Brides Call the Shots More Than Ever

With more brides-to-be wanting their wedding days to be unlike any others, bridal designers are stepping up to meet their demands.

with contributions from Marc Karimzadeh
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A wedding dress from J. Crew.

Photo By Kyle Ericksen

NEW YORK — With more brides-to-be wanting their wedding days to be unlike any others, bridal designers are stepping up to meet their demands.

During last week's bridal market, designers and bridal manufacturers discussed strategies for dealing with their ever-discriminating customers. With the two-dress trend and destination weddings continuing to be increasingly popular, some resources played up nonwhite dresses and more casual styles. Others focused on luxury-minded shoppers who won't compromise anything, regardless if they will wed on a faraway beach.

After a presentation of her intricate wedding dresses last week, Vera Wang said, "We can't ever underestimate the consumer today. You need to have consistency in your brand, but that doesn't mean you can spill out the same thing every season. In any price point, you have to show a certain design integrity — something that shows you went to another place and that's not easy."

Wang insisted she still loves designing wedding dresses after 16 years of doing them and seemed to prove so with deconstructed, featherweight dresses or grander styles with cascading volume, transparent touches and layers. Hints of the Oscar night dresses she designed for Keira Knightley and Michelle Williams can be found in some of her wedding looks, but the designer said, "I have to dress real women for this part of my business and it's getting very unpredictable. I am conscientious of different kinds of weddings and certain things that resonate with brides.…There's a goddess and a San Francisco girl, and ones from Washington, L.A., Saint-Tropez and St. Barth's."

As Wang works to constantly refine her bridal gowns, Oscar de la Renta has a renewed interest in the category. He has been designing bridal gowns for private customers practically since he started his business 40 years ago, and for spring 2003, launched a wholesale bridal collection in a license with bridal gown resource Carmela Sutera. The designer conceded the licensed collection never really took off, so he and Alex Bolen, his firm's president and chief executive officer, decided to take it in-house.

"It's not a relaunch, it's a launch," de la Renta said. "This is the first time I am doing it myself. It's a product that requires a total commitment to make it look right."

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