by Denise Sautters
Original story here
Grace Rojek of North Canton is unboxing wedding dresses that have been in storage for years on end. She then unleashes new memories for moms and daughters.
Rojek launched the Unbox the Dress website (unboxthedress.com) in January, giving women numerous ways to repurpose their wedding gowns and transform them into custom-designed gifts and family keepsakes.
From Christening suits to bouquet wraps, there is no end to how many ways a wedding dress can be repurposed.
“I meet with the client about who she is giving the gifts to, and her ideas, then design from there,” said the 26-year-old entrepreneur, who said she has a network of “graceful sewers” who put the pieces together. >“I work with the seamstresses throughout the process to ensure the item is meeting the standards we’ve set. A lot of our clients are mothers who want something special for their daughters, or grandmothers who want the same for a granddaughter. ”
Some clients have wanted pillows, others home decor items such as table runners or framed wall hangings. She said flower girl dresses, cake rounds and the getting-ready robe are very popular, as is using the lace from a mother’s or grandmother’s gown for the veil for the new bride, or an embellished pocket square or tie for dad.
“Everything is a little different because of the differences in the wedding gowns,” said Rojek, a graduate of Hoover High School and Northwestern University. She got a degree in marketing and communications, and went to work in her field before starting Unbox the Dress with her mother, Lorraine Stewart, a marketing and branding expert.
“When we open the box, we look at the style. You can tell a lot about the era of the gown because of the style,” said Stewart. “The 1980s are really embellished with high necklines, the 1970s were plainer, with empire waistlines.”
She and Rojek go to bridal shows together and talk about the different possibilities for gowns.
“It takes a minute for some to get it because this is such a new idea, but then it clicks and then you see the mother’s reaction and she wants to reminisce about her wedding and the dress, then the daughter starts thinking about the cool ways to use mom’s dress,” said Stewart. “Sometimes the grandma is there and wants to be a part of the special day.”
Unbox the Dress just got its first multi-generational project.
“A client came in with her dress and her mother’s dress and is making a couple surprises for her daughter,” said Rojek. “Our business is centered upon celebrating generations of women who love and empower each other. Our goal is to grow our brand nationally but stay grounded in Ohio.”
The ladies’ customers say they are thrilled with the products they’ve received.
“The robe she made from my gown is just stunning,” said Michelle Clagg of Plain Township. “It is something my daughter will cherish for a long time. It is more beautiful than I imagined.”
Clagg was married in 1985 and had her dress boxed up since. She has moved six times, and, each time, the dress went with her and was stored in a closet. Her daughter Stacie lives in Sarasota, Fla., and is getting married later this year on Hilton Head Island. In addition to the robe, she had Rojek also made a bouquet wrap and a cake round for the wedding cake.
“My daughter and I went to a bridal show earlier this year and saw her there,” said Clagg, who said she knew Rojek previously, as their daughters were in a dance class together at Avondale Dance.
“A lady we met in one of the dress shops we went to suggested we use my dress to make something for the cake table,” explained Clagg. “She told us there were people out there who could make things from my dress, and I thought that was something I wanted to do.”
She and her daughter unboxed her dress, puffy sleeves and all.
“I hadn’t seen the dress in 32 years,” Clagg said. “I thought, ‘oh my.’ When I saw what Grace does with wedding dresses, I made arrangements with her for the next week. We met and I decided to do the robe, the bouquet wrap, and then I wanted to do a round for the cake.”
Rojek did the robe first.
“When she sent me a photo of the robe, I cried,” said Clagg. “It is absolutely stunning. Just beautiful. I also asked her to make me a garter for my daughter, and she sent me a traditional garter, then I asked her if she could add some blue beading to the garter. Her work is truly beautiful. I could not have expected more.”
Judy Webb of Massillon is one of Rojek’s seamstresses.
“I love creating beautiful things,” she said, noting that among her projects have been a baby tutu and flower girl dresses. “I’ve enjoyed every project I’ve completed for Grace. She is a wonderful young woman."
According to Rojek, “Your wedding dress may be outdated, but the lace embellishments and iconic fabrics are timeless.”