“I’m incredibly proud that we changed the bridal industry and gave women a vision and inspiration to do bridal differently. No one teaches you how to go from being an employee to a founder of your own business, to having a team of 300, whilst experiencing all the trials that comes with running a business – particularly as a woman.” Megan Ziems, Founder & Director of Grace Loves Lace
From the very beginning of my career in the wedding industry (nearly a decade ago now) Australian label Grace Loves Lace was on my radar (and steadfastly remains there) as one of the coolest, most inspiring designer brands pushing the boundaries on bridal design. Endlessly infused with Founder and Director, Megan Ziems’ creative spirit and forward-thinking vision for the modern bride, Grace Loves Lace delivers heart-stirring wedding dresses crafted via ethical and sustainable practices into the hands of many a bride across the globe. And, for those looking to take the plunge? Trust me when I say there’s some serious inspiration, advice and words of wisdom threaded throughout Megan Ziems’ answers below. For me, her words: “being comfortable with being uncomfortable will be one of your biggest skills”, really hit hard. It’s definitely a skill I need to practice. Read on to discover more about this incredible bridal designer’s 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…
Name: Megan Ziems
Business: Grace Loves Lace
Date you took the plunge: November 2011
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“My company is Grace Loves Lace, we design and create wedding dresses that appeal to women that really value natural beauty, authenticity and ethical design and manufacturing. I started working on GLL back in 2009-2010 because looking for my own wedding dress proved to be uninspiring. The industry was flooded with gowns that lacked in quality, originality and comfort. There was this assumption that a wedding dress was a strapless, boned, corseted gown with a full skirt. I wanted to create gowns that had character, passion, beautiful luxurious fabrics and were constructed without corsetry or boning.
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“My career was in marketing and branding, specifically working with French lace and lingerie. Design and dressmaking, however, has been a big part of my life as my mother was a designer and I grew up in her studio with sewers, pattern makers and cutters. I learnt to lay fabric at such a young age and would play in her factory after school. I had never even thought about wedding dresses until I was looking for my own, and the experience I had in knowing fabrics and garment construction is what made me so inspired to bring something different to the market.”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“I think I would have looked in over 20 bridal boutiques between Sydney, Paris and London. I travelled a lot for work at the time so had the benefit of trying to find my wedding dress anywhere. I can vividly remember going into a bridal boutique in Sydney and having racks and racks of dresses, standing on a cube, having this massive sample popped on me and clipped in. The prices didn’t match the fabric and construction of the gown, and I really felt like I was playing dress up. I was missing that substance and emotional connection to a dress. I really saw this big opportunity to not only design gowns that were completely different and liberating for women, but also an opportunity to showcase women as brides in a totally modern way.”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“I worked on GLL for two years before it launched and kept my career path and day job as normal for the first 1.5-2 years. It was only due to necessity that I ended up leaving my job in that second year as GLL was demanding all my time. I don’t think I went to bed before 3am or had weekends for the first 2-3 years. I lived and breathed it.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“I had the benefit of growing up surrounded my entrepreneurs, so it never occurred to me that starting GLL was something to be nervous or apprehensive about. I was all in, super determined and was more focused on getting “all the things” done. When you’re doing something for such an authentic and genuine reason, it’s easy to “just do it.””
#6 The highs – what have they been so far? The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“I’m notorious for not celebrating the highs or the wins, but 13 years down the track I can say that I’m enormously proud of so many different stages of the journey. From our first international showroom opening, our success as an Aussie brand in the US, the team and culture we have created, the jobs and careers we’ve supported, getting through COVID and all the challenges that gave us. I’m incredibly proud that we changed the bridal industry and gave women a vision and inspiration to do bridal differently. No one teaches you how to go from being an employee to a founder of your own business, to having a team of 300, whilst experiencing all the trials that comes with running a business – particularly as a woman. I’ve also had my two kids since starting GLL so the juggle has been incredible. I would say most of all I am proud to say that I’ve walked the walk, and held the business to a really high ethical standard and scaled it whilst doing that. That’s hard to do. I’m proud to say that I have a great relationship with my team and I still love what I do.”
