FEATURE: Here Comes the Bride

The Royal Wedding may be over but the honeymoon affair with all things bridal is still going. Lingerie Insight takes a look at what will be shaping the bridal market ahead of the 2012 wedding season.

Most people don’t think of marriage as a grim affair. The Office of National Statistics, however, reveals a different perspective; that of cold, hard fact.

A few people might remember that the number of marriages in England and Wales reached a 100-year low of 231,490 during 2009. In a severe, yet complimentary, contrast, the rate of divorce has continued to steadily climb.

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These statistics would suggest that many of us are becoming increasingly unwilling to commit to commitment. And, for those who rely on the wedding industry to turn a healthy profit, this could present a major problem.

2011 was obviously a bumper year for the wedding sector, due to the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But, the question that is now on everyone’s mind is "can the honeymoon last?"

There are at least a couple of brands gambling that it can.
One of these is luxury lingerie brand Bordelle, which is launching its first ever bridal collection for the AW12 season.

The range has been separated into four separate themes: Bordelle Classics, Bondage Bride, Something Blue and True Romance. It includes garments from AW10-AW13, alongside a series of new pieces. The new collection will see the brand use lace for the first time, alongside adjustable elements and sliders, which are able to alter the size of the products by up to 5cm.

Swarovski crystals are also visible throughout the collection and can be found hanging as teardrops from the centre-front of the bras and as hollow squares, attaching suspender clips.

Founder and designer Alexandra Popa says: “We had been planning bridal lingerie for a while, but then it really took off after September, which is when I got back from my own wedding.

“We are trying to cater to the naughty bride. We also have a more feminine aspect to the collection, but still with the Bordelle elements.

“We needed to diversify and it is really tough now for the wholesale market. Online we are doing very well, as we sell directly to the customer.”

The luxury brand is currently opening up a showroom at the back of its studio, where it will offer bespoke fittings and appointments.

“That coincides really well with bridal,” Popa adds. “Because people can come in and get measured, and get fitted.”

Bordelle will not be the only new brand to launch its debut bridal collection this AW12. Damaris is also keen to make a foray into the sector.

At Moda, which takes place this month, the luxury brand will introduce its new Casa Blanca range, including garters, ‘something blue’ feather knickers, hand-finished gowns, silk slips and a couture corset to help create the perfect silhouette.

The optimistic viewpoint of Bordelle and Damaris is not mirrored by everyone. There are a number of brands with established bridal ranges that are very wary about the declining marriage figures and the bleak economic climate.

Chantelle brand manager Alexandra Gueveneux says: “Women won’t be spending as much on their wedding day as they would normally do. And unfortunately, as lingerie cannot be seen, a lot of them will save money on their trousseau, poor groom!”

Yet, paradoxically, Gueveneux also feels that the lingerie trends are reacting against the current atmosphere of austerity. Ethnic chic remains a strong theme for Chantelle and is reflected through the desire for nature, freedom, escape and exoticism, expressed through the spirit of travel.

“Definitely no austerity within our collection,” says Gueveneux. “It all still is about living your life to the full.”

Alan Gordon-Freeman is the managing director of Alterego Lingerie, a company that distributes a series of lingerie brands in the UK. Gracya, Roza and Bassaya are just a few of the many industry accounts that it handles.

Ideally placed to achieve a broad market overview, Gordon-Freeman is another who thinks that money fears are likely to impact on demand.

He says: “I think all sectors have been hit as a result of the economic climate. Consumers are becoming more prudent and are certainly looking to save wherever possible.”

Despite Gordon-Freeman’s concerns, since extending its range of bridal lingerie Alterego has reportedly seen a significant increase in demand. And, Gordon-Freeman feels there is still room for growth.

“While there are a number manufacturers producing bridal lingerie,” he says, “I still think this market is underserved and is seen as potentially too niche.”

Charnos and Lepel design and marketing manager Miranda Frost is very honest about what she sees as the sector’s prospects.

She says: “The rate of marriage has been dropping for decades, as people are comfortable co-habiting, and those who are marrying are doing so with an eye more keenly on the budget.

“The economic climate has had a huge impact. People are finding it more difficult to save and, as such, using disposable income for general living costs. Weddings have become a luxury.”

