Chantal Khoueiry is founder and CEO of Brides do Good, which supports ending child marriage, and sustainability in the wedding-dress industry. She lives in London
Several years ago, I was having dinner with friends and one of them had recently got married. She had spent £12,000 (€14,000) on her dress and we were talking about what to do with it after the wedding. For most people, it’s get it dry cleaned, then it goes into a box and into the attic.
Driving home, I was thinking how this is insane. So many girls around the world are confronted with child marriage and we have this wedding industry worth millions. I thought, surely there’s some way to shape this for good.
I am chief culture officer for The Bicester Village Shopping Collection, of which Kildare Village is part. I run the Do Good programme, which is focused on unlocking the future of women and children, wherever in the world they are born, and I am the founder and CEO of Brides do Good. The idea is that one wedding dress can help make a change.
Brides do Good has a boutique in Kensington, London; we do pop-up shops in Bicester Village and we’ll be in Kildare Village until June 26.
The biggest part of our stock comes from bridal brands and designers donating either samples or dresses from previous collections, or even from current collections.
We sell the dresses to socially-conscious brides who want to help other girls, but who also want a designer dress at a great price. Some of our dresses are 60pc off their original price. In Kildare Village, we are also donating 100pc of the appointment charge to Barretstown.
The collection includes Jenny Packham, Jesús Peiró, Pronovias, Catherine Deane, Suzanne Neville, Charlie Brear and exclusive pieces from Temperley’s bridal archive, and a Brides do Good X Sanyukta Shrestha collection.
One-third of the profits from Brides do Good go to our impact partners, working to end child marriage.
My background is that my father is Lebanese and my mother is Italian-Ethiopian. In my career, I’ve always had a focus on humanitarian issues. I’ve done a lot of volunteering and travelled at lot in Africa, particularly Ethiopia, and I’ve been exposed to the issue of child marriage and girls forced into marriage.
Sadly, the situation around this is very bad. The pandemic has made it a lot worse and reports and statistics prove that we are going backwards rather than forwards, and that we will have 2.5 million more girls at risk of marriage before the age of 18 within the next five years. Currently, 12 million girls around the world are married before the age of 18. That’s one every two seconds.
With finding a solution to child marriage, you have to be holistic about it. It’s not one thing that will make it happen. We have been very careful in choosing our impact partners.
The programmes that we invest in are often established programmes, such as Huru International and Plan International UK. They have the community behind them and support from the authorities, and then what we do is accelerate their work with our support.
It starts with education, which can simply be giving girls the tools for school — paper and pen. And education of boys, too, and the whole community.
The second part of our work is around sustainability. It takes approximately 9,000 litres of water to produce one wedding dress. That’s almost 10 years of drinking water for one person.
Also, especially after the pandemic, brides have really stopped and thought about whether it’s worth spending thousands on a dress for one day.
Brides come to us because it makes their choice of dress more sustainable but because it also has social impact. That’s the true meaning of sustainability.
The bridal industry has been slow to own its social impact, but through us, they can do so much good.
The Brides do Good pop-up boutique is open at Kildare Village until June 26. It has a selection of new, preloved and sample designer wedding wear ready to take away, and appointments include the support of a professional stylist in making your choice. Book at bridesdogood.com
In conversation with Sarah Caden