#7 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
“To always trust and remember that it’s your business. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable will be one of your biggest skills. Don’t worry about being perceived as being tough, not everyone will get it, and they don’t have to. Your to-do list will never be done, make sure you look after you, that’s your responsibility to take some you-time when you need it. And travel more! Being a creative, you need to so make it a priority no matter how busy you are doing “the work.””
#8 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“Oh man, isn’t it tough. Sometimes I think trying to have a solution and doing all the “tips and tricks” can actually add to the anxiety so I would say just telling yourself that it’s normal and ride it out is the best strategy. Breath work is probably the only thing that I would say helps. Then starting the day early, getting your sunlight, exercising, avoiding caffeine, and getting all your “lists” written out during the day. More than anything though, I think having perspective is really important. At the end of the day, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? If no one is dying then you’re ok. And you can only do what you can do. Sometimes work-related stress can become bigger than it really should be. My 38 year old self would tell that to my 24-30 year old self.”
#9 Your top organisational tip?
“I’m the queen of lists, PowerPoint and project management tools. I write myself texts and emails about 10 times a day/night to make sure I don’t forget anything. And honestly, I work bloody hard – when you put in the work and know how to prioritise then you will feel more organised.”
#10 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“The woman of substance and passion is who inspires my creative side. My kids inspire me, my team inspires me, my family and girlfriends. I have countless mentors I look up to and have learnt from. I’m a Libran so I’m very easily inspired.”
#11 Your first ever job was…
“Working for pocket money at my mum’s design and sewing room.”
#12 Your top social media tip?
“Keep learning, be agile, stay true to your values, think quick. When I started GRACE, Instagram had just launched and social media platforms were really starting to gain traction in a way no one expected so we really grew with our audience in that respect. We harnessed the power of Pinterest and Instagram to speak with our brides and create a really strong community – it was incredible to be able to have two-way conversations with our brides like others couldn’t before and to be able to inspire them with the content we curated, which is the approach we’ve continued to take.
With the constant algorithm updates, how brides explore content and the way they engage with content has changed. We have always grown with these changes and never turn a blind eye to what our brides need or want, and on what platform. We try to always be at the forefront of creating beautiful yet meaningful campaigns that touch our consumers as well as engaging short-form video content and educational content to help brides on their journey. Whether it’s how to place your veil, what undergarments to wear or just a beautiful gown to look at – we have it all across our platforms.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
“I would love to collaborate with Ashley Graham… she’s just so fierce and fabulous.”
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
“There are loads of creatives that inspire me daily like artists and architecture accounts. These have evolved and changed over the years, but I will always look to these types of accounts because they give me a totally different perspective.”
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
“Pinterest and Instagram. I personally love making Reels – I know that’s weird but I am the founder that is constantly making them and sending them to the team like “do you like this?””
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“Don’t talk about it too much to too many people (if I had listened to people I told I would have been talked out of doing it), don’t change your mind, don’t spend too much time working on a “plan”. Don’t take on an investor too soon, be clear on your main objective, what gap you’re filling, what your costs, profit and margins will be. Don’t stop your day job. Work hard and don’t stop. And know the difference between a passion project and a business that you’re passionate about. And have fun!”
Rapid Fire Questions | Megan Ziems of Grace Loves Lace
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read?
“I’m a big reader! Too many…but actually I would say the most important book I have ever read (and I keep it as my Bible) is In Love With The World: What a Buddhist Monk Can Teach You About Living from Nearly Dying by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and Helen Tworkov.”
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
“Matcha on water that’s 80 degrees (just under boiling), with a dash of honey.”
#3 Instagram feed crush: “@ashleygraham”
#4 Your worst job was…
“At a fish and chip shop when I was 15.”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
“Something in health and fitness. Or a marine biologist.”
#6 Work day pick-me-up:
“Music, matcha, lollies.”