Martine Harris, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Owner of Essense of Australia, sees an exciting future for bridal, as design trends continue to evolve to better reflect today’s bride, and boutique’s innovative approaches to the in-store experience resonate with brides.

Her comments are part of VOWS’ on-going Q&A series in which brands and thought leaders offer their take on the state of the industry.

VOWS: How would you describe the impact Covid-19 is having on bridal design?

Martine Harris: COVID-19 has certainly created it’s challenges, but it’s also given our industry the opportunity to do things differently and offer brides more options. We continue to be influenced by runway trends, but bigger than the runway is that today’s brides are looking for designs that express their unique stories and personalities. Designs that do this, while also catering to the realities of today will find success.

VOWS: What trends have you identified, and are addressing in Essense's 2021 collections?

Martine Harris: Embracing the unexpected has driven us to create extraordinary gowns that really deliver what next season’s bride is looking for. Finding that element of classic beauty among this season’s hottest runway trends has inspired some major innovation and ingenuity in our designs. Our designs feature bold statements, a bit of whimsy and classic romance, while embracing a modern simplicity.

VOWS: What aspects of today's bridal customer should store owners be particularly aware of?

Martine Harris: Today’s bride wants an experience - one that is inclusive, authentic and memorable. They want to do business with brands and stores that share these values. It’s essential our stores create a welcoming environment that provides an exceptional experience at every turn. How we help deliver that is to provide our stores with the best wedding dress options in a wide range of styles and sizes with color options to suit every bride.

VOWS: How has Covid-19 impacted the operation side of Essense's... and what's your strategy for dealing with a potential long term disruption?

Martine Harris: Essense continues to adapt and thrive in this changing environment. Planning is, and has always been, a core and differentiating capability of ours – that’s why we are so confident in our abilities to deliver our stores and brides the same quality products and design they’ve come to expect. With a diverse supply chain, our stock levels, advanced technology and systems and our global teams, we are well poised to react to situations like this.

VOWS: How has Essense responded to this pandemic-caused disruption... and will these programs extend into 2021?

Martine Harris: At Essense, innovation is in our DNA. When challenges come our way, we innovate. We do things differently. This pandemic is no exception. Our team at Essense has worked tirelessly to provide incredible support to our stores. From constant communication to providing helpful resources to navigate running a business during COVID, we remain as committed as ever to helping stores and brides.

Additionally, back in March, my husband and I put our 20 plus years of bridal expertise to work in helping combat the pandemic and created Verasano, a company that sells face masks across the world. Verasano has supplied millions of medical face masks to hospitals, medical centers and businesses across the United States, while also donating thousands of masks to charitable organizations in need of quality, reliable products.

Most recently, Verasano introduced the Smart Fiber Face Mask, a high-tech antimicrobial fabric face mask. The soft, flexible fabric is woven with innovative smart fibers to provide ultimate comfort, breathability and protection. For more information, visit

VOWS: Do you think there are positive aspects for our industry that have come about due to COVID-19...and if so, what are they?”

Martine Harris: Yes, this challenging environment has forced us all to take a good look at how and why we are in the bridal business. Remembering our passion and love for weddings and fashion have helped us keep perspective and remain focused on the ultimate goal of giving brides more than a wedding dress, but a lifetime of memories.

We’ve also had to innovate - perhaps faster than ever before. We’ve pivoted and adjusted on the fly to changing guidelines, protocols and generally how we do business. This will only help us be more nimble and resourceful in the future.

VOWS: What do you see as the most critical areas for our industry to concentrate on for today...and long term?

Martine Harris: The bridal industry must continue to innovate our in-store experience. We must find ways to reach the bride online amidst all of the noise, but still drive the bride in-store. Brick-and-mortar retail may be faced with challenges, but the bridal industry is unique. It’s about the moment when the bride finds that dream dress. You can’t deliver that experience or that feeling online, so we’ll continue to partner with stores to ensure we provide the support they need that drives traffic to their stores, all while keeping customers safe.

VOWS: What is your forecast for the bridal and formal industry for Spring 
2021 and beyond?

Martine Harris: I am excited for the future of the bridal industry as I believe we will start seeing more options for brides of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. We’ll see more representation of real brides in advertising and marketing efforts, but we’ll also see incredible designs to meet the needs of our evolving bride. That means we may see more simple and romantic gowns created for small, intimate gatherings during this COVID era, but we’ll also see bold, beautiful statements to showcase the unique personalities of our brides.