Judging from the robust activity, insightful comments, overall mood and dramatic styling trends as exhibited at recent U.S. Bridal Markets, brands and boutiques are generally upbeat in their views of today’s industry. . . though there was also an undercurrent of wariness, the result of a continually indecisive bride, increasing costs of goods and frustrations with acquiring and retaining a qualified work force.
The vitality of the market from a design standpoint was clearly on display as couture bridal leaders Ines Di Santo, Claire Pettibone, Anne Barge, Mark Ingram, Reem Acra, Amsale, Francesca Miranda, Romana Keveza and Mira Zwillinger presented a continued evolution of bridal design that was brand on-point. . . as it was for breakout designer Idan Cohen and his latest bridal collections.
Established brands and market leaders Maggie Sottero, Allure Bridals, Casablanca, Mon Cheri, Bridal Collective, Justin Alexander Bridal and Morilee all received a positive reception, with each reporting strong buying activity somewhat unexpected from what in the past has been the slower of the two seasons.
Regardless of price point, design was front and center, as collections reimagined and repurposed design elements to showcase a dramatic nostalgic flair, and displayed a noticeable return to a more feminine romantic aesthetic as evidenced by elegant, streamlined silhouettes, embellished laces detailing necklines, indulgent overskirts, dropped waists, voluminous bows, bold three-dimensional floral embellishments, subtle touches of pastel colors, and sleeves and necklines representing an 80s-style and structure.
Creativity and grandeur were also on display with beautifully choreographed runways and inspiring New York-based events utilizing social-media influencers to garner the bridal world’s attention. . . and that of brides worldwide.
One standout example: Justin Alexander Signature’s Verses in Contrast collaboration with renowned graffiti artist Gioele Corradengo/Sexdreams in which he personally transformed a traditional wedding dress into a dynamic and vibrant expression of street art during Justin Alexander’s Milan Market runway event (previewed during NY Market).
Also noted this season, a remarkable growth (again) in small indie design firms (many of which are non-U.S. based) debuting their brands and bridal-specific collections for a targeted couture audience, as well as the return of European brands looking to impact the U.S. market, among them Ariamo, Monica Loretti, Julie Vino, Ricca Sposa, Giovanna Alessandro, Julia Kontogruni and Sima Couture.
Accessory houses also enjoyed brisk buying activity, as the category remains a strong proven element for further personalizing and/or customizing today’s bride’s finished look, including VOWS Magazine supporters Maritza’s, JL Johnson, Bel Aire Bridal and Marionat.
And interestingly, boutiques seemed interested in plus-size bridesmaids, commenting that they have seen an uptick in these maids returning to stores for purchases after being disappointed by the quality and fit of online maids purchases
Buyers’ optimism for the coming season and state of their marketplaces was noticeable but again with an undercurrent of uneasiness. Brides are increasingly shopping multiple stores either to keep the celebration going, or out of fear of missing out on what they might see and experience at another boutique. Frustrated stylists and owners feel themselves (rightfully so) under pressure to continually “raise the bar” on the level of personalized experience they offer at a time in which they are increasingly short handed to do so.
Though actively buying, this cautiousness showed as boutiques appeared to be a bit more discriminate with their purchases, often concentrating on those gowns that would appeal to their local brides, with the possibility of achieving a better return on investment.
Private label bridal goods garnered considerable interest, especially in the $250-$350 range as boutiques looked for gowns that could provide a 3-4x markup for the segment of brides shopping in the $1,000-$1,200 range. (The search for private label margin goods was not limited to the lower end of the market as buyers also investigated collections/gowns that would appeal to a higher price point bride.)
The desire for higher margins did not appear to be limited to only private label collections. A consistently overheard comment from a variety of boutiques in a wide variety of marketplaces was the need for higher margins overall to offset increasing costs of goods and overhead/labor, with many commenting that 3x is a minimum requirement but 3-plus preferable.
In response, brands are re-evaluating their Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), with Mon Cheri recently announcing increases across its bridal collections.
Other factors in this uneasiness, according to boutiques we interviewed, were not just the difficulty in obtaining staff members and the struggles in providing adequate, effective and “appropriate” training, but in navigating hourly minimum wage increases either on the national or state level, and their effect on existing staff members.
An oft-heard question: “How do I handle hiring a new stylist at a new minimum wage requirement that may be the same rate as long-time employees?”
And of course. . . the blessing and curse of influencers unaware of the intricacies of bridal yet having an oversize influence on brides. One other topic: Chicago moving its dates for the Spring 2025 show from August to September 14-17. (See the Tidbits announcement in our May/June issue.)
My view of this most recent market season: optimism and concerns are both warranted, easily justified. Yet these underlying issues of cost increases, labor shortages and decreasing closing ratios, affecting all aspects of the industry, are not apparent in either the creativity of design nor the quality of fabrication.
Nor importantly, in the dedication and commitment from all segments to provide the bride with the essence of the bridal experience.

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