Maybe, like me, you’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s song “22” and realized, mournfully, that at 22, the pop singer was on the brink of achieving peak stardom and commercial creative success while you, at 22 are in your room watching Netflix (“relaxing” after a long shift at a tiny coffee shop, procrastinating on your mid-term essays). Seeing women succeed in business is both inspiring and frightening. I decided to face my fear of the sublime nature of young female success and sit down with local girlboss, Gaby Bayona, who owns Truvelle Bridal, to talk about the path on which she accomplished outstanding business achievements at the fresh age of 23.
Last year, Bayona earned at spot in BC Business’s 30 Under 30, opened up the first bridal storefront in Gastown, was shortlisted for Western Living Designer of the Year, and began investing in a new bridal business venture. Bayona launched Truvelle in 2013, and the brand has since grown from an Etsy store stocked with gowns made entirely by Bayona herself to an operation supplying thirty-six retailers in seven countries and, of course, providing gowns for Vancouver’s brides.
It all began with her family. “My mom is a seamstress...[and a] single mom,” says Bayona. “When I was growing up I would always have to come with her to work. She worked with all the bridal stores in Vancouver, so I literally grew up in the industry... I spent most of my childhood in sewing rooms.” When she was ten, Bayona’s mother, Merly, opened her own custom bridal store, Ellebay Bridal. This entrepreneurial spirit attached itself to Bayona, who began a store at her high school which raised money for upcoming graduation ceremonies. After high school, Bayona made a risky choice that deviated from her original plan to go into engineering: she applied for Sauder School of Business at UBC.
“I didn’t get in,” she recalls, “I had no other options, I was forced to find anther way to spend my time, which ended up being a gig at my mom’s shop.” Bayona helped her mother update Ellebay’s brand and make a website, and then, eventually, began designing dresses herself. “I was designing grad dresses [and as the] brides came in, they were looking at these grad dresses and [really liking them]. That was kind of the ‘ah-ha’ moment. [I realized that wedding gowns] could be beautiful, soft, more like red-carpet dresses.” During this time, Bayona tried once more to follow the conventional school-internship-job model most of us are accustomed to. She applied to fashion school and started working toward a major in fashion merchandising.
“I just wasn’t very engaged,” Bayona says. “I was doing a final project and I was also running my mom’s business with her. I said, ‘I need to just take four days off, I need to finish these final projects,’ and during those four days off I was just staring at these final projects and hurting inside. I just couldn’t do it...So I dropped out of school.” This set Bayona up to pursue success on her own terms. “In real life I’m super curious and always want to do more research and read up on people’s stories and self-educate as much as possible.” This impulse to self-educate is coupled with her unwillingness to do anything she really isn’t interested in. “I definitely procrastinate when I don’t like what I’m doing,” she says when I ask about that all-consuming buzzword, productivity. “I get bored so easily, and I get fed up easily. If I don’t like [something], I don’t want to do it. Which is a problem, but I think it’s also one of my best traits...because if I don’t like something then I’ll change it.”
This year, Bayona will launch a new bridal business, Laudae, with her mother. Where Truvelle is Kinfolk-inspired minimalism, clean lines, and modern silhouettes, Laudae is for the beach-dwelling and messy-haired kind of bride. “[She’s] the kind of person who would listen to Lion Babe and LCD Soundsystem and Childish Gambino,” says Bayona.
Young success isn’t some magic spell cast over a select few at birth, it’s just that lives have different shapes. Bayona was brave enough to let her own path take precedence over convention. Basing her business ambitions off the model of luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy SE, Bayona plans to have three or four brands under her belt in five years, but she’s already made her dreams come true. She says, “I feel really cheesy saying this, but I feel like I'm living my dream life. I want to be in Vancouver, traveling, surrounded by good people, and constantly creating––which is the case right now.”
For more information about Gaby Bayona and Truvelle Bridal, visit truvelle.com.