Summer 2023

Inner Circle

Brides-to-be enjoy intentional, experiential design— with their family and girlfriends in tow—at True Society.

Words by Andrea Darr  |  Photos courtesy of True Society


a landscape architect, Joann Schwarberg knows about good design and quality materials. So when she became a bride for the second time later in life, she could distinguish the same characteristics among bridal retailers. “I went to New York and tried on Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta and Monique Lhuillier—all famous gown designers—and they were all nice,” Joann says, “but none of them provided the end-to-end experience that True Society did right here at home. It was beautiful, calm and easy. There were two discerning stylists helping me behind the curtain, with clips and pins and accessories at the ready, ensuring that the big reveal was perfect. It was fabulous.” What Joann appreciated is exactly what CCO Martine Harris has built as a core value of True Society’s parent company, Essense of Australia, whose bridal empire HQ is located in Lenexa, Kansas. The designer wedding dress company has been expanding to markets all across the northern hemisphere—successful in part because Martine has recognized how consumers have evolved. Since she began business as a traditional bridal retailer and gown designer 20 years ago, a movement has taken place. Women of all body shapes, sexual orientations and ages want to get married—and her company has stepped up to serve a broader group. “There so much around authenticity and being yourself,” Martine says. “It’s not just about a bride making her mom or grandma happy; it’s her own experience, it reflects who she is.”

The desire to serve became the driving component behind the store’s unique layout. 

“It’s not just a pretty space; it’s a journey,” Martine says. “We’ve rethought the whole experience—not just the aesthetics, but the moments.” 

At the heart of each location is a centralized circle, with interior dressing rooms whose curtains draw back to reveal the bride to her family and friends waiting comfortably in chairs on the perimeter.

“I love how soft it feels—it’s not squares or hard lines that feel clinical or factory-like,” Martine says.

True Society has a location in the Crossroads Arts District and another in Lenexa, at the base of HQ. The Crossroads location can fit 10 at a time; seven simultaneous appointments can be held in Lenexa. Each 90-minute consultation is free, and upgrades—from bottles of champagne to a sweets plate—are available.

“Lots of elements are the same; it’s a similar experience, but the aesthetics are localized,” Martine says.

Hands-on with the design of each, Martine describes the Lenexa location as more feminine— pink, soft, with gold touches. Downtown, she wanted to keep the urban character of the old brick building. 

Either way, a bride will get the ultimate treatment that may help ease at least one of the many decisions that need to be made during this life-changing process. 

“I always believed in keeping close to the market, from when we were a staff of 2 to 5 to 10 to 350 worldwide today,” Martine says. “We want our staff to remember who they serve.” 


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