Ali Eagen is the fabulous and creative owner of Made by Anatomy, a local custom wedding dress shop here in Buffalo, New York that services so many of our wonderful couples! We have seen so many of Made By Anatomy’s dresses on our brides but we finally got the chance to meet her when we worked with her on a fun styled shoot last year.
We decided we wanted to share more about Ali and her business on our blog so we sent her a few questions about the intention behind starting her business, the biggest lessons she’s learned from running a small business, where she sees Made By Anatomy evolving in the next 5 years, and a few other fun questions! We’re so excited to share Ali’s response and introduce her to our readership along with a few of our favorite dresses that Made By Anatomy worked on to customize!
Tell me about Made By Anatomy and the intention behind starting it? As a Buffalo native working for a large, corporate fashion brand, I really felt the pull to come back to my hometown and follow my dream. During my last year in college, I realized that I wanted to work for myself and create a concept store, but I knew that I needed industry experience. And money, haha! Only a few years out of college, I moved back to Buffalo to begin the business plan and our premier collection. It was about a year after that all of the pieces came together. We opened the doors to Made by Anatomy on Elmwood in 2010! This year we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary! It’s hard to believe sometimes!
I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology for 4 years and loved every minute of living in New York City as a young adult. However, when it came time to find a job and decide where to go, I was ready for a bit more space. Every time I would come back home to visit, I would see more new and exciting things happening! Watching the early days of Buffalo’s revitalization had me thinking – maybe I can be a part of it! During an internship with a Brazilian designer in New York City who offered a similar business model, I began to dream about bringing that idea to Buffalo!
My connection to fashion has always been artistic and personal. I don’t subscribe to many trends, rather dress how I feel expresses my personality. As I’ve grown my style has evolved quite a bit. I have always admired vintage clothing for its impeccable construction and detailing that you just don’t see in modern fashion. Now, in my mid-thirties, my style is simplistic and easy. Running multiple businesses with a small family and house projects doesn’t really allow for excess primping time! I think that’s how it goes for most of us, though?! Our lives can dictate our style, but it evolves over time as our life enters new chapters.
When it came to wedding dresses, I knew that it was important to me to work individually with clients to offer a very personalized experience. However, I didn’t set out to specialize in wedding dresses! When we opened on Elmwood Ave. in 2010 our boutique was filled with local goods and items, from antiques to jewelry and gifts. The clothing was all our brand. We created a collection that was manufactured in New York City inside a small lot production facility. Opposite that, we had our workshop and made-to-measure collection. This is where women could browse through our samples, choose a fabric and color, and have the garment made just for them! This is where we began attracting the attention of brides who were looking for something truly unique. Our first few brides were all different from each other – but they all wanted what they couldn’t find in a store.
Made by Anatomy is a creative haven where women are the visionaries of their own unique sense of style who want a wedding dress experience unlike any other. We create custom-designed wedding gowns, reconstructed heirloom wedding gowns, and offer creative solutions and accessories. Working with women to make them feel their best is our passion. Each of us is so special and different – so why should your special occasion wear be anything but that? When we add in those little details and elements to a garment that brings so much happiness and create the garment to fit each body’s specifications – you can see and feel the confidence exuding from each woman. It’s remarkable. That’s what we’re after with each client: exuding remarkable confidence.
Is there one or two pieces of wisdom you can share with someone else looking to start their own business? The most important advice I can give to an entrepreneur is to be adaptable and insanely discerning. Everything can change in the drop of a hat (COVID), and you have to be nimble yet incredibly unbiased when deciding what step to take next. I have rushed into so many things that I didn’t think through and they only cost me time and money. Always revert back to your mission to help you answer your questions. If it serves your mission, it’s most likely a worthwhile idea. I created a very thorough business plan, which I pitched to investors and lending agencies in Buffalo, so I crossed every T and all of that. Even though my research was impeccable, the women who I was targeting as my ideal customer turned out not to be my target customer. I was focusing on businesswomen when I should have been focusing on the c-suite businesswomen. The only problem is there aren’t too many of those women in Buffalo, so those of which I knew, I worked with. However, it was only for very special occasions and it wasn’t enough to sustain my business. The first brides that I worked with made me realize that there was a wider customer base out there in the wedding world. And when I started reconstructing wedding dresses it got even wider.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from starting and running your own business?I don’t know if I could choose a favorite mistake that I’ve made along the way. I’ve honestly made so many! Some have been very expensive, others have been deeply wounding, but they all brought me to where I am today. Resiliency is the product of mistakes as long as you can evolve and learn from them. Every year has seemingly been an evolution of the one before: leaving Elmwood Avenue for the Hotel Lafayette to focus strictly on bridal, trying to break into the wholesale bridal market, shifting my focus to bring on independent contractors to help with the workload to then hiring my tailor outright…I have experienced so many ups and downs. If I didn’t have my family and friends here and the support system of other entrepreneurs who I’m lucky enough to consider my closest friends, I would never have made it.
Where do you see Made By Anatomy evolving in the upcoming years?For years I have been dreaming of creating a semi-custom collection to allow even more women, including mothers, to experience our collection! I haven’t been able to devote the time to this idea due to our constant heavy client load, but next year we will make it happen. It can be really overwhelming dedicating so much time and energy to our clients. What we do is so personal and time-consuming. Many people don’t understand exactly how much goes into the pieces we create, as well as the relationships that we harbor because of it. One positive thing that Covid has shown us is that having room to breathe during wedding season is important. Next year we will be limiting the number of clients we work with and taking on the jobs that we know we are truly required for so that we can focus on bringing our long time goal to fruition. In the next 5 years, I see anatomy in a new location with a collection of semi-custom made pieces for women to customize, as well as gorgeous vintage reconstructed dresses. We will always create custom wedding gowns for our community, but we are definitely looking to expand.