We sat down with Nickie Jenvey, owner of specialist wedding dress cleaning and storage service Boxed Bridal in Southampton, where she talks about the ins and outs of the company, her passion for her job, some of her favourite designers and how you can book in…
Tell Us a Little Bit About Yourself and Boxed Bridal…
Personally I fall into that group of very fortunate people who honestly just love their work – but who wouldn’t? Every day focusses around happiness and I am surrounded by the most beautiful scenery in the form of wedding dresses.
Boxed Bridal is a brand under our main company, Pressing Needs, an ironing service, that I founded some 34 years ago as a young mum (I was young back then!) with the simple ambition of contributing to our family income.
As the business began to grow we introduced laundry and dry cleaning and Malcolm joined me to work full time on Pressing Needs and yes, we have survived working together and being married now for approaching 42 years. About 12 years ago we identified something we saw as being innovative and very niche.
Not just wedding dress cleaning like we did as Pressing Needs, but something much more special and personal for a bride or her family – we wanted to create an experience. And selfishly for me, a whole new business challenge and Boxed Bridal was launched.
What Makes Boxed Bridal Different to Other Cleaning Services?
We set out to be different from the minute Boxed Bridal was born. A wedding dress in whatever form is what creates a bride and with this comes a journey. It may be a short and easy journey or it may be stressful and harrowing but at the end of it there is a marriage and ultimately years of life together.
We believe a wedding dress earns respect and deserves some TLC when her work for a bride is done and this may be with cleaning and folding into a preservation box for long term storage and safe keeping, or cleaning for another bride to wear.
We have a dedicated bridal studio where we host personal appointments for dropping off a dress and best of all, being able to display them for the return appointment to see the results which can often be quite an emotional reunion.
The challenge of cleaning is enhanced with the benefit of the three cleaning processes that we have here on site and no expense has been spared in our choice of chemicals or equipment to achieve our ultimate goal of perfection. We are in total control of every aspect of the care right from start to finish and are pleased that we offer a Total Care Solution.
We are a small team of four, myself, Amy, Jodie and Erin and each one of us has a very specific role and, depending on the service that is required, is involved with almost every dress that we receive.
What Can a Customer Expect From Their Service at Boxed Bridal? What Is The Process?
From the moment we receive an enquiry whether that is by email, social media or on the telephone we aim to ensure that a customer feels special and confident to choose us. We aim to build a friendly relationship right from the first point of contact and as far as email will enable us, to extend warmth, welcome and above all else, a feeling of care.
If they are able to come to us in person, a dedicated half an hour is set aside for the first appointment to drop off when we carry out a thorough inspection of the dress and detail the order and then a second appointment, some 2-3 weeks later to return and see the results and to fold the dress into a preservation box if that is the chosen option (we liken this part to being wedding dress origami!).
The appointments are probably one of our favourite parts of the process. None of us tire of hearing about wedding experiences and its even more fun when other family members attend as well.
There is a huge growing demand for our nationwide services where unfortunately we never meet the bride as the distance means it is impossible to come in person, so communication is even more important. After the pandemic the use of couriers became so much more acceptable and we are pleased to utilise a fully insured tracked courier journey for a dress, all organised by us on a day/date to suit the bride.
All they have to do is to put the dress into a box of absolutely any kind, print off the shipping label and be available for the collection that has been arranged or have a safe place to leave it.
Can You Tell Us About Some of Your Favourite Projects You’ve Worked On and Brides You’ve Helped?
The panic requests are probably the best ones! This can be in the form of last minute cleaning of a sample dress when a bride or a seamstress realise the dress doesn’t look as perfect as she could look, pre-wedding pressing to ensure the dress really does look as perfect as possible with attention to every layer, or “I’m flying to Barbados and I have the biggest dress you can imagine, how do I travel with her”, or I have a destination wedding – I get back on Thursday and a second party on Saturday!
These are all actually so easy to deal with because we are in control and do all the work here on site but its very satisfying to see and hear their relief. We simply prioritise and queue jump. We love it when a bride returns to our studio to collect her dress and walks in to her dress presented with the back view and the train all displayed out – a view that as guests at a wedding we see, but a bride doesn’t.
I did say earlier that all our work was happy, but there is just one single occasion that is exempt from this and is not what I would say is ‘favourite project’ as the question asks, but was certainly one that I was personally very honoured to have been involved with.
I answered a call from the Father of a Bride wanting to have his daughter’s wedding dress boxed, nothing unusual in this until he told me that his daughter had passed away four weeks earlier. This is the single most hardest appointment I have ever had to deal with. Dad and groom arrived together and spent almost 2 hours with me as I very carefully and respectfully folded the dress into the preservation box and we chatted.
It was hard at first but gradually they both relaxed. Dad had to leave the studio a couple of times to compose himself but for the groom, I was honoured and flattered that he shared so much about the wedding and all plans and the final passing of his wife and sharing with me a video of wedding service.
We packed everything associated with the wedding in the box, her dress, her shoes and veil and her perfume. It gives me goose bumps all over again to be telling you about this. The hardest part for me, putting the lid on the box and then to see them carrying the box out of our studio. This is really not an experience I would want to have to go through again anytime soon, but I think it helped them both so it made all the discomfort for me seem worthwhile! And we could only do this because we are Boxed Bridal.
