FEATURE: Fit for a queen

Tongues are already wagging about this year’s Royal Wedding, but what will its effect be on the lingerie industry? Lingerie Insight investigates the event’s impact on the bridal sector.

If weddings were to follow fashion trends, then 2011 would be the year to get married.

It is impossible to escape bridal fever this year, with the Royal Wedding looming, as Britain – and the rest of the world – waits with bated breath for April 29, the date when Kate Middleton will finally walk down the aisle.

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Prices have doubled for couples wishing to be married on the same day and sales of commemorative gifts have boomed, with factories in China struggling to keep up with demand.

The betting industry has also been busy, with odds available on everything from whether Kate and William will still be married on the date of their 10th Wedding Anniversary to if the car will break down on the way to the Abbey.

One topic that will not be available to bet on, however, is that of Kate Middleton’s bridal lingerie designer. This is probably because the choice of Middleton’s bridal lingerie is expected to remain a private decision between the royal couple and is unlikely to ever enter the public realm.

However, this has not stopped brands from using the event to gain free publicity. Reports that Ultimo boss and recent OBE winner Michelle Mone had already designed bridal lingerie for the Prince’s fiancée reportedly caused amusement in royal circles late last year.

Mone told reporters at her OBE ceremony that she had already designed pieces for Middleton and would be sending them to her to look over.

It has also not stopped speculation by the press, who immediately picked up that the most obvious choice for the bride to be would be high end brand Rigby & Peller. Owner June Kenton currently fits the Queen for lingerie and formerly fitted Princess Diana. With Kate Middleton already wearing William’s mother’s ring, she could be tempted to turn to the retailer.

Another option might be luxury French brands Simone Perele or Lise Charmel, the latter of which will be launching in the UK this year. However, whichever brand Kate chooses, the whole bridal industry is likely to be laughing, with brands predicting that the wedding will cause demand to soar.

Eveden PR manager Louise Grayson says: “I think the Royal Wedding will give designers the creativity to produce some truly elegant collections. Sales for Rosa (Fauve) alone are up 25 percent on our predictions for 2011.”

Fauve’s Rosa collection is launching this March. It includes a strapless moulded bra and basque, in response to the increased popularity of strapless gowns over recent years, and incorporates moulding technology to ensure a smooth silhouette.

The new style combines Italian fabrics, French lace, diamante charms and keyhole finishing. Grayson believes these reflect the key trends for the year.

Grayson adds: “Fabrics for 2011 feature a predominance of French lace combined with diaphanous Italian fabrics, accentuated by the essential attention to detail.”

LingaDore marketing manager Myriam van der Vliet agrees with this assessment of the materials that will be taking centre stage.

“We believe the main bridal lingerie trend is the increasing popularity of use of embroideries and laces,” she says. “LingaDore has always made a lot of use of luxury embroidery and laces, so this new trend suits our brand very well.”

According to the marketing manager, the most popular bridal colour is still ivory. Because of this, each half year, LingaDore releases a new lingerie range in the colour. For AW11, it is introducing new range Salvatore; an ivory-colored range with embroidery in a rose pattern. The shoulder straps have special details and small pearls have been added to all styles to give it a bridal touch.

“For the Netherlands, the impact [of the Royal wedding] will be very small,” Van der Vliet says. “The wedding isn’t on the news much and women do not seem to be very much concerned with it (sorry UK). For the UK, the impact will definitely be much bigger and, hopefully, many women will follow their example and buy the Royal LingaDore range Salvatore to add some elegance to their own wedding.”

Another new theme, which looks to be coming into the bridal lingerie sector, is the incorporation of new technology to aid with function and fit. In order to provide effective and invisible support under an ever increasing array of wedding dress styles, designers are forced to constantly innovate.

Atlantis junior designer Carley Williamson says: “Traditional concepts will be updated through technological advances to create beautiful, functional lingerie pieces that can be worn during and after the ‘big day’, such as cleavage enhancing, multi-way bras and shapewear.”

