Alum opens sustainable bridal store in Newton

By Mariyam Quaisar

While planning for her own wedding in 2018, alum Molly Swarttz ‘13 realized that weddings can also be eco-friendly, and after years of planning opened her own sustainable bridal store in June, making it Newton’s first ethically focused bridal store. 

“The nature of bridal isn’t inherently sustainable, but there are choices we can make along the way to prioritize ethically made and sustainably sourced things for our wedding and for our wedding dresses,” Swarttz said. 

Through the process of opening Glo Bridal, Swarttz conducted months of research to understand the various aspects of sustainable clothing. 

“In the bridal world, there are two pieces that make a designer or a piece sustainable,” Swarttz said. “The first piece is a designer’s practices. Who’s actually making the dress? How are they treating the workers? Is it experienced labor, fair wages, and good conditions? It is also about a bride’s own shopping habits, focusing on investment or longevity, when purchasing or when consuming.”

While exploring how she wanted her store to enter sustainable fashion, Swarttz decided on several factors. She decided it was critical to work with designers across North America, due to their efficient work, access to materials, and easier shipping. 

“I spent a lot of time doing research, finding other sustainable bridal stores around the country, seeing who they were partnering with, and asking the designers what their priorities are,” Swarttz said. “I want to make sure that the designers I’m working with have the same morals as I do, and it tends to be inherent to their brands. More and more designers are realizing this is important to them and to people who are buying from them.”

A prominent feature of Glo Bridal is custom dresses, which designers make sustainably for each bride, to their unique specifications, if that is what they desire. 

“Glo designers only create pieces when they are ordered, there’s no excess inventory and nothing is wasted,” Swarttz said. “They design the garments with patterns that create less waste, they’ll create the lining of the dresses from scraps, they’ll purchase fabrics from ethically focused places.”

There are also “pre-loved” dresses available for brides in the store, reinforcing eco-friendly fashion. 

“We carry an inventory of used or sampled dresses,” Swarttz said. “You can buy a bunch of stuff off the rack that have been worn once and dry cleaned, or that designers don’t need anymore.”

However, purchasing from brands that are sustainable and follow eco-friendly practices is very expensive, which is why many people resort to fast fashion, Swartzz said. 

“It’s definitely a larger problem in the industry because if it was more widely accepted to make all of these sustainable choices, the price points in the markets would adjust,” Swarttz said. “When not everybody is making those choices, for the ones who are it’s obviously going to be at a higher cost until it’s more widely accepted across the entire fashion industry, including bridal.”

Glo’s designers found a way to keep their dresses within the price range that a lot of average dresses range from, even though it is a higher price point, she said. Dresses at Glo Bridal range from $2,000 to $4,000, and average dresses range from $1,500 to $4,000. 

Swarttz graduated from Emerson with a marketing degree and spent the last decade working in tech at marketing software companies before launching Glo Bridal. Her Emerson education has come in handy in the years after graduation, she said. 

“My marketing classes were all focused on collaboration, creating presentations, visuals, and branding, and that has been essential as I’ve been figuring all this out,” Swarttz said.

Emerson’s immersive educational practices also left a huge mark on Swarttz’s career. 

“Knowing all the tools and the tech stuff that you need to run an online business was all from Emerson putting a lot of focus on getting out there and actually interning and working and getting hands-on experience while being at school,” she said. “I always loved how much focus Emerson put on real-world experience and I’ve used it every single day since.”

Swarttz made a lot of friends and connections during her time at Emerson who have significantly helped and supported her during the process of opening Glo, specifically in terms of marketing, promoting, and design.

“It takes a village and luckily mine is very, very talented,” Swarttz said.

While planning Glo’s logistics and launch, Swarttz held some fear about opening the store, but the pandemic pushed her to just do it. 

“How do you actually know when it’s time to make something that you’ve been thinking about for so long a reality?” Swartzz said. “The pandemic was really hard on so many people and there were pieces of that that got me to the point that made me realize that now did feel like a good time to embrace this and figure it out.” 

Glo Bridal is currently a side job for Swarttz, who still works remotely at a software company, however, she intends to make Glo a full-time job as the store continues to take off. 

“I want to get the message out that you can embrace sustainability when you are planning your wedding, and you don’t have to sacrifice your personal style or your fashion sense to get something that you can feel good about,” she said. 

Swarttz wants to make a point to show consumers that sustainably-made clothes are also of good quality and style. 

“Sometimes sustainability-made clothes have a bad reputation from a material standpoint and that isn’t the case anymore, you are able to embrace fashion and feel good about it,” she said.