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London Wedding Show Booms as Brides Take Global View of Couture

With bridal spending having clearly bounced back, this year's London Bridal Show saw exhibitors increasingly optimistic about the sector. While interest in Asia is high, few US and European brands seem to have made the continental jump.

Photo: Alexia Designs: Making its Bridal Show debut.
Alexia Designs: Making its Bridal Show debut.
Photo: Alexia Designs: Making its Bridal Show debut.
Alexia Designs: Making its Bridal Show debut.

Some of the biggest names in the bridal industry turned out for this year's London Bridal Show, with buyers from around the globe visiting the UK for the first major event of the season. Confidence in the European market was high, with consumers willing to spend on quality.

Styles trend towards pairing revealing necklines with modest full-length sleeves, while heavy detailing and layered lacework are popular. US companies continued their strong showing in the European market, while both North American and European brands were seeking to target the increasingly affluent Asian market.

Commenting on the 2015/16 trends, Event Director, Wendy Adams, said: "Brands from around the world came together to show more than 150 collections for the coming season, many of which were unveiled for the first time.

"Nipped-in waists, on colour beadwork, lots of sparkle and soft flowing fabrics were the order of the day across many collections. Subtle sleeving, light tulles and chiffon were apparent with delicate straps, often highlighted with lines of diamante or scatters of beading.

"Demure sleeves have, in many instances, been paired with deep sweetheart necklines to create a sexy yet modest style. The cleavage-flashing necklines have often been matched with light lace or illusion tulles providing some coverage for those who don't dare to bare. Jacquards are of growing interest and illusion necklines with lace motifs are very much en vogue.

"The fishtail silhouette may not have had its day just yet, however there is a slow but steady return to fuller skirts with an influx of regal-looking dresses. From airy tulles to sumptuous stays, box-pleats and A-lines, it appears that brides are wanting to make a statement with a big skirt."

With lace still selling strongly in stores, manufacturers continue to offer lacy dresses throughout their ranges. For the season ahead, however, stylists have created fresh looks with plentiful layered lace, some with up to four different varieties of lace layered on top of each other to create a textured look.

The Jasmine Bridal exhibition stand hosted an eye-catching fashion show, displaying the company's Jasmine Couture collection. Maureen Hart, Sales Representative for the Illinois, US-headquartered firm, said: "From rush shipments to fabric changes, from consumer catalogues to swatches, Jasmine Couture features intricate designs in rich fabrics, with detailing in sexy shapes. We believe that such innovation and design is the very heart of our business."

Alexia Designs was exhibiting at The London Bridal Show for the first time, debuting its new bridesmaid label, Liz Fields.  The range features dresses with lace and sparkling details in either floor- or knee-lengths. Claire Robertshaw, Account Manager for the New York-based company, said: "We experienced a strong start to the show – the first morning alone was non-stop with visits from an encouraging number of new shops."

Long Beach, California-based Private Label by G saw a flurry of buyers to its stand during the three-day show. The family business is run by brothers Ken and Winston Yeh, the sons of the company founders. For the last five years the business has been exporting from its US base, and now trades in 20 countries around the world.

Photo: Abrazi: Looking for Asian expansion.
Abrazi: Looking for Asian expansion.
Photo: Abrazi: Looking for Asian expansion.
Abrazi: Looking for Asian expansion.
Photo: Jasmine Bridal: Focussing on design innovation.
Jasmine Bridal: Focussing on design innovation.
Photo: Jasmine Bridal: Focussing on design innovation.
Jasmine Bridal: Focussing on design innovation.

Explaining the company's reason for attending, Ken Yeh said: "It's so important to build up a strong relationship with retailers. The show is great for getting to know your stores better and getting feedback about the collection.

"Some 70% of the exhibitors at the fair have no experience of manufacturing and are buying off-the-rack. We produce our dresses and we double-check all our gowns before sending them to retailers, while any complaint is always handled personally."

Alfred Angelo Bridal, headquartered in Delray Beach, Florida, unveiled its Private Collection at the London Bridal Show. The company manufactures more than a million dresses at its production facility in Guangdong and has distribution around the world. Hannah Jenkins, Regional Customer Relationship Manager for the company, said: "This exclusive designer feel collection offers brides on a budget the opportunity to have a clean-lines, sophisticated gown at an affordable price.

"New stockists are always welcome and we offer low minimum order quantities. Our Special Occasions collection offers long and short dresses that work for an array of occasions – mother of the bride, wedding guests, formal functions and party wear. In total, we offer 62 colours, all with short and long options."

Kelly Harrison, a Director of The Prom Company, based in Doncaster, UK, reported that the British bridal market grew by 25% in 2014 after a subdued 2013. Harrison said: "Customers are not frightened to buy and are spending more. The bridal trade has really noticed the recovery. Online sales of inferior quality dresses have not helped, but shops in the UK are now improving and raising their online profile and investing more in marketing."

The Prom Company currently exports to Finland, Germany, Malta and Sweden and Harrison said that the company is looking to grow its export business.

Lucas Chrysanthou, Director of Impression Bridal, a European distributor for the American brand headquartered in Houston, Texas, said that footfall at the show was good: "The European bridal market is quite strong; the UK is a key market for us, as are Ireland and Germany and, increasingly, Eastern Europe too."

Anne-Katherine Rantzau Ulrich, the third generation owner of Danish brand Lilly A/S, based in Vejle, said: "Business is very good and Europe is our focus. Our business is going well and Europeans are aware that when it comes to bridal wear, it's a present for life."

Jelte Scholte, Co-Owner of Abrazi, based in Laren, the Netherlands, showed the company's collection of high-end jewellery. The range is handmade in Italy and the Netherlands and features Swarovski crystals. Scholte said: "Our good quality jewellery is sold all over the world. We're growing our business in Asia and we supply some big companies in Shanghai, but we also want to work with European retailers."

Scholte described the Asian market as accounting for less than 10% of turnover, but believed that more business would develop in the region. While Abrazi's strategy is to recruit retailers, Scholte said that in the Netherlands the company operates a shop-in-shop concept in a leading department store, which is something that the company may consider replicating in other regions.

The Northampton, UK-based Donna Salado Bridalwear brand showed its new 21-piece collection at this year's London Bridal Show. Company founder, Donna Salado, said that her designs are in around 50 stockists in the UK, but the company also exports to Germany, Ireland, Norway and Switzerland. Salado said: "At the London Bridal Show, we met a Japanese client, which may result in our collection being sold in Asia, which would be our first foray into the Asian market."

Photo: Lilly A/S: European focus.
Lilly A/S: European focus.
Photo: Lilly A/S: European focus.
Lilly A/S: European focus.

The London Bridal Show took place at London's Olympia 8-10 March. The Harrogate Bridal Show will take place at the International Centre on 13-15 September 2015.

Simon King, Special Correspondent, London

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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