She adds: “The lingerie must be beautiful, yet discreet, under a wedding dress, so we have developed garments with flat bonded finishes and delicate lace panels for an invisible look.”

The Atlantis Nadia Bridal range offers bridal lingerie pieces that seek to enhance the bust by one cup size in a strapless style and two cup sizes in a liquid plunge.

Panache will also be introducing brand new range Evie Bridal for SS11 under the Superbra brand. Based on existing style Evie, it features added touches of embroidery with an elaborate trim to provide a more luxurious feel. In the current economic climate, affordability is an important consideration for many brides, but there will always be those who look to the higher end labels for their big day.

Tallulah Love managing director Michelle Taylor says: “We have had a number of brides coming to us to find their Bridal Lingerie over the last year and many of them are looking for something extra special, something that you won’t find everywhere on the high street. A number of brides that come to me are still looking for high quality lingerie and are willing to spend a fair amount. I had a gorgeous bride that was getting married on New Year’s Eve and she called me in a panic just after Christmas; she spent £300 on her bridal lingerie and was more than happy to do so. I think the harsh economic climate is affecting everyone to some degree, but as far as I am aware it’s not effecting bridal lingerie, at this level anyway."

Tallulah Love has named one of its SS11 styles ‘The Royal Welcome’ in celebration of William and Kate’s marriage. The piece is lined in silk and uses Chantilly lace.

“I may even send Kate a special set as a celebratory gesture,” Taylor says. “Anyone know her size? I have read many reports already of various designers proclaiming they are designing Kate Middleton’s lingerie etc… I think the Royal Wedding will have a fabulous effect on bridal sales to be honest.”

For AW11, Tallulah love will be introducing a more risqué collection, as Taylor has identified a trend for naughtier bridal pieces.

“I think maybe lingerie in general has become more risqué in general,” she says. “I am noticing more and more brands using very sheer fabrics and sexier silhouettes. Tallulah Love will be backing this trend and launching for AW11 Tallulah Darkside, which will be much darker and sexier than an current collections. We will certainly market this collection to brides to be for their honeymoon lingerie as an alternative to the sweet and innocent look of the actual bridal collections.”

The managing director also considers that garters are becoming more of a feature and, though Tallulah Love is only selling one this season, Taylor is planning to launch a whole collection for 2012. She has recently noticed that some brides will just buy a knicker and the garter, as a number of dresses are becoming so structured that they are providing all the necessary support.

Fred & Ginger founder and chief executive Victoria Holt believes sheer fabrics, lace, fluid shapes in barely there nudes, old rose and ivory’s are the trends to look out for in 2011.

“Glamour is back,” she says. “The Royal Wedding will make marriage fashionable again, impacting on sales globally.”

Taking the opinion of Talullah Love’s Michelle Taylor a step further, the chief executive feels that the current economic environment, far from reducing demand, could help push sales.

“In these hard times, I really feel couples are looking for the added support and security that marriage offers,” she says. “The demographic is changing, in so much that girls are waiting longer to get married, thus they have a higher disposable income and are in turn increasing sales in the luxury lingerie sector.”

The Fred & Ginger bridal collection features French silk, Italian Chantilly lace, Swarovski crystals and pearls. Unlike some of the more affordable brands, Fred & Ginger pays less attention to practicality and function, and more to the style of its pieces.

“Here at Fred & Ginger, we create less practical underwear and more fanciful lingerie, and negligees, that are designed to ignite passion,” she says. “Therefore, there really are no boundaries; we can go crazy with gorgeous designs, fabrics and trims that we know the bride and her groom will love.”

No boundaries means some of the brand’s designs can be quite risqué. Most recently, it created a Crotchless Beau Knicker with lace detail exclusively for Coco de Mer. The products apparently sold out, with more on order. Like Taylor, Holt feels there is a strong demand from brides in the UK for the more extreme items.

“British brides are very naughty,” she says, laughing. “The virginal bride hides all her secrets underneath the dress.”

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