Every so often, I have the distinct pleasure of getting to know amazing creatives, entrepreneurs and daydreamers in Pittsburgh who are doing something a little different. Pushing in a new direction from where our beloved city has always perched.
Erin Szymanski, owner and visionary behind Glitter & Grit, is my most recent encounter. I have been following Erin’s ethereal Instagram feed for some time. Her eye for bridal gowns is really one of the only things that makes me wish I would have waited to get married. I want every single piece she has and I want to wear it forever.
A quick glance at what Erin has to offer and it should come as no surprise that Glitter & Grit was recently named to Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best of the Burgh list. It’s a much-deserved honor for this amazing boss of a woman who is delivering something so special to the people of Pittsburgh.
Learn more about Erin and her passion for her craft below. If you’re about to join the ranks of “I Doers” then you absolutely must experience Glitter & Grit. If you’re like me and you’re already on the greener side of the marriage pasture, there’s some exciting news for you too. Read on!
// Name, age and Pittsburgh neighborhood (of your shop, where you live or both)
Erin Szymanski, 37 (HOW did that happen!?). Glitter & Grit is located in the lovely community of Lawrenceville.
photo by Nicole Cassano Photography
// Where are you from originally? And if you’re not a Pittsburgh native, what brought you here?
I am a proud Pittsburgh Native. When my husband and I bought our house ten years ago, we weren’t 100% sure about staying here, but now I know it was the best decision we could have made. I’m obsessed with the ways Pittsburgh has grown since then.
// Why bridal? What motivated you to start your business?
For as long as I can remember, I was always crazy about fashion. I worked in retail on and off, before and during my “professional” past, and always felt like I wanted to do my own thing - but I never imagined that I would be involved in the wedding industry!
But when my friends started getting married, I was going dress shopping with them, and feeling a void. Everything was so homogenized, and I couldn’t imagine myself in any of those traditional types of edding gowns - and I suspected I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I realized there were designers selling more unique dresses online, and thought there should be somewhere for people like me to be able to try those styles on.
I also felt the whole bridal shopping experience was antiquated and… almost cheapened by the hustle in the busier and big-box stores. I wanted to create a relaxing, enjoyable environment where women would feel safe, heard, and beautiful.
// Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by anyone living their passion. There are so many ways that manifests in people, and I think it’s the most beautiful and inspiring thing. Seeing other people working hard, focusing on their dream, makes me hold myself to a higher standard. Recently, I’ve been inspired by a couple of friends who have really been finding their magic: Tori Mistick, Pittsburgh fashion icon (IMO) and creator of InstaMistic; Byron Nash - you may recognize him behind the bar at Harris Grill, but you should really know about his music; and my girl Chrissy of LOHO Bride fame - she’s newer to the bridal boutique game than me and has taken the world by storm. Beautifully, and with heart.
// Do you have an all-time favorite dress (or maybe it wasn’t a dress!)?
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I tend to get bored with things, so whatever is newest is typically my favorite. But there have definitely been a few that just smacked me across the face the first time I saw them, and they continue to deliver individuality and ease to our brides: Amelie by Anais Anette (and with a name like Amelie, HOW could you pass it up?), Erin by Antonio Gual for TULLE New York, and Gamilla by Houghton NYC.
//What has been your favorite collaboration so far?
I’ll never forget my very first styled shoot - or the two more created by that original crew, but I really enjoyed a recent collaboration with Thommy Conroy and Nicole Lockerman; there was a bit of ambiguity to the story line of the shoot (Are they brides, are they not? Is one a bride, the other not? Are they just living in a fantasy world?), some very specific and classic inspiration - but no holds barred. And my favorite part was that the only point to the shoot was to be creative and push boundaries. I like that. Oh, and - okay last collaboration - I enjoyed a little stint planning small wedding shows with my “work husband,” Jimmy Lohr, of greenSinner, under the name Hitchburgh. It was a labor of love that we quickly learned we didn’t actually have time to honor, but we had a good thing going!
// If you had one piece of advice for women who want to start their own business, what would it be?
Take the leap. Also? Lead with your heart. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that when I do what just feels right to me in my business, it IS right - and people recognize that.
photo by Mandy Fierens Photography
// What’s next for you?
A sister store to Glitter & Grit! I realized at one point that I wanted to do a little... more. More fashion-forward, as far as bridal dresses go, and more than bridal. But it didn’t feel like the answer was to move or grow Glitter & Grit, so I’m opening a new store this fall: Luna Boutique, in Sewickley. I’m so excited to bring modern, boundary-pushing bridal, cocktail, and evening wear to Pittsburgh in this new concept. My favorite part is how many pieces can skew either way, depending on the person’s style. We’ll keep providing the level of care and service that Glitter & Grit is known for, in a whole new story.
// And finally, where should out-of-towners go/what should they do when they visit Pittsburgh? i.e. What is your ideal Pittsburgh day?
Ooh - I’m the biggest cheerleader for Pittsburgh, and I’ve definitely had my share of attempting to show off our city in 1-2 days to some of my visiting designers! If I had to squeeze it all into one day: it’s mostly about food. Because we love our food here! I’d start off with brunch - I don’t get out much for brunch because weekend mornings are when we’re busiest at the store, but I can’t get enough of our neighbors at B52; the Cafe Ric is my weakness, and their avocado salad gives me life. Then I would definitely suggest some museum hopping, the Andy Warhol and Mattress Factory at the very least, maybe the Heinz History Center for some really local flavor. I also think that everyone should visit and support Smallman Galley, so that makes for a great lunch. Order a little of everything and share it! Make it a big lunch, because you should then take a stroll along and across the river, back to the Northside, for a show at Stage AE. But you’ve gotta walk - that’s when my heart really explodes for this city. If there aren't any concerts, take the walk, then head up to Mt. Washington for the view, and a superb dinner at Altius. I’m not giving away any secrets here; but these are some of the things that I think shouldn’t be missed.
All photos by Alexandra Ribar, unless otherwise noted.