BY KATHLEEN MESSMER
Herald News Intern
Ever wonder what it’s like to step inside Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City, home of the hit TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress?”
Jasper native Haley Sample can not only tell you what it’s like inside the salon, but also what it’s like to work there.
An upscale bridal salon in Manhattan for more than 70 years, brides come from all over the world to purchase their wedding dress at Kleinfeld. The salon got its own show on TLC in 2007, and it has only grown in popularity since. The show is part bridal story, part fashion makeover and part family therapy session. Experienced consultants work tirelessly to help brides “say yes” to their dream wedding dress.
A superfan of the show, Sample managed to land her dream internship at the salon this summer.
The 20-year-old daughter of Stephen and Tobi Sample, is an incoming junior at Indiana University majoring in marketing with minors in Spanish and apparel merchandising.
Last fall, she applied for several internships in the retail industry.
“I was actually watching the show “Say Yes to the Dress” during Thanksgiving break last year at like 3 a.m.,” Sample said. “I was like, ‘I wonder if Kleinfeld has an internship?’”
So she visited the bridal salon’s website, applied and was asked by Director of Sales Joan Roberts to fly to New York City for an interview.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in the middle of classes now and it’s final exams, but give me about two weeks,’” Sample said. And sure enough, she and her mom flew to NYC two weeks later during her winter break.
The interview was much more casual than Sample expected. She is a student in IU’s Kelley School of Business, where she says students are drilled with interview questions. But unlike the typical interview questions Sample was used to, Roberts wanted to know more about her as a person.
“She wanted to know more about myself than my work experience or to prove that I was perfect for sales,” Sample said. “She wanted to know about my traveling and study abroad trips that I’ve done.”
Sample was offered the internship immediately after the interview, on the spot.
“That took the waiting stress out of it afterwards,” she said. “It actually wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it was going to be.”
Sample flew to New York City the last week in May, and started her internship just three or four days later. She lives with two other Kleinfeld interns in a small apartment in the Financial District.
“It’s the stereotypical, broke New York living,” Sample said. “I literally sleep in a hallway. But I’ve really enjoyed living with people I work with because I get to know them better. We are all really good friends.”
The internship, which is unpaid, entails Sample working five days a week, excluding Monday and Wednesday.
“Weekends are our busiest time, so all of the interns are there,” she said.
Sample’s work day begins with a 20-minute subway ride to Kleinfeld with her roommates. Once she arrives at the salon, she attends the daily morning meeting.
“We have a morning meeting with all the consultants and managers to talk about what we did well the past few days, what designers we need to be trying to push more, what our sales goals for the day are and if there are any special appointments that we need to know about,” she said. Special appointments are known in the salon as “VIP appointments,” and are typically close friends of the owners, winners of a giveaway or celebrities.
The interns are then paired with a consultant to work with for the day.
“Basically you work with the consultant, doing whatever they need you to do, like going and getting dresses, helping them (clients) in and out of dresses and helping with contracts,” Sample said.
Her first day on the job was exciting but intimidating.
“I didn’t really know what to expect going into it, so the first day was a complete surprise,” she said. “The first consultant I worked with, Sarah, really walked me through everything. There wasn’t any training, I was just kind of thrown right into the mix and learned as I went.”
Sample said working with different consultants allows her to get a feel for how different people work, different communication styles and selling techniques.
Occasionally, interns have the opportunity to consult “comeback brides.” These are brides who have been to the salon, but couldn’t commit to purchasing a dress. When they come back to the salon, there may not be a consultant available to work with the bride. So the interns step in to finish the appointment.
“We get to help her try on her dress again and ‘say yes,’” Sample said. “That’s really fun because it makes you feel like you’re a consultant when you’re really not.”
So what is the best part about having an internship at a world-renowned bridal salon?
“Trying on dresses when we get bored,” Sample said. When days are slow, the interns get to play dress up in all of the gorgeous bridal gowns.
“I’m obsessed with ball gowns,” Sample said. One day, she was paired with Shay, a consultant who is often featured on “Say Yes to the Dress.” He typically does not work with interns. However, Sample is one of the lucky few he likes to work with.
“One day he goes, ‘No, I’m going to pick out a dress for you,’” Sample said. “He put me in a fitted gown and said, ‘Now, that is your shape!’ He’s quite the character.”
Sample has also had the opportunity to meet some of her favorite wedding dress designers.
“I’m obsessed with Lazaro Perez,” she said. “I knew he was having a trunk show and I had to meet him. I literally followed him out of the building and asked for a picture. He was the nicest person ever. I had a mini fan girl moment.”
She’s also met Kleinfeld’s exclusive designer, Pnina Tornai.
“Me being the crazy “Say Yes to the Dress” fan that I am, I freaked out,” she said.
Unfortunately, Sample will not get to witness the show being filmed. “Say Yes to the Dress” only films August through January.
“Just being there on a day-to-day basis is very accurate to what the show is like so I can get an idea of what the filming is like,” Sample said.
She was surprised to learn that “Say Yes to the Dress” star and designer Randy Fenoli does not work at the salon. He used to work as a consultant; however, due to his immense popularity, he now works for TLC.
“Brides will come in and ask excitedly, ‘Is Randy here today?’ and I have to tell them that he only comes in when the show is being filmed,” Sample said.
Through this experience, Sample has learned how to adapt to different people and situations.
“You work with people from all over the world,” she said. “You don’t know them until you talk to them. You don’t know their personality, their family, what they expect from you and what you expect from them. If you can’t adapt to an appointment then you can’t make the sale and the bride is going to be unhappy.”
After college, Sample is hoping to move back to New York City to work on the corporate side in high-end or luxury retail.
“This summer has really showed me that I’m meant to do what I thought I wanted, and that’s reassuring,” she said. “I’m confident in what I’m doing and I’m really excited about it.”