Oh, the stories I could tell. Behind the fluff and fuss, the bridal industry is beyond fickle and flawed. Many other ‘f’ words come to mind, but I digress. I stumbled upon my position as a bridal consultant as a young 20 something, and was immediately drawn to the possibilities of an alternative career path that the industry might allow. I dabbled in it all….corporate, behind the scenes runway, accessory design, business consulting, and eventually found my sweet spot with buying. This was my ultimate. Buffy the Vampire Slayer said it best, “I just think it sounds cool, you know? Buyer, buying, to buy….” As far as I was concerned, I had hit the top. I was in the mix. Heading to New York Markets twice a year, catching editorial runway shows, chatting it up with designers, discovering new talent…I mean it was awesome. I was hella good at it too. Then, it started to become a bit of a spectacle and a scene. The exclusivity and allure of the collection releases became readily available to anybody with a smartphone. The buying crowd became clones of the same squeaky-toned newbies that bought into identical ‘innovative’ styles scattered with unicorns and glitter. Barf. Then, the clients….?? Some brides became, (how should I put this), complicated. Shows like ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ allowed a sort of hazy insight into the inner workings of a salon as well as a green light to act like an asshole during an appointment. ‘Bridezillas’ offered assurance that they are, in fact, not the worst bride in the universe. Many appointments fell into a gray area somewhere in between the two realms. It has become a cat and mouse game at this point. Bridal Consultants are not given the respect that they deserve and there is no longer such thing as line exclusivity or loyalty between designer and boutique. Most designers are available online, and cheap knockoffs are everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE design houses that are still reputable, innovative. Genuinely good people still exist…. After all, these select individuals are the reason I stayed in the business for over 12 years. And yes, there are sweet, wonderful and lovely brides as well. My favorite ladies would allow me to give educated guidance while adhhearing to their specific wants and needs. These ended up being the best dressed brides. Obvi. I even styled Brie Bella head to toe on her big day. On television in fact. See? I am not completely jaded. I am however, too old, too smart and too level headed to become complacent, and this what I feel the industry has become. Bridal is due for a complete overhaul. I have my eye on some designers that deserve recognition without getting lost in the saturation of this market. Follow me as I change the scenery of bridal.
First and foremost, not ALL of this niche market is doomed for failure. As long as ladies are saying ‘I do,’ there will be a demand for wedding gowns. Carefully curated boutiques and socially present brands will remain a float, but big box brands are slowly but surely closing their doors. First it was Priscilla of Boston, and the most recent being Alfred Angelo. The price points and dress quality could not have been any more diverse, however, their business model remained the same: many corporate managed retail sites in various locations of the US following the same staging and showroom format. How this generic plan lasted for as long as it did, is beyond crazy. Think about it–what does every bride strive for..??? Individualist beauty on her one big day. Her personal runway in front of the most important people in her life, the moment that she is hoping to be her most breathtaking, a site for everybody to remember……now how does that translate to wearing the same (or extremely similar), white dress as thousands of other brides, styled in the same exact way, and still hoping to stand out?? Or how about the purchasing process-since when does a pushy sales staff, contested show room floors and opinionated spectators equal out to a lovely, memorable moment? Thanks to shows like SYTTD, brides have been given a false perception of how their appointment should go, and a certain amount of permission to barter with salon employees. It is a television show, ladies. Speaking of the rising interest in bridal shopping, social media has opened a whole other mess of issues in the system. Some big brands have mastered the art of position photography and creating a cult following. This is both a positive and negative. Positive in the fact that smaller indie brands have been given an big nod and the brides that understand their vision can seek out boutiques that represent the desired line. Negative in the way of bandwagon brides. There are girls that will eat up any sparkly bull shit thrown their way. Professional store owners and buyers get bombarded with these fan girls demanding the latest and greatest from their bridal heroes, without understand the process of seasonal markets or the hefty price these over designed and ill fitted poly gowns will cost them. Bloggers don’t help matters much. NY Bridal market was once the most coveted and best kept secret between industry professionals. Now, bridal bloggers sit at their prospective homes and ‘borrow’ pictures from those actually in attendance. I specifically remember taking pictures at an invitation only NY editorial bridal runway show, only to find that bloggers from my own city were reposting and claiming as their own. This removes all creditibitly from both myself and the designers that spent time money and endless resources presenting their vision to their consumer audience. These issues are a bit off topic as to why Alfred Angelo shut down, but the overall picture of the bridal industry is a saturated and antiquated mess….and I intend to do something about it. Stay tuned…..