Spring 2009 A business resource for the couture bridal industry PHOTO REPORT Future Styles – Current Trends New York Fashion Week Accessory Designer Interview: Maria Elena Store in Focus: FRANCHISING Bella Bianca The Story of Bella Bridesmaids Unadvertised Modern Trousseau Meet Callie Tein, designer for Modern Trousseau. & Thriving Can a brand survive without plastering its name all over bridal publications? CONFESSIONS of a Trunk Show Rep I D S Showing dates for the new Couture Fall/Winter 2009/2010: By invitation only. Press RSVP: 905-856-9115 or email@example.com. Showing for Buyers at the Essex House 2nd Floor Lincoln Suite, Saturday, April 4th , Sunday, April 5th & Monday, April 6th 9AM-6PM. By appointment. Couture Inquiries please contact Veronica Di Santo at 905 856 9115 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org www.inesdisanto.com INES DI SANTO LAUNCHES THE NEW “LUXE” COLLECTION! Please contact Marybeth Kaplan at 813 345 8743 or via email at email@example.com CONTENTS TA B L E O F SPRING 2009 Cover: Gown Courtesy of Nicole Fashion Group 12 NEWS AND REPORTS 6 News & Happenings PHOTO REPORT 16 Future Styles – Current Trends REGULARS 33 Accessory Designer Interview: Maria Elena 35 StoreBianca Bella in Focus: FEATURES 16 35 7 Unadvertised & Thriving With the increasing cost of advertising in consumer magazines, our reporter talks with one company who had enough. Can a brand survive without plastering its name all over bridal publications? 12 Franchisinginterviews Bridget Bella Bridesmaids her innovative business model for Our reporter – The Story of Brown and learns about bringing bridesmaid stores to cities around the country. of a Representative 28 Confessions scoopTrunka Showshow rep and ﬁnd out why they’re important to have Get the inside from trunk 38 Modern Trousseau for Modern Trousseau. Our reporter explores how Callie began and Meet Callie Tein, designer 1 where she draws her inspiration from. BARCELONA 2009 Collection www.dArtBridal.com Novia d,Art is Distributed in North America by Mercury Fashion Group 888-796-7679 www.MercuryFashionGroup.com 15 3 Ivory Publications Editor in Chief, Ana Szapiro CALENDAR Editorial Assistant, Jane Young National Sales Manager, David Wolfe Magazine Design, Clark Fairﬁeld Contributors, Kara Targonski, Yelena Jenkins 3/29/09–3/31/09 Chicago Bridal Market 4/4/09 – 4/6/09 New York Bridal Market Better Bridal ofﬁces: 6/7/09 – 6/9/09 Sposatex (Nieuwegein, Netherlands) 175 Huguenot Street. Suite 1204. www.sposatex.com New Rochelle, NY 10801. 6/12/09 – 6/14/09 Noviaespana (Barcelona , Spain) www.moda-barcelona.com Subscription Information: To purchase a subscription to TBD Puerta de Europa Bridal Exhibition (Madrid, Spain) Better Bridal Magazine, www.pdenupcial.com please visit us online at: www.BetterBridalMag.com 6/19/09 – 6/22/09 Sposa Italia (Milan, Italy) www.sposaitaliacollezioni.it 6/27/09 – 6/29/09 Paris Bridal Fair (Paris, France) Advertising Information: www.parisbridalfair.com Better Bridal Magazine is published four times a year. 7/5/09 – 7/7/09 Modatex (Essen, Germany) For advertising rates and mechanical www.modatex.info speciﬁcations, our Media Kit is available online at: 9/13/09 – 9/15/09 Harrogate Bridal Show (UK) www.BetterBridalMag.com www.ukbridalshow.co.uk 10/3/09 –10/6/09 Chicago Bridal Market Sales information: please contact David Wolfe, 10/71/09 –10/19/09 New York Bridal Market National Sales Manager at: David.Wolfe@betterbridalmag.com 914-481-1151 FROM EDITOR Dear Reader: The slowing economy has made the beginning of 2009 a transformative year. Already several designers are about to debut new collections at lower price points with several prominent designers making announcements about their intention to do so as well. In this issue, we chose to look closely at the most recent fashion week in New York to discover which style ideas will ﬁnd their way to bridal. One shoulder straps, asymmetrical lines and shinier fabrics are appearing across all collections. However, one need not look further than fashion week to understand how the economy has impacted all of fashion. Colors are more muted and designs are more understated with an edge of seriousness. It will be fascinating to watch how these trends impact bridal designers as they prepare the 2010 collections. Ana Szapiro – Editor in Chief Contributors: Kara Targonski is a freelance writer who lives in St. Louis. She studied writing at the University of Missouri. She writes blogs and wed content for various companies and corporate communications for Gap, Inc. Yelena Jenkins is a freelance writer and Senior Editor for Hills & Lagoons, a luxury lifestyle magazine. