“Opening the door to an ex-frozen yoghurt parlour that had been abandoned 18 months prior with all the toppings still in situ…was the stuff of rodent ridden nightmares. I was absolutely terrified but the instinct to swim, the adrenaline, just kicked in. I ‘had’ to make it work.” Eloise Rigby, Founder of The Pantry Bridalwear
British-made. Beautifully curated. Undoubtably unique. Meet The Pantry Bridalwear, founded and created by entrepreneur (or “Pantrepreneur” as Eloise terms it) Eloise Rigby. Ensconced in the bustling streets of Cambridge, this enchanting bridal boutique is built to bring the modern bride a truly innovative bridal experience; one where she is relaxed, comfortable and confident. With a enticing blend of bridal designers on offer (we’re talking Bon Bridé, Rita Colson and The Pantry Bridalwear – the brand’s own line) this Cambridge bridal studio is devoted to making sure you feel – most importantly – like yourself on your wedding day. I managed to catch up with Eloise herself to talk about her business journey so far 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…
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“We launched our own bridal wear line in September 2022. Our ethos: to ‘do you on your day’ centres around helping brides to find a wedding outfit that makes them feel comfortable, confident and most importantly like themselves on their wedding day. The collection consists of contemporary bridal wear pieces including separates and accessories as well as dresses, created from reworked vintage samples – from a 70s wide leg jumpsuit to a 40s slip. Designed to be modern classics that can be worn again and again, and we make to measure as standard which enables customisation – a hugely exciting prospect for the style focused bride and also improving fit and reducing wastage.”
“Launched in December 2019 and presenting the very best of British style-led bridal wear made solely in the UK by independent British female founded brands. Limitless try on sessions are free to book (with a small deposit) and there is only ever one bride hosted in the space at any one time, they are welcome to try on as many styles during the appointment in a calm and contemporary space with artwork focused on positive body image and comfortable furnishings for guests.”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“I Eloise founded The Pantry Bridalwear in 2019 just three years after sister brand, The Pantry Underwear, which was my first venture as a business owner and opened its doors in 2016. After spending most of my early career in marketing for the likes of Ministry of Sound and Harper Collins publishers, I realised a life-long ambition to run my own business and brand. I took inspiration from one of my first jobs, fitting bras at the weekends in a lingerie shop in Cambridge, the town where I grew up. And thus I became the “Pantrepreneur”, realising the British underwear market desperately needed a disruptive new entry. The Pantry Bridalwear store sits on the floor below The Pantry Underwear store in central Cambridge.”
My passion centres around creating spaces and products that make women feel confident from their very foundations. Obtaining bras and wedding dresses are arguably two of the most exposing shopping experiences out there and my ultimate business and brand goal is to transform the associated dread of these tasks. My considered and highly original approach to buying, space planning and service delivery across both the bridal and underwear industries ensure repeated recognition from our customers (check out the reviews for both brands) and the fashion sector in general. In Q4 2022 our retail brands won Independent Group of the Year 2022 at the Boutique Magazine Awards.”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“Reimagining the industry – a collection designed for beyond just one day.”
“The Pantry Bridalwear has curated its offering around promoting British, independent design and its debut collection embodies this ethos. Furthermore, the line has evolved from a style-led contemporary collection to realising a gap in the market for pieces that are attainably customisable without the inaccessible costs, to fit the wearer’s personal style and style ambitions, with the opportunity to wear the pieces beyond a single day being considered throughout. The make process is therefore very much a collaboration between wearer and designer, making the ‘purchase’ that bit more exceptional.
The Pantry Bridalwear’s store and studio are located in Cambridgeshire and all of the pieces in this collection will be manufactured in the county. The decision to be homegrown and bespoke with regard to manufacturing also relates to The Pantry Bridalwear’s commitment to being environmentally conscious. In line with this, the brand also offers a post-wedding alterations service for outfit adaptations, encouraging re-wearing them time and time again.”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“Thankfully there were rumours that the brand I was working for at the time was going to be sold to a much larger entity. This coincided nicely with an underlying desire to start something for myself. Having spotted an empty store to open as a new take on underwear retailing and subsequently discovering that this was a long-established underwear store that closed in the 80s with the original branded entry floor tiles still in existence under the mat – it just felt like it was meant to be. Taking the plunge did not happen until I had written a business plan and worked and reworked a cashflow forecast, convincing the bank to grant a start up loan and when I knew roughly when I would sign the lease and take up the property, that was the moment to hand in my notice.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“Opening the door to an ex-frozen yoghurt parlour that had been abandoned 18 months prior with all the toppings still in situ…was the stuff of rodent ridden nightmares. I was absolutely terrified but the instinct to swim, the adrenaline, just kicked in. I ‘had’ to make it work.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
“Opening an underwear concession in Liberty London for three years, being approached just six months after opening.
Launching virtual bra fittings two weeks after we were forced to close three store’s doors due to C-19 and hosting over 400 for the remainder of 2020 with coverage from The Times & Telegraph.
Launching The Pantry Bridalwear as an additional store concept in 2019 and subsequently our own brand line of bridalwear in Autumn 2022.
“Being named Lingerie Independent in 2021 by Drapers Magazine and Independent Group of the Year in 2022 by Boutique Magazine.
Launching The Pantry Underwear own brand line of underwear in December 2022.
Learning something EVERY DAY.”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“C-19, mostly the enforced closure of our bricks and mortar stores – time and time again.
Landlord disputes, namely as a result of C-19, if you are not a surveyor (and couldn’t afford one at that time) the global pandemic created scenarios that I could never have even imagined.
“Breaking into new markets and realising the nature of competition and how challenging building a community can be i.e. new store locations and new product types.
Saying farewell to some amazing Pant Patrollers who have graced our spaces over the past 6.5 years.”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
“There are SO many things…
No.1 It can be lonely, remember you are privileged to have started something.
No.2 Cash is king.
No.3 Be sure to take a step back, on a regular regular basis.”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“Hot water bottle on your tummy (or a minature dachshund).”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“Jump on a call.”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“Mark Constantine, Lush. Chrissie Rucker, The White Company. Dame Mary and Doug Perkins, Specsavers. James Dyson, Dyson.”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business:
#13 Your first ever job was…
“Sales Assistant, Adams Childrenswear.”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Plan ahead, post live.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why …
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“Research up to a point, but you’ll never know what it’s like unless … you TAKE THE PLUNGE.
If not now, when?”
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS | THE PANTRY BRIDALWEAR
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read:
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
“Decaf flat white with a shot of chai syrup.”
#3 Instagram feed crush:
#4 Your worst job was …
“Loved all my jobs.”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
“Probably marketing, industry unknown.”
#6 Work day pick-me-up:
“A flat white (from an independent).”
Discover more from about Cambridge bridal boutique The Pantry Bridalwear and while you’re there check out their Instagram.