Sustainability in events is so much more than eliminating food waste and recycling. For weddings in particular, being mindful of the materials used to create beautiful wedding dresses can be the first step in having a sustainable celebration.
For this month’s Partner Spotlight, we’re excited to introduce you to Seychelle Pagarpatan Wilmouth, owner of Silviyana, which specializes in customizable, eco-friendly and ethically made wedding attire for the conscious consumer. We had the opportunity to chat with Seychelle to learn more about her company!
Tell us what inspired you to start Silviyana? How did you come up with the name?
Silviyana stems from the latin word, ‘silvi’, which means ‘forest’. It is commonly used in the study of ‘silviculture’, which is the “practice of controlling the growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values”. This explains the organic growth and the values behind the Silviyana brand.
Silviyana is sister company to Grovea (both stem from the idea of a forest). In a forest, you see different species coming together. The idea is that by interconnecting people, you create a business ecosystem that could sustain any bumps along the way to success, as everyone is working together. The bigger trees provide shade to younger ones, until they have gained enough strength to grow and protect the next generation of younger trees. We found a niche in bridal when we connected weavers to independent designers from the New York Bridal market. (side note: we encourage you to look up the word ‘yana’ hint: it is a Persian name and see the definition from Urban Dictionary - we hope to always be your ‘yana’).
Silviyana sprung up as a way for us to show the beautiful work of our independent designer partners who have made a commitment to create eco-friendly wedding attire.
How long have you been in the wedding industry?
Five beautiful years. I have learned so much from working directly under a bridal brand as their sales rep, to supplying eco fabrics to independent designers, owning a bridal boutique and now establishing an online boutique. I have learned so much about the wedding industry, and from this experience, I have dedicated to building a brand that challenges some aspects of the wedding industry that don’t jive in creating a more sustainable and kinder world.
What brought you to the wedding industry?
I used to work in tech, a job that I was blessed with shortly after my undergrad. After working there for sometime, I was laid off as the company was not doing very well. This was around the same time that Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) devastated the southern part of the Philippines. My Facebook overnight was filled with posts coming from my friends looking for their loved ones back home (Philippines). Instead of sulking about being unemployed, I took my severance package and flew back home. There, I got to know the Philippines more - I was captivated by the diverse talents back home.
One that truly touched my heart was the beauty and delicacy of the pina weaving industry. Coming from a sustainability background, I loved the story of how pina is created.
The sheer, natural lustre made me think of wedding gowns, so I pursued this and pitched the ideas to friends. I was then miraculously connected to one designer - Rania Hatoum, that opened up the doors to the New York Bridal industry.
What do you love the most about weddings?
I love being able to help wedding celebrants. Marriage is such a momentous moment, and I love being part of an industry that involves a lot of symbology, meaning and traditions.
For example, we love the symbology behind creating wedding attire that bonds two people in union forever - through thick and thin. A Silviyana wedding gown is made in collaboration with many artisans and designers. They are paid a fair wage, and all materials are ethically-sourced, signifying a union based on trust, transparency and the beginnings of a joyful union.
We love that your wedding attire is made of sustainable materials. What is your favorite material to use and why?
Without a doubt, pina. The pineapple plant has always been portrayed as a symbol of warm welcome. The two main reasons for our love for pina are the rich symbolism and the beautiful process of cultivating the fiber. A pineapple plant bears a single pineapple fruit each harvest season and in normal practice it is typical that some farmers would discard the leaves of the pineapple plant after each harvest. We give the leaves new life and purpose, by weaving this into a beautiful eco fabric.
Tell us more about Silviyana Dress Box. What inspired you to create it and what are the benefits of offering this service?
Wedding boutiques are well known for their tough strategies for closing sales. I did not want to be like other stores.
We were visited by wedding celebrants, but many decided to move on to other stores. How could this be? Because I believed that a wedding celebrant should feel good about their decision, and I even advise them to go look around, and come back if they truly felt that it was right. *this is a BIG NO NO in the industry, other consultants would think me crazy for advising such a thing* Consultants are fierce, and I truly say this with my own personal experience as a bride and as a store owner, their mandate is to not let you out of the store without buying a dress.
What did this mean for my business? It meant that I had brides that really trusted Silviyana. They see Silviyana as a friend. An ally to help in any aspect of their wedding, and not just with gowns. I later decided that the model of having a physical space was just too much for my business. It was a choice between this:
Switching over to a more ‘pushy’ sales process; or
Moving online and focusing on clients that share our vision, and willing to invest in what Silviyana does – handcrafting eco-friendly and ethically made wedding attire (while valuing transparency and caring for our brides above anything else).
We clearly chose the latter.
The Silviyana Dress Box service was created to allow us to support our brides in a way that we want without the pressure of high rental rates associated with a physical space. It also allows us to keep our price point reasonable without compromising on our ethical manufacturing process and high-quality and natural materials.
Are there any designers or artists who inspire you the most?
Michael Cinco - he is a Filipino bridal designer and I absolutely love his intricate detailing.
What industry trend are you most excited about?
Right now, there is a big trend towards using indigeneous textiles as part of wedding gown design. I am excited to see how a specific weave or pattern on a particular textile can influence the significance and story behind a wedding gown.
Do you offer dress rentals? What are your thoughts on rentals from a sustainability standpoint?
Yes, we do offer rentals. We continue to expand our rental collection. Based on the ethos of living sustainably, we encourage wedding celebrants to use our rental service so that we are not creating more waste. With custom and new orders, clients have the comfort of knowing that their attire is made following the design principles below:
Using virgin materials that biodegrade and are not harmful to nature.
Timeless design - designing attire that have principles of elegance and timelessness.
Modularity - designing attire that you can reuse certain elements in future occasions.
What is your top planning tip for brides?
If you are looking to plan your wedding, first and foremost, look within. There will always be trends, there will always be wedding magazines, take these as mere guidelines.
When you understand what you and your fiancé’s values are, it will be easier to make decisions. When you see a product or service, use the following three questions to evaluate if it represents you:
How does the product or service make you feel?
Do you envision yourself happy when you picture yourself with the product or using the service?
Did the consultant seem sincere? Did they answer all of your questions to the best of their ability and do they feel authentic to you?
What other projects are you working on that you’d like to share with readers?
The first ever Filipinx bridal collection will be launching this Fall, part of it will be released at the LA Vegan Wedding show on September 8. Silviyana and Pilipinx Ako are coming together with the common idea of creating a narrative through design, a journey back to their Filipino heritage, while incorporating the culture of the place they now call home. The collection blends Philippine traditional indigeneous textiles with modern design.
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your day?
My first-born Clara once came out of our hatchback and hugged a tree. My second-born, Catherine looks up to trees and says ‘trees, trees’! Our little family loves nature walks. We go to arboretums, hiking trails, just to get a chance to get out and detach from the fast-paced world. Nature is our way of winding down and connecting back to our values.
If you weren’t in events, what career path would you have chosen?
My first job out of university was looking through e-waste laws globally and ensuring next-gen products are in compliance to e-waste laws. I was on track towards a career in carbon tax, a dream I have had since I was a young teenager. Law school would have helped me secure a position in an environmental law firm which would have been my alternate path (at least that I hoped it would).
With the guidance of a higher authority, however, my current path has led me to sustainable fashion. I believe my mission is to return to my heritage and help share the story and talent of those that need to be heard.
How can interested parties get in touch with you?
You can email us at email@example.com or follow us on silviyana_weddings for updates on what we are up to next!