Despite her bleak assessment, however, Frost agrees with Gordon-Freeman that there is still room in the bridal sector and she sees the greatest potential with bridal shapewear.

“The shapewear category has grown year-on-year for the last five years,” the Charnos & Lepel design manager says. “Bridal lingerie will evolve through invisibility and sculpting, done in unique ways. I would also predict an increase in bonding, fusing and moulding technologies in bridal, just as we’ve seen in other categories, as a move on from the current Vintage style trends.”

For 2012, Charnos will be showcasing bridal products Eve and Belle. Eve is a sophisticated and classic collection in dark ivory with a vintage twist, while Belle is richly embellished with sequin detailing and is likely to appeal to the younger bride.

Fashion brand Lepel will be presenting Bouquet, featuring a striking bow-design embroidery with mesh and stretch-satin, as a more affordable point proposition.

Frost is not alone in identifying bridal shapewear as a key trend for 2012. There are a number of other established brands in the sector that also feel optimistic about the area’s prospects.

Body Wrap, distributed in the UK by Patricia Eve, recently launched a new line of bridal shapewear, called Body Wrap Bride.

The collection is targeted directly at brides, featuring a printed lace effect, a choice of white and ivory colourways, and seam fee technology.

Patricia Eve owner Mike Eve says: “We are seeing an increase in demand for shaping and smoothing bridal lingerie. I think that bridal lingerie will evolve in the same direction as it is going at the moment – particularly bridal shapewear, as it is still a new innovation.”

Other industry figures who think that sculpting lingerie is set to be a key bridal trend for 2012 include Gossard managing director Tony Jarvis. He says: “The importance of the bride’s lingerie focuses on figure sculpting and enhancing the waist and the hips, creating a smooth and ideal feminine shape as a foundation for their gown. This will also follow the control wear trends that continue to evolve throughout all lingerie trends."

Gossard design manager Stacey Lindsey adds: “If dresses continue to be structured around the bust with supported cup shapes already incorporated, then the need for the bra beneath the dress, especially in smaller sizes, becomes less and less necessary.”

Gossard’s 2012 bridal offering includes strong corsetry styling and high-waisted briefs. Made from stretch silks, the products provide no VPL, whilst also possessing a sculpting function.

Its honeymoon pieces feature delicate embroideries and laces. Chiffons and soft pleats are gathered to flatter the waist and accentuate the bust.

Yet, there are many brands within the bridal sector are who remain determined to try and tackle the gloomy economy by simply continuing do what they do best, producing beautiful and functional lingerie.

Myla head of retail Karen Hall says: “I do observe that people are not investing in as much as they would have done previously, but this is driving further innovation and design.

“I believe that the climate is making the client think more about the best she can get for her spend, which means delivering her value in every dimension, aesthetic, fit and functionality.”

Myla designer Emma Booham adds: “I think that there is and increasing demand for hertiage pieces, garments so beautiful that they will be kept and treasured forever in terms of their intricacy and beauty.”

Eveden UK sales director Nigel Addison agrees that beauty will help drive demand.

This year, Huit is showcasing its debut bridal collection, Tea for Two. The new range features a straight neckline, full cup bra, a "Magic Air" bra and a strapless bra.

Addison says: “Tea for Two by Huit is simple yet beautiful. It is Huit’s debut bridal collection and it has been created to wow.

“Consumers are still looking for innovative design and use of fabrics. They still want a quality product and don’t want to forgo on style. They’ll still invest in a good product if it looks the part, so we’ll keep designing to meet this demand.”

Aubade UK managing director Laura McLellan agrees with Addison, saying that women still want to feel special and seductive on their wedding day, and will be willing to pay the price. She says: “A woman on her wedding day will always dress from the inside out. Buying her wedding lingerie is as important for most women as the dress.”

Aubade’s 2012 wedding collection gains inspiration from the classic B&W movies, with their glamorous actresses, and the Cannes film festival. The brand’s 2012 theme is particularly apt for this wedding season, which is all about female beauty and empowerment.

After all, it is a leap year. And, this year, women will finally be able to take the initiative and propose to their men. It may not affect the bottom line but, in terms of women taking control and going for what they want, it is a momentous occasion.

When asked what 2012 has in store, McLellan says: “Lingerie for the ‘Leading Lady…” Go for it girls.

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