Evanston company’s designs headline city’s first wedding walk
Ted and Rachel Alvia of Avail & Co. on Thursday, February 14, 2013 in Evanston. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:19AM
EVANSTON — Wedding dress designer Rachel Alvia has faced her share of challenges in the business, including the time a client asked her to design a wedding dress in the a medieval style.
“She wanted it historically accurate,” offered Rachel’s husband, Ted Alvia, a partner in the business, Avail & Company, “which meant it had eight layers.”
The only authentic piece missing was the boning. “We couldn’t get whale boning,” he said.
The couple’s current challenge would seem to be equally daunting. Rachel Alvia and assistants are rushing to complete 30 wedding dresses in time for the city’s first annual downtown wedding walk.
Evanstondowntown org, the city’s marketing group, has lined up a number of sponsors for the walk, which is to take place from noon to 4 p.m., Sunday.
The organization is hoping to draw prospective brides to downtown Evanston for the day, leading them on a walk of shops where they ideally will find inspirations for their big day – including the wedding dress, venue, flowers, photographer, jewelry and bridesmaid dresses.
Participating sponsors include 27 Live, the city’s new entertainment venue on Church Street, which will host a live fashion show at the end of the day, in which model’s will show off Rachel Alvia’s new line of wedding dresses.
The Alvia’s business, located in a storefront shop at 1106 Davis St., across from the main Evanston post office, is just the kind of creative, Internet savvy kind of enterprise the city is prizing as part of its new economic development strategy.
Its beginnings date back to Rachel Alvia’s years in high school, near Springfield.
That’s when a classmate talked her into making her a homecoming dress.
“I ended up enjoying doing it,” recalled Rachel, who had begun sewing as a young girl, “and she (her classmate) got a lot of compliments and friends started asking me to do their prom dresses for the next year.”
By the time graduation arrived, Rachel, to the dismay of her father, had set aside plans to be a teacher, and attended fashion design school in Chicago.
Ted Alvia handled the promotion and marketing of Rachel’s work, in a business that started on line (www.availco.com).
The two knew they were on to something when a bride flew in to Chicago from California and her fiancé from New York, and then drove to northern Illinois, where the Alvia’s then lived to check out the wedding dress they had first spotted on line.
When finally finished, the Alvias asked the couple if they wanted to stay for dinner.
What’s around? They asked, hoping to cap off the day.
“Subway?’’ said Ted.
The couple eventually married, and Rachel’s designed dress, along with the couple ended up in a ceremony in a castle in Ireland, the first non-Irish couple to marry at that site.
Ted’s mother Gloria and late father Teodoro Alvia were among the couple’s biggest supporters when they moved to Evanston last August, to be close to their customer base.
The Alvias tell customers that a wedding dress “is the highest cost per wear garment you’ll ever buy in your life,’’ normally wearing once.
For that reason, Rachel said she “listens well” what clients are seeking and seek to capture their personality.
“My style becomes what my customers say,’’ she said.