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Drive for Greater Individuality Marks the End of "Me-Too" Weddings

Conventional wedding dresses are no longer the dream of the recently betrothed, according to exhibitors at Brides The Show. Instead, more fashionable looks, unusual fabrics and customisation are far more the order of the Big Day.

Photo: Brides The Show: Do you take this expo…?
Brides The Show: Do you take this expo…?
Photo: Brides The Show: Do you take this expo…?
Brides The Show: Do you take this expo…?

A relaxed, bohemian vibe was clearly in evidence at the recent Brides The Show in London. According to many exhibitors, this year the trend was away from classic wedding dress shapes and more toward sleeker, fashion-forward contours. In terms of colours, traditional white and ivory remain firm favourites, although an increasing number of brides are opting for less conventional shades.

The overall sentiment was that many brides now want to show their individuality through completely bespoke bridal wear or, for those looking at modest prices points, with off-the-peg dresses that can be adapted with personalised detailing. Destination weddings were also a key element of the show, with many bridal wear providers targetting beach and mountain resort ceremonies with complete wedding-plus-honeymoon wardrobe offerings.

A number of exhibitors at the show also focussed on the somewhat overlooked bridesmaid, capitalising on this previously poorly served niche. Due to bridesmaids inevitably outnumbering brides at each event, this offers a potentially much larger market – albeit one with lower unit prices.

Julia Douglas, Founder and Managing Director of My Day My Way, a London-based bridal wear online retailer, noticed that brides were opting out of the traditional wedding 'uniform', saying: "I think that brides want something that is a bit more fashion-forward these days. Brides also seem to want to be able to tweak a design and make it more individual."

The need for individuality was also noted by a representative of Stephanie Allin Couture, a London-based bridal wear designer. She said: "Brides are looking for something that represents them as an individual. Whether that is in terms of fabrics or the style of the dress, it's individuality that brides are looking for.

"This year I would say the boho look is very on trend. In line with that, we have created a separates look, quite laid-back, for a relaxed, chilled, type of bride. The bride can also have separates that have quite a classic feel, with lace and cover-ups and so on."

Morgan Veazey, a Stylist with Halfpenny, a London-based bridal wear company, also saw a trend away from more traditional styles, saying: "People are becoming more confident with what they want to wear. They're going away from the more traditional, so separates are quite good. For others, they just want to have something that is maybe quite sparkly or unusually patterned. They just want to have something unique."

While traditional wedding dress colours predominated at the event, the growing confidence in modern brides, combined with the search for individuality, lead some observers to suggest a growing demand for other tones. Douglas said: "I have seen more and more girls saying 'I don't want to wear white.' I know someone who got married in a green Vivienne Westwood dress recently.

"I have certainly had a good reaction to some of the blush colours, the slightly off-white colours that are not right out there, but they're not white."

Understandably, many exhibitors at the show were targetting the higher-spending brides, those in the market for bespoke dresses and exotic destination weddings. Samara Briki, Store Manager for Amanda Wakeley, a London-based bridal wear brand, said: "Our dresses are more destination dresses. When brides come to us, they already have their venue decided – it could be Barbados, Mustique Island or a castle in Scotland. It's very rare that the bride is actually getting married in London.

"For winter weddings, it's all about the return of the wool coat, very comfortable, chunky knitwear that has a kind of 'boyfriend' feel to it, in cashmere and virgin wool, with silk details. Very comfy, but very trendy."

As well as adapting the offer depending on the destination, some at the show noted certain variations in taste, depending on where a bride was from. Briki said: "Obviously, we find brides from Australia go more for the summery beach type of dress, while Americans tend to go for the very trendy, very sharp silhouette. Really, it is about the theme of the wedding as well."

Photo: On trend: Embellishments from My Day My Way.
On trend: Embellishments from My Day My Way.
Photo: On trend: Embellishments from My Day My Way.
On trend: Embellishments from My Day My Way.
Photo: Often overlooked: Bridesmaid attire from NABBD.
Often overlooked: Bridesmaid attire from NABBD.
Photo: Often overlooked: Bridesmaid attire from NABBD.
Often overlooked: Bridesmaid attire from NABBD.

Britta von Basedow, Designer & Director of her own eponymous bespoke bridal wear brand, also noted the different preferences that prevailed in certain regions. She said: "In the Middle Eastern countries, they obviously celebrate over a much longer time, so they will require more than one evening-type dress. Often they come to us, though, because they want the European influence, because their own designers have that certain kitsch element."

While being the star of any wedding, the bride is not the only one who needs dressing for the big day, with the poor bridesmaid often getting overlooked. Polly Thompson, Managing Director of London's NABBD [Not Another Boring Bridesmaid Dress], said: "When I got married four years ago, there was a massive need in the market for bridesmaids' dresses. They were completely overlooked, yet most people have an average of three bridesmaids per bride. We get girls coming in with 10 or 12 bridesmaids. We are called Not Another Boring Bridesmaid Dress because the ones that were out there were seriously dull. They didn't have enough colours."

As bridesmaids' dresses emerge as a more distinct offering, certain trends have inevitably emerged. Thompson said: "The bobbin net has come out of nowhere and really taken off. Bobbin net is really big and it's what we've used on the catwalk here."

Also specialising in bridesmaids' dresses is London's Maids to Measure. India Sellars, Co-founder of the business, said: "Some brides want the girls to complement their own dress, others want them to look really far removed, so that they know who is the bride. It's half and half.

"We had two dresses specially made up for this show, both featuring sequins, and people are going crazy for them. They are going away from the whole bridesmaidy dress, rather than the pinks and floral and floaty. It's a bit more slinky now."

A number of menswear suppliers also made an appearance at the show, albeit mostly targetting the bride, the key decision maker, rather than the groom. Samara Spencer-Hope representing Jon Kruger Menswear, a visiting tailoring service based in London, said: "Sometimes you'd be looking at the groom saying, 'What would you like?' and then the bride says, 'He will want…'

"What's popular at the moment is our petrol blue. Also, the three-piece is very much in demand. Over recent years, people have been wanting two-pieces – nobody wanted a waistcoat. They also like the idea that we can do different colours under the collar, different colours for buttonholes, they like having a contrasting colour."

Children's wear is also an important element of the bigger budget wedding. Sarah Colfer is the founder of Little Bevan, a bespoke children's wedding wear brand. She said: "The bride today is looking for very particular details to bring every aspect of her wedding up above the normal wedding. The emerging trend is in the level of service, the eye for detail and making it different from the run-of-the-mill High Street. People want more."

As any parent knows, dressing children has its own particular problems, especially for an event that may be planned months in advance. Taking this on board, Colfer said: "We try and encourage people to plan and choose all of the outfits at an early stage. As children grow, though, we have to manage the manufacture so that we make their outfits quite close to the wedding."

Photo: To have and to hold: Bridal finery on show.
To have and to hold: Bridal finery on show.
Photo: To have and to hold: Bridal finery on show.
To have and to hold: Bridal finery on show.

Brides The Show was held at London's Business Design Centre from 2-4 October 2015.

James O'Donnell, Special Correspondent, London

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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