Steaming ahead with clothes steamers

Meet Tim Oliver – ‘Mr. Propress’ – the man who supplies steaming equipment to top designers and retailers across the globe, and counts bridal shops as his favourite sector.


“The wedding trade is always very close to our hearts.”

Promises Tim Oliver, co-founder – with his friend and fellow-entrepreneur Brian Fillery – of Propress, Britain’s leading manufacturer and supplier of steamers.

“Partly that’s because bridal is an area where presentation is vitally important. Those must-have dresses absolutely have to look a million dollars, both on display in the shop and on the day itself. Steaming is part of that. But it’s also because bridal is a friendly and fun business, while being serious at the same time. We believe that one of the secrets of our success is that we really like our customers!”

Propress was founded in 1980 when Brian and Tim became aware of a serious gap in the market.

“Brian was exporting fashion to US stores like Bergdorf Goodman at the time and found that goods were being rejected because they were creased,” explains Tim.” He bought an American steamer and used it, and we could see there was a need in this country for something much more user-friendly.

clothes steamers

“Steamers were unheard-of at that time in the UK. We had to try to generate business going from shop to shop. At first, no-one was interested, but once we had demonstrated our quality products, fashion retailers realised they needed us! It didn’t take long for the bridal trade to appreciate us, too. We took our product along to a wedding show in Paris and everyone was amazed at what it could do.

“We now supply a huge variety of companies, from bridalwear shops to Land Rover cars (who use steamers on the upholstery), to charity shops, many of whom are using steamers five or six days a week on their donations. And we also supply fashion companies like H&M, Jigsaw and Stell McCartney.

“We make two models for retail customers. For bridal shops, the PRO 580 which sells for £645 is our biggest seller.”

Tim is willing to admit that if your bridal shop offers an alteration service, then you will still need an iron, but points out that steaming has huge advantages over ironing even on the most delicate fabrics and the most intricate and complex designs.

Steam from a Propress combined with its aluminium nozzle, kills covid and other germs in just 2 seconds. They don’t like a high temperature – and that includes Covid!

“Steam is a natural sanitiser,” he says. “If you look at the research you will see the steam from a Propress combined with its aluminium nozzle, kills covid and other germs in just 2 seconds. They don’t like a high temperature – and that includes Covid! Steaming everyday clothes means you don’t have to wash them as often.

“And on a wedding gown, whether the fabric is heavy satin or the lightest tulle, steaming is equally effective. You can’t iron a heavily embroidered gown, but if you steam a dress from the inside you don’t run the risk of damaging any trim. It’s even possible to steam PVC!

“Of course, as a retailer you’ll be aware that sample dresses need steaming to keep them looking fresh on the rails. Ironing compresses the fibres, while steaming plumps them up.”

Buy the best

It is possible to buy a cheap steamer for as little as £30, but as with many pieces of equipment, you get what you pay for. Tim says he is often approached by retailers at bridal fairs complaining that cheaper models don’t produce consistent steam, spit water over garments, or leave a puddle of water on the shop floor.

“Ours are much more robust and definitely built to last”, he says, “rather than being disposable after a year. We are specialists and have always sold our steamers on quality, rather than price.

“We use the best materials and manufacturing techniques. Our steamers have polished aluminium nozzles, rather than plastic – you wouldn’t use a plastic iron, would you? We are a brand that customers aspire to. We just have the one basic product, we know our product and we know our market really well.

“And our customers know we are a good company to deal with. The only way to measure any product is by asking: does this item do what I want? Does it perform well? As a steamer, is it easy to use and does it leave fabrics looking great? Our success in five continents and over 30 countries over the year proves it does!”

Could handheld clothes steamers become part of your stock?

Says Tim Oliver: “Retailers have told me that brides often ask them what they – the brides themselves – can do to ensure that their dream dress looks its absolute best on their wedding day. Not just the brides who are planning to pack a dress up for a destination wedding, but including those brides who are marrying in the UK. So there’s an opportunity for you to show them our recently introduced hand-held model, which retails at £110 or £130, depending on tank size.

A very full dress can look flat when it’s taken out of a box, but steaming can give it a princess look.

“Some brides-to-be have seen one of our professional models being used in a shop. Without being at all pushy, sales staff can explain that steaming can make all the difference to the way any dress looks on the big day, whether it’s made from heavy satin or light tulle, with embroidery and beading or without.

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“A very full dress can look flat when it’s taken out of a box, but steaming can give it a princess look. Veils and satin shoes can be steamed as well. So, of course, can bridesmaid’s gowns, mother-of-the-bride outfits and the suit the groom is wearing!

“And, once your big day is over, steamers can be used around the home for anything from removing the dents in carpets where furniture stood, to getting rid if creases in new curtains. A steamer is not a single-use product!”


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Content taken from Wedding Trader May/June 2022 issue.