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Me and Mrs Fray: a permanent bridal concept store for Canberra

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In October last year, we saw the arrival of a new name on the Canberra bridal scene. 

Mrs Fray made her debut in safe hands. The concept of veteran wedding photographers Amy Farrell and Andi O’Day, Mrs Fray began as a pop-up store in NewActon’s atmospheric Nishi Gallery.

Taking place across three days, Mrs Fray received a warm welcome from Canberra brides-to-be.

A second pop up followed, receiving equal support and enthusiasm. So much so, in fact, that Andi and Amy have found Mrs Fray a permanent home.

The Mrs Fray concept store will open its doors on 18 July in the new Campbell 5 precinct. While Amy says that a bricks-and-mortar store was always the dream, it wasn’t until the success of the pop-up stores fully sunk in that the pair decided to take the next step.

“When we made our game plan, I had suggested we start with three pop up events in Canberra over the calendar year, to test out the market…What followed was more interest than we’d expected and the recurrent question, ‘Where is your permanent store?’ Followed by ‘When can I come back in and try this on again?’.”

Amy Farrell and Andi O’Day. Credit: Dan O’Day.

Amy explains that while the pop-up stores’ success exceeded expectations, Mrs Fray needed to become more accessible for brides in the longer term.

“We realised quickly that the wedding dress hunt is a multi-tiered process that is helped so much by a permanent space where brides can enjoy trying on gowns once, twice, and sometimes even three times before taking the leap and buying their dream dress.”

So what can brides expect at Mrs Fray? Well firstly, a fresh approach to bridal shopping.

“None of us like the overwhelming retail experience in general, and we especially don’t like feeling even more pressure when we’re in the high stakes game of finding a wedding gown,” says Andi. “So it’s our goal at Mrs Fray to take all of that nonsense out of it.”

“In our perfect bridal world, we’d like to redefine the experience of finding a gown and remove the overwhelming and stressful elements out of it. We’re creating a warmth, a space, an experience, that will leave our brides feeling calm and happy afterwards; even if they don’t buy anything from us.”

As Andi explains, Mrs Fray was born out of what the duo saw as a lack of diversity in the Canberra market – one that sent brides interstate in their quest for a dress.

“We’re both wedding photographers, so we see a lot of wedding days and see a lot of dresses,” she says. “It began when I started to notice a trend in the Canberran weddings I was shooting — if the gowns were modern and edgy, more often than not the bride took her gown hunt to Sydney or Melbourne to source her dress.”

“The question began as, ‘Where do Canberran brides get their dresses?’ And turned quickly into, ‘Hang on, why hasn’t anyone brought bridal goodness to the well-deserving women of Canberra?’”

“[Amy and I] also both had incredibly underwhelming experiences shopping for our own wedding gowns, so making the experience and process of finding a dress wonderful is a passion that’s very close to our hearts.”

“We wanted to create the encounter and environment that we wish we’d had on offer when we went dress shopping, ourselves.”

Inside the store, brides can browse dresses and separates from Karen Willis Holmes, L’eto Bridal, Prea James Bridal and Lola Varma Bridal which Amy says will remain “true to [Mrs Fray’s] ethos of presenting the very best in contemporary bridal and breaking the rules on traditional wedding day style.”

The store will also host a series of ‘Designers In Residence’ events, which will be a take on traditional bridal trunk shows to be held every few months to highlight the latest collections from Mrs Fray’s in-house brands and introduce new, unique and up and coming designers to Canberra.

But it won’t just be bridal at Mrs Fray.

“The shop will be a beautiful space to come in and browse plenty of goodness aside from bridal gowns,” says Andi.

This will include “ready to wear designs for the stylish women of Canberra is accompanied by a selection of fragrances, accessories, handcrafted ceramics, paper goods and objects for the home from some of Australia’s much-loved brands and globally sourced wares.”

Non-bridal specific brands will include NATALIJA, Brie Leon, Baserange, OLO Fragrance and Ashley Lim shoes as well as Frieda Need’s “wedding day essentials”.

So do you have to be wedding shopping – or even engaged – to visit Mrs Fray? Not at all, says Andi.

“It will be a place to wander in with a coffee and wander out with a treat yo’self gift for you or the loves in your life.”

And for those still wondering who on earth this Mrs Fray is, exactly?

“She’s a concept we came up with when we were thinking about and writing out our ethos for the store,” explains Andi. “She’s a woman who does things a bit of her own way, as she’s treading the line of conventionality.”

“We want to create and foster a community for the women who are keen to break conventionality a bit, do things her own way, and dance to the rhythm of her own beat.”

“She’s on the “frays” of society’s expectation – she’s rocking a nose ring with her wedding gown, ditching the veil if it doesn’t suit her look, and changing three times on a wedding day because she can’t settle on just one party frock. And, I guess in a way, she’s a little bit of both of us mixed in together in one alter ego. Can we say she’s our spirit animal without eliciting eye rolls?”

As for who a Mrs Fray bride might be, Andi says “She’s the modern equivalent of Katherine Hepburn trademarking her look for high-waisted trousers in the 40’s — that’s our girl.”

A Mrs Fray bride “wants her wedding day to mean something powerful, but doesn’t get caught up in the traditional hubbub and hoopla just because she’s been told to.”

Andi says it simply comes down to the experience – both of buying ‘the dress’ and the experience that it adds to your big day.

“When shopping for a bridal gown is a beautiful experience, it’s laden with unparalleled, twinkly joy. The face of the woman who’s trying on a dress and falling in love with it is hard to beat. Society puts so much pressure on the bride and ‘the dress’. What we love to see is a woman unfold with confidence, joy, and happiness when she wears a dress that she feels good in.”

“Women often feel that the dresses have magical powers (to flatter, to achieve, to impact), but really they’re just vessels for self-confidence in a woman that she wouldn’t allow herself to feel before.”

“They’re magic clothes and the search for ‘the one’ is a magic process. And ultimately that’s what we’re here for: Mrs Fray isn’t here for the dress, she’s here for The Woman.”

the essentials 

What: Mrs Fray Concept Store
When: Opening 18 July
Where: Unit G31, 12 Provan Street, Campbell
Website: mrsfray.com

Photography: Anna Turner / annaturnerweddings.com.au unless otherwise specified

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