Can you name some of your favourite designer dresses that have come to Boxed Bridal to be restored?
What a question and what a can of worms to open up! I want to stand up and be very British and shout loudly Nicola Anne, Suzanne Neville, Sassi Holford, Jenny Packham, Savin, Alice Temperley, Charlie Braer, Eliza Jane Howell to name but a few, but they can be very challenging designs to clean. But we do love a challenge and with our expertise can usually overcome the challenge after lots of pondering and contemplation.
Care labels help but are generally very generic and often advise ‘do not clean’. Every dress has a very thorough pre-clean inspection as the combination of fabrics and the construction are a huge deciding factor on the cleaning options for us.
I am drawn to a dress when I look at the fabrics it has been constructed from and not just the ones that I know are straight forward to clean as they often come with some of the most challenging stains. I love the shine of a mikado fabric and I admire the intricacies of delicate bead work and lace designs. To be honest, I am constantly in awe of the changing designs that we see and have no idea how a bride makes that final choice.
BUT, if I had to choose real favourites of the moment, with consideration particularly to the construction of a dress which I know is boring but for us very significant (beautiful on the inside and the outside), then I would have to say Made with Love, Pronovias, Nicola Anne, Rue de Seine, Madi Lane, Rosa Clara, Stella York, Anna Sorrano and Justin Alexander are very high on the list. Choosing a single favourite would be impossible.
What Are The Benefits of Using a Bridal Box to Store a Wedding Dress?
If you are planning to keep your wedding dress then the single most important fact is to have it cleaned. DON’T PUT YOUR DRESS AWAY UNCLEANED, however you plan to store it! It may appear that there are no marks, but be assured, in most cases, within a very short period of time, staining will have develop and this is very sad to see.
These are usually associated with the fermentation of sugars in alcohol – that little bit of champagne which drips off your glass! Or yellowing of the fabrics from perspiration.
All our boxes are made for us by the Empty Box Company in Devon constructed from 100% recycled neutral board but with a difference. The vintage pearl design of our boxes is exclusively ours, printed for us, so only an option for a Boxed Bridal bride coming direct to us, or through one of the bridal boutiques we work with.
Once a dress has been cleaned and then carefully and concisely folded into the box, between layers of acid free tissue paper, the cleaning results achieved will be retained for years to come (this does also assume that you will keep the box in a suitable environment).
Annoyingly there is always a very slight risk that little plastic sequins can yellow and there is nothing that be done to prevent this. It is unusual and tends to be more likely with sample dresses that have had high exposure to heat or sunlight, i.e, in a shop window.
Can You Tell Us a Little About Your Boxes for Destination Weddings?
Most destination weddings involve a flight. Imagine arriving at the destination airport to find your luggage with your wedding dress hasn’t arrived! Don’t even think about risking it. The safest way to travel with your wedding dress is to keep it with you folded into a travel box that complies with airline hand luggage allowances. Also, it’s a great way to draw attention at the airport and make you feel special.
A suggestion is sometimes to use a hand luggage suitcase – this is an option, but the benefit of a travel box is it provides an unobstructed packing area and optimises the packing volume for the dress. And yes, a lot of them do arrive with minimal creasing and ready to wear but this is of course influenced by the design and fabrics.
We can supply just a travel box but the best way is to let us pack the dress and this is great as it gives us an opportunity to also give a bride guidance and a little insight into the construction of her dress and for those who are having a beach wedding the confidence about perhaps having a little paddle!
What Other Services Does Boxed Bridal Offer?
Before a wedding, this can be cleaning of a sample or pre-loved wedding dress, or pre-wedding pressing and this does mean actually ironing it – net underskirts and many fabrics require much more than just steam to produce the best possible finish.
The majority of our work is after a wedding with the actual cleaning of the wedding dress and this extends to the veil and now, shoes and trainers as well. In addition, with our link to Pressing Needs, all other wedding attire can be cleaned here under one roof including men’s suits, bridesmaid dresses and mother of bride/groom outfits. We really do provide the TOTAL CARE SOLUTION all here under one roof.
What Is the Best Thing About Working for Boxed Bridal?
This is an easy one to answer- absolute all round job satisfaction. I could go on for ages here but I really hope that all the other answers to the questions I have given just show how much we care and want to provide a great service. It humbles us all when we read the amazing reviews both on Google or our Facebook page that brides or their family leave for us after their experience with our services and these definitely help others to make a choice.
How Do Customers Book in With Boxed Bridal?
The majority of our enquiries are by email to [email protected] and either myself or Amy will respond as promptly as possible.
Our website is comprehensive and provides lots of information and is often what prompts an enquiry to be made. There are many cleaners that offer a wedding dress cleaning service, and we just urge anyone looking for a service to choose carefully.
It is very high risk work and there are many pitfalls. It is essential that you feel confident with the provider you choose and that you believe they will care for your dress while endeavouring to achieve the very best possible results for you.
We acknowledge that a significant amount of money is being invested in our services and we want a bride to feel they have had true value for money with their Boxed Bridal experience and that we have done all that we can to achieve the best possible results for them.
Perfection is always the ultimate aim, but frustratingly is not something that we can honestly guarantee but we can guarantee that we don’t give up easily! We all love good before and after photos and they provide a great reminder of the starting point and the results that we have achieved.