Kelly Chase Couture
FINE: Where were you both born, where did you grow up? What were your hometowns like?
KELLY: I was born in Madison, WI and grew up there. It was a great place for a kid to grow up. We walked to school or took city transit (bus) paying 25 cents per way during Jr High and High School. It was not a small town but not a large city. I loved sledding & ice-skating in the winter and would stay outside until dark and we turned blue. We were scared the snow would melt! My mom would literally drag us into the house. Summers were spent bike riding, swimming and playing badminton with the other neighborhood kids. And of course Madison is the main campus for the University of Wisconsin so there were plenty of Badger football, tailgating, beer & brats.
CHASE: I was born in Valdosta, GA and grew up in Valdosta & Thomasville in South GA until Jr. High when I moved to Panama City Beach, FL. South Georgia is known for its “Southern Charm” and “Manners” (most everyone from children to adults responded to their elders with a “Yes Sir” or Yes Ma’am”). Valdosta has a strong high school football tradition and has the most winning high school football program in the United States. I worked every summer as a lifeguard’s assistant and then a lifeguard on these beautiful beaches from the time I was 12 through the end of college.
FINE: When and how did you guys meet? Before opening the store?
KELLY: We met in Houston Texas in 1994 where I was designing wedding gowns for another company after college. Chase was attending “The Ocean Corporation” after college which was a commercial Dive School (deep sea diving for underwater welding for the oil industry and oil rigs and pipelines).
FINE: Where have you lived in the United States?
KELLY: Madison WI, New York City, Northern California, Houston TX,
Atlanta GA and now SW FL.
CHASE: Valdosta GA, Thomasville GA, Panama City Beach FL, Tampa FL, Houston TX, New Orleans LA, Atlanta GA and Now SW FL We have been here in Naples for last 10 years.
FINE: In your professional work life, did you start in the wedding dress or fashion design business? How did you first get into the dress/fashion design business?
KELLY: My first exposure to wedding gowns was while in College at UW Madison. I worked in a better Women’s Dept store, which had a bridal salon. I did alterations there and this is where I fell in love with wedding gowns. After graduation from FIT in NY I job searched to only design wedding gowns. I got into fashion design to fulfill my childhood dream!
FINE: When did you first move here to Naples and why?
KELLY & CHASE: Chase moved away from FL years back, enjoyed living in other places, but we both enjoy FL so much that we set a goal to relocate back to FL. We made it back in 2004.
FINE: When did you open Kelly Chase in Mercato?
KELLY: We opened the Salon in January of 2013.
FINE: Are all of the wedding dress designs original creations by Kelly?
KELLY: Yes, all of the designs are my original creations.
FINE: You mentioned that this year would be Kelly’s 14th wedding dress collection; can you give us any hint as to what potential brides can expect? Are there any new design features that you can share? When does the collection debut or when will it be in your store?
KELLY: The new collection will be shown in NYC in October 2013, but we will have a very special early launch in the Naples store only on Sept 27th and 28th. What is new is beadwork to accent the lace as well as many new lace gowns. We will also show 3 new short dresses…how fun!!
FINE: What trends are happening now/future? What are the most popular styles?
interview by Brian Ritz C O U T U R E B R I D A L B O U T I Q U E KellyChase
KELLY: It is all about the back….low backs, sheer lace or embroidery backs. The fit and flare is still the most popular but ball gowns are coming back.
FINE: What inspires your designs and/or you?
KELLY: I love French laces and beautiful silk fabrics. It is the center of my design inspiration.
FINE: What sets your store apart from any other wedding dress shopping experience?
KELLY: We make it a personal experience where we take the time to explore all possibilities with our brides as they search for their dream gown. Also as a designer I can help them with the total look including accessories and the veil.
FINE: Do you have a favorite dress/accessories?
KELLY: I love them all but my passion is for the ones which are the most difficult to manufacture with intricate details like our gown named “Loire.” I love a challenge!
