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Entrepreneur Caters to Brides Seeking Luxurious Personal Touch

LaTonya Turnage helps modern brides “say yes” to stylish wedding gowns that they love. The knowledgeable go-to bridal beauty and fashion expert prides herself in providing a touch of VIP experience to brides-to-be, has owned Elite Secrets Bridal since 2015. The main showroom is a bridal shop that is located at 339 North Charles Street.

“Before this, I worked in the corporate world as a marketing manager for a radiology company,” the Baltimore native said. “I’ve always had a desire to help people and be around them, but now I actually get to do what I love and that’s just being around the brides and serving them during some of the happiest moments of their life.”

 Turnage’s initial enterprise started with hair and makeup services. A love for fashion and desire to focus on the bridal experience blossomed. Bridesmaid’s gowns are also offered. Size inclusivity and customizations are two of Turnage’s business touches that enhance the bride’s styling experience. Wedding dresses up to size 24 are sold in her store. Most services are offered by appointment.

“We listen to the bride. We make sure that we’re addressing all her concerns. We’re making her feel comfortable which builds trust, so she trusts us not to just sell her a dress but put her in a dress that matches her body shape, her silhouette and makes her feel beautiful and look good,” Turnage said.

Model Jordan Aaron (left), LaTonya Turnage (center) and model Cherry J. Siedschlag
(Courtesy Photos)

The Elite Design House, located at 100 North Charles Street, is Turnage’s newest endeavor that launched in late February of this year. It was part of the entrepreneur’s business’ growth plan, according to Turnage.

“The Elite Design House was birthed for the bride that’s looking for a custom dress, or more of a haute couture fashion, ” Turnage said. “She doesn’t need the whole ‘say yes’ moment because she doesn’t really care what anybody else thinks. She wants what she wants for her wedding day. She’s also looking to support more of an independent designer because she wants someone that’s going to give her more of a personalized experience and be more hands-on. What we find with the independent designers versus the mainstream and big box brands, the independent designers are very passionate about what they do and work closely with the bride.”

Turnage was a 2022 cohort of Downtown Partnership’s BOOST Incubator Program. A group of entrepreneurs  were “selected for an innovative new program to attract and support Black-owned retail businesses in Downtown Baltimore neighborhoods,” according to details provided by Downtown Partnership.

The entrepreneur added that the initiative fills vacant storefronts in Baltimore City and it helps Black-owned businesses either open their first storefront or level up in their businesses to get to the next level.

“We were able to take our business growth plan for the Design House, and the BOOST program made that come to life with getting us a location, helping us with setting up the infrastructure as far as the build out lease negotiations, working with the attorneys to make sure that we got a lease that was doable for us to be successful, setting us up with accountants and coaches to help us with building out a three-year and some of us even a five-year plan and getting grant money to help us with inventory so that our businesses are set up for success. It came along at the perfect time,” Turnage said, mentioning some ways the program helped.

Turnage’s business expansion has benefited others. She stated that many of the local independent designers that she works with are also talented, Black creative people.

“They just don’t have the platform to get their designs in front of the brides,” Turnage said, adding how she serves as a bridge.

A marketing campaign includes photographs. A featured event for a designer typically runs from Thursday to Sunday. Brides are invited to book an appointment to view a designer’s collection in-person.

“They love a dress, we take their measurements, we order the dress, and we submit the orders to the designer. The designer then takes care of the production,” Turnage said.

Turnage includes a roster of D.C., Maryland and Virginia-based wedding planners, videographers, photographers, florists, venue managers and other wedding professionals that are integrated into meet and greets.

“The Design House is a creative space so we’re always doing creative things,” Turnage said. “We always say ‘we’re a resource for the brides.’”

Turnage is open to connecting with other wedding professionals. Visit www.elitedesignhouse.com to learn more about Elite Design House and Elite Secrets Bridal via www.elitesecretsbridal.com.

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