By Jennifer Lynn
“I always thought people were joking when they said they had grey hair because of stress, but it’s true!” laughs Aimee Beattie, owner and creative director at MeeMee Couture. “I love being my own boss because I’m an absolute perfectionist and I want it done the way that I want it done, but it can be very stressful. June this year was the busiest time I’ve ever had; it was so crazy that I was working in the boutique from 8am until 1am the next day trying to get everything finished.”
Crazy indeed, but Aimee, who specialises in bespoke wedding dresses and occasion wear, wouldn’t have it any other way. “It is quite hard going doing all the managing and bookkeeping on my own, but I intend for my business to grow, meaning that these responsibilities will eventually be lifted and I’ll employ someone else to take care of that side of things.”
So how did the MeeMee Couture fairy tale begin? “Well, while I was still at uni I had gotten work experience with a designer, and also worked in a wedding dress shop,” explains Aimee. “I was doing seamstress work, small alterations and things, but it got me over my fear of making wedding dresses. They’re completely different to any other dress with all the layers in them, and the technical knowledge behind them, but because I altered so many I learned exactly how they’d been made up.
“I then started up my own fashion label with my friend Paul, which I loved doing; we showed at fashion shows and sold our clothes in boutiques, but it didn’t work as a partnership. He wanted to move to London and pursue other things, and I knew that I wanted to do more bridal wear, so I set up MeeMee Couture from home initially.”
After deciding that she didn’t like people coming in and out of her parents’ home for fittings, Aimee began the hunt for a perfect retail location, and found it in the most unlikely of places. “The boutique was intended to be mainly bridal to begin with, and basically you can’t supply the same wedding dress as another shop within a certain radius, which is quite good because it means if I had it people would potentially travel to find me. I was trying to work out where I could go that I wouldn’t be too close to other stores, but literally everywhere you look there’s a bridal shop! Then I found this place in Kilwinning, which isn’t exactly a hub of fashion, but I just thought of it as an upgrade from being in the house- more of a next step than a final step. I’d thought about opening in Glasgow, but then you have more competition and high rent, which would have been a huge jump for me at the time. So I set up shop in Kilwinning and I’ve been here for two years now.”
Bridal couture aside, Aimee has shown her fashion collections at various high profile Scottish runway shows, including Nightwalk and In the Company of Wolves. “Catwalk shows are one of the best experiences because you can see people’s reactions straightaway, whereas when I’m designing bespoke pieces I don’t get to see anyone’s reaction apart from the person who’s wearing it,” she says.
“When I went to In the Company of Wolves I had picked an amazing bespoke dress for the finale, all black feathers and sequins, really dramatic. I had been getting models sorted backstage and missed the first half of the show, but I ran to the front and stood at the very back of the room to watch the finale. When that dress came down the runway, I have never seen a reaction like it- everybody started cheering, clapping, screaming… it was just so emotional; I wanted to burst into tears! Ever since then that’s the reaction I’ve aimed for, and as long as I keep getting it then I’ll keep designing.”
And with that look to the future, where does Aimee see her brand in ten years? “As long as every year I can keep increasing my sales, and moving the business forward, I’m happy,” she says. “There are loads of things I’d love to do, whether it’s to have another shop and be able to educate more people on bespoke dressing, or to brand the fashion collection and have it sold in store concessions to start off with. I want MeeMee Couture to be on everyone’s lips.”