Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Weddings are steeped in tradition, marrying elements of the past with the present. In 2009, Ashley Brooke Adamson-Pratt was helping her sister Danielle shop for a dress for her upcoming nuptials. Danielle, at the tail end of her wedding budget, spotted and fell in love with an elegant—albeit pricey—accessory to wear on her big day. An entrepreneurship major at St. Thomas, Adamson-Pratt sensed a potential business idea: recreate the beauty of the designer sash at an affordable price. In 2010, the two sisters and their mother, Tami, launched a.b. Ellie, a bridal accessory line that has found its way into the hearts of brides around the globe, not to mention more than 50 retailers. The opportunity to sell their accessory line in the Vera Wang flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York City was icing on the cake.
The name of their business includes a deferential nod to their great-grandmother, Ellie, whom Adamson-Pratt describes as “always having a positive outlook” while raising four children by herself after the sudden death of her husband. The standards for the bridal wear came from Ellie’s era as well, a time when women’s fashions were tailored, high-quality, and met the needs and personalities of each woman. The business has continued that tradition, mixing luxurious silks, organza and taffetas, with detailed beading of luminous pearls and shimmering stones, all designed to emphasize a bride’s individuality.
The sashes, their most requested item, are made to order and sewn by hand in White Bear Lake. As the company has grown, they streamlined the more labor-intensive designs to accommodate the increased demand.
A closer look at one of a.b. Ellie’s detailed sashes
The first collection was conceptualized in the family home on Otter Lake. It included twelve pieces, with mother and daughters collaborating on everything from design and fabric selection, to the actual sewing and beading, not to mention the day-to-day business demands. The trio perused local and online fabric stores to find the ideal fabrics for each piece.
Initially, the line included only sashes, which the company insisted on “doing well before moving on.” They subsequently added jewelry, headpieces and straps. The sashes are versatile, updating a mother’s (or grandmother’s) wedding dress, as a gift for bridesmaids or to denote the maid of honor, or worn with another dress to mark an anniversary.
Most of a.b. Ellie’s business is done wholesale, connecting with retail buyers at bridal markets in the fall. The most recent line features 20 new sashes, designed to accommodate a dress of any style, including ball gown, mermaid, or sheath.
“The sash is perfect for any bride, very feminine,” says Adamson-Pratt. “It tends to highlight the dress.” Custom requests range from extended beading for any waist size to alternative beading to custom ribbon color. The sash can be simple or elaborate.
A.b. Ellie’s designs continue to capture the interest of designers and brides alike, from here to Japan, where their elaborate headpieces and jewelry are popular.
“Our desire is to create timeless pieces of exceptional quality,” says Adamson-Pratt, “pieces you can pass down to the next generation.”