible until the right time came.”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“The last company I worked for closed down and laid off all employees. I used the time in unemployment to write my business plan and then naively started to develop my first collection, at that time still from home. Today I am incredibly grateful that I was so naive back then and wasn’t afraid of the challenges that came my way. For me, it actually didn’t feel like I had “taken the plunge” at that moment at all, but then I quickly had to learn how to swim when I was already in the cold water. If I had known at the time what challenges lay ahead, I might not have approached the matter so carefree. However, it was the best decision of my life.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“I was extremely motivated, it felt so liberating to make my own decisions instead of following instructions. Unknown, unreal, unfamiliar, but very exciting.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
“Being a business owner is a roller coaster ride with many highs and many lows. I am happy about every achievement like publications or new partnerships. But what moves me most emotionally are the special moments with my customers, their feedback, the whole creation process from the first to the last fitting. When brides send me pictures of their wedding, when there are tears of joy, the appreciation of my work. These moments are unique and incomparable and what makes my job a dream job ultimately.”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“As I’m bootstrapping my business, there were a lot of lows. A lot. Not even the difficult start up phase behind me, Covid hit. Since there wasn’t that much money to invest, I invested all my time and that left damage. I love my job, but at a certain point too much is just too much. I’m proud to have brought my business through the pandemic, but it was fucking hard, I’m not gonna lie. Today, I pay more attention to my health and most importantly, I’ve learned from it to just keep going at my own pace and not let myself be pressured.”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
No.1 “Have patience. Everything comes at the right time. Nothing can be forced.”
No.2 “Say no if it’s not a clear yes (I still want to get better at this).”
No.3 “Problems and mistakes do not exist. They are just in your head. There are only solutions and learnings.”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“Write down everything that goes on in your thoughts and act the very next day. If you can’t fall asleep, it means you have an inner conflict that needs to be solved and it won’t get better if you ignore it. Imagine the worst case scenario and you will see, it won’t be the end of the world. Have that uncomfortable conversation, make that difficult decision, but do it with love and respect to yourself and everyone involved.”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“Plan every day in the morning, make a list of priorities, and communicate well with your team.”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“I can very much relate to Sophia Amoruso’s story. I find it so inspiring that you don’t have to live by the book to be successful. I loved reading Girlboss and watching the series and I’m following her on Instagram, she’s definitely my role model. Just because “business” used to always be a certain way, doesn’t mean it always has to stay like that. I’m all for new work ethics, unconventional approaches and strategies in business and a much needed healthy work environment in the exploiting, evil fashion world. We need more female, open-minded leaders!”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business:
“I use everything Google has to offer. Gmail, Drive, Sheets, Photos etc. are essential. Instagram for sure is our top social media app and used daily. We plan ahead our feed with Preview. And since I’m not a native english speaker but we work internationally a lot, I recommend the DeepL Translator!”
#13 Your first ever job was…
“A summer job as a saleswoman at the Gianfranco Ferré Store in Munich. I learned so much in retail which is very important when building a fashion brand. Small details matter.”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Don’t compare yourself to others, be consistent and post regularly.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
“I would love to develop a small shoe collection! The classy bridal shoes are a bit old-fashioned and the non-bridal statement shoe often doesn’t come in white… Any luxury shoe designers, hit me up!”
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
“I get distracted on social media easily, that’s why I prefer reading books when it comes to business advice/inspiration. The Winner’s Laws by Bodo Schäfer is a classic but still helpful and I just keep coming back to it. I loved reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, very inspiring in business and private. Most recently I read Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price, Ph.D. It helped me to reduce the pressure and stress I was feeling lately.”
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
“Even though it’s not as fun as it used to be anymore, my favourite is still instagram. I like the direct interaction with the followers and how easy it is to use. Most of my customers find me through it.”
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“My advice is to not listen to others advice! Don’t take the advice from others too seriously (they have never done exactly what you are trying to do) and only you know what’s best for you. Listen to your gut.”
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS | RITUAL UNIONS
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read:
“Too hard to pick just one.”
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
“Espresso with hot water.”
#3 Instagram feed crush:
#4 Your worst job was…
“At the front desk of a dentist office.”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
“That’s not an option. Not even hypothetically.”
#6 Work day pick-me-up:
“A clean and tidy space.”
Discover Ritual Union ’s incredibly cool bridal offering – not to mention the label’s glorious Instagram feed @ritualunions.
Catch up with all the latest Taking The Plunge entries on Bridal Editor.