Her wedding dress.
“My husband and I wanted every aspect of our wedding day to reflect our beliefs,” Muehlke said. “When I shopped for dresses, most were made from petroleum-based polyester. As a socially conscious consumer, I wanted a gorgeous dress that I felt good about wearing.”
So in 2012, three years after — and because of — her slightly imperfect wedding, Muehlke founded Celia Grace, America’s first line of Fair Trade wedding dresses. according to a news release, the company’s mission is to create beautiful wedding gowns that also make a difference in the lives of women and the environments. Celia Grace is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, a global movement to end poverty by paying workers a living wage, and advocating for work in safe and fair conditions.
Muehlke is from Groton, the daughter of Rick Muehlke and Martha McLure. She attended Groton-Dunstable schools and then the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School. She left Groton to attend Brown University, then “My husband and I moved back to Massachusetts in 2009 to get married and start grad school at UMass Amherst. I got my MBA and MPPA (Master’s in Public Policy and Administration) there in 2012 and we have been living and working here ever since. ”
Newly opened Dream Bridal of Sudbury is the first shop in Massachusetts to feature Celia Grace’s line of wedding dresses.
“Dream is focused on great service and beautifully handmade dresses,” said Malinda Macari, owner of Dream. “We have one dressing room so we can focus on one bride at a time. And along those lines, we chose Celia Grace not just for the silk, unique laces and flattering fit — because they truly are beautiful dresses. But we also chose Celia Grade because it’s a line of wedding dresses that is more meaningful for brides, seamstresses and the environment.”
Dream will host a trunk show featuring the full Celia Grace 2015 collection from Feb. 13 to Feb. 22 to celebrate the line —and the local connection. Celia Grace sells wedding dresses, and accessories for men and women, in bridal boutiques across the United States and direct to brides around the world.
“I love that I can work with such amazing women across the bridal industry like Malinda Macari at Dream,” Muehlke said. “It’s such a benefit for thoughtful brides, and great to partner with a bridal shop that also values the importance of giving back. The wedding dress is a symbol and a thing of beauty, the most exquisite garment you’ll ever wear. Where it comes from and whose hands have touched it is important to me. Our dresses put resources directly into the hands of hard-working women and men in poor countries who are changing their communities for the better.”
And when Muehlke mentions women across the industry, she means women worldwide. Muehlke is based in Amherst, but Celia Grace’s FIT-trained head designer Alix Kivlin works in Brooklyn. Production takes place in Cambodia and India, a concious choice Muehlke made so she could help the women living there earn money and gain confidence in a healthy, safe work environment. Celia Grace uses laces made in the United States on several dress styles.
“I love working with the women in Southeast Asia,” Muehlke said. “They are talented seamstresses; smart women who are coming out of really tough situations.”
Head Designer Alix Kivlin describes the dresses as standing on “an enlightened pedestal” not only for the Fair Trade practices, but because of the dresses’ one-of-a-kind materials and designs.
“Our 2015 collection introduces our first all-natural dyed dresses in blush pink using a Shibori technique that looks like light dancing on the water,” Kivlin said. “The soft blush colors come from coconut husks and hibiscus flowers. Our gowns are made in soft heirloom eco-silks woven on traditional, non-electric, wooden looms the way they have been made for centuries.”