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British Designers Giving Brides Red-Carpet Treatment

For many brides, the wedding aisle is their very own red-carpet moment, so bridal collections by top red-carpet designers are now big business.

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LONDON — For many brides, the wedding aisle is their very own red-carpet moment, so bridal collections by top red-carpet designers are now big business.

The intensity of media exposure for red-carpet evening gowns and celebrity weddings has prompted many brides to move away from unfamiliar labels in favor of high-wattage special occasion wear brands such as Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Elie Saab and Jenny Packham. And designers are saying "I do" to the category. Marchesa, for example, will unveil its debut bridal collection this summer, and Alice Temperley started wholesaling her bridal collection this year.

"You are a celebrity for a day," said Packham, the British designer whose bridal business represents 50 percent of her brand's $19.6 million annual sales. "When you design for the red carpet, you design to make an entrance and get everyone's attention. When you get married it's the same."

The move into bridal is already paying off for Temperley. The brand introduced its debut bridal collection in 2007 with a boutique adjoining its London ready-to-wear flagship. This year the label will be available at wholesale for the first time. Chief executive officer Lars von Bennigsen said it is now a "substantial contributor" to the brand's retail business in the U.K. and U.S. Bridal gowns at Temperley wholesale from $2,356.80 to $11, 785.80.

Freestanding bridal stores are said to be under consideration for New York and Los Angeles. Many labels said the move to introduce bridal, in addition to adding revenue, broadened their reach to new consumer groups.

"The bridal collection has helped me extend the brand to new audiences," said Packham, who has two London bridal stores and is looking into opening a unit in Paris within two years, in addition to an rtw London store, which opens in September. "You will have some women who would not spend 2,928 pounds [$5,759] on an evening gown but who are prepared to for their wedding."

Packham's dresses wholesale from $703 to $8,299.

Dresses created by red-carpet designers, rather than bridal-only brands, are appealing to brides-to-be since they're already familiar with the house's aesthetic and positioning. Like fragrances, accessories and eyewear ranges, they offer another way for consumers to buy into a brand image.
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