FINE: Talk about the Mother of the Bride/Groom and how you would like for their experience/outfit to be special as well?
KELLY: We want everyone who shops with us to have the same experience. We enjoy working with Mothers as well as lady’s looking for gowns for other special events such as charities and balls. It is exciting to work with color and finding just the right dress for that special occasion.
FINE: What other dress lines do you carry in your store?
KELLY: Rina D Montella, VM, Watters C20 and Stephen Yearich.
FINE: What is the best way to make an appointment? Can clients just walk in?
KELLY: Appointments are required for bridal shopping and we strongly encourage everyone to make an appointment so we can give our customers our full attention and discover their true needs and desires.
FINE: Can we find any Kelly Chase wedding dresses in any other stores, cities or states?
KELLY: Yes – we sell our collection from coast to coast across the US and are working on gaining international accounts in Europe, South & Central America, Canada, and the Middle East. Buyers from most countries attend New York Bridal Week looking for collections to carry in their salons.
FINE: Have you ever shown a dress collection in a fashion show? If so, where?
KELLY: Yes, we have had our personal runway shows during New York Bridal Week.
FINE: What are some of your favorite things to do in Naples? Any favorite restaurants? Any places you guys like to go as a couple on a date?
KELLY & CHASE: We truly enjoy boating and going to the beach with friends. We have several favorite restaurants that we like which offer nice vegetarian menus as Kelly has been a vegetarian her entire life. Even as a baby her mother advised Kelly would only eat veggie baby food. Chase on the other hand will eat most anything and enjoyed Moon Pies and RC Cola as a baby. He has since expanded his culinary palate and is considered more of a Flexitarian (eating mostly vegetarian but with some fish and meat). We both love IIndian and Thai food, and of course Bravo @ Mercato which is a staple restaurant with endless menu options (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian).
FINE: I know that retail businesses require lots of hours and work; what kind of hours do you put in at the store and after the store closes?
CHASE: Morgan, my associate, and I are generally in the salon Mon – Sat from 11-6. We are by appointment most any time needed as we have customers from all over the country and the world.
KELLY: I spend most of my time working on designing and overseeing the production of our bridal gowns and work with clients on an appointment basis. I also come in on some Saturdays to help when not traveling for trunk shows throughout the US supporting our customers and their personal brides.
FINE: Why do you think Naples is a special place to live and work? Why do you call this home?
KELLY: The word “Paradise” comes up often when explaining Naples to an outsider. Another word is “Beautiful.” Naples is best described as a place with some of the most beautiful homes in the world, litter-less streets, low crime, small signs, clean beaches, and expertly shaped landscaping. The residents respect their piece of paradise and work hard to ensure its beauty.
CHASE: Naples residents come from all around the world – Mid- Westerners, New Yorkers, Canadians, Europeans and everything inbetween. Naples is a global melting pot with one common denominator: “Everyone is extremely happy to live in this little piece of paradise.” This attitude shows on the suntanned faces of most everyone you’ll meet. And of course Sunsets in Naples are very special to say the least!
FINE: Any favorite vacation spots?
KELLY & CHASE: We often just go to our favorite local beaches since we already live in paradise. But we do love to go to Colorado to ski and visit Kelly’s aunt. We love the California wine country and of course, Jamaica and the Caribbean, as we both are huge Reggae music fans.
FINE: What advice would you give to other business owners and entrepreneurs?
KELLY: With passion, high integrity, hard work and dedication, dreams are attainable.
FINE: What is it like to work together as husband and wife?
KELLY: We have worked together for the last 14 years or more – we have a nice flow & agree on things (most of the time).
CHASE: I am the boss when Kelly is not around : )
FINE: Do you have any favorite charities?
KELLY & CHASE: PACE Center for girls – we just participated last
Saturday in the 3rd annual Collier County Love That Dress event at The
Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Course. All proceeds benefit the PACE center.