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Communication and Business from the University of Southern California, and has been published in a variety of print and online magazines on fashion and style related topics. News AND HAPPENINGS Veil Trends Teams Modern Trousseau Renella de Fina with Lia Terni Opens NYC Showroom Launches Lower Priced Veil Trends designer Jolene Picone Modern Trousseau announces the Collection has teamed with designer Lia Terni opening of their new showroom in Renella De Fina announces of Spain to create a unique and New York City. The showroom will the creation of the new Matia modern collection of veils and be located at 552 7th Avenue. Collection for Fall 2009. According headbands. The unique headband to Ellen Wachs, national sales designs will be available through Veil director, the new collection consists Trends. of more affordable gowns that feature the same quality and styling as the Renella De Fina Couture Mercury Fashion collection. The prices for the new Group Announces collection range from $925-$1,250 Representation of wholesale. Nicole Mercury Fashion Group has announced it will begin representing the Nicole Fashion Group in the Ines di Santo United States. Nicole, located in Debuts New Italy, creates the Collette, Nicole Collection and Alessandra R. lines. David Ines Di Santo and daughter Greenberg, Bridal Division President Veronica Di Santo announce their of Mercury, says: “We are excited to new collection called “Luxe” - a Photo Courtesy of Veil Trends bring to the U.S. these remarkable lower priced line for brides seeking designs. I’m convinced American quality designs at a more affordable brides will fall in love the excellent price point. styling and ﬁt.” Mercury currently represents Novia d,Art and Josechu Santana from Spain and Antonio Riva from Milan. Can Success Be Achieved Without Ad Dollars? by: Yelena Jenkins I n an age where consumer bridal magazines are ﬁlled with more advertisements than editorial content, advertisers worry about getting lost in the noise. It is a concern that is especially relevant during a struggling economy, where every business spending decision needs to actively help the company stay competitive and proﬁtable. The days of throwing money at a large advertising budget have waned, replaced by business owners who want to know the exact impact of each advertisement dollar on the company’s bottom line. While cutting back on advertising has been an unfortunate necessity for some, one company went cold turkey on their advertising - and thrived. But is it for everyone? One Company’s Turning Point Marisa Bridals is a nationally recognized line of upscale bridal gowns carried in over 300 stores across the country. This sustained success has been achieved without a single dollar spent on advertising - for the past few years, at least. Marisa Bridals was founded in 1987, and spent the next seventeen years eagerly advertising their collections. Lee Fein, Partner at Marisa, points out that during those years, unless you spent a good deal of money on advertising your brand was unknown. To keep up with the industry, Marisa went the traditional route of creating demand directly from brides, appealing to 7 them with around 30 pages of beautifully reasoning that the bridal store websites will of seventeen years through advertising. laid out advertisements each year - hardly a show the selection of gowns for them. Nearly two decades of diligent advertising frugal undertaking. irrefutably played an important role in the And once the brides are in the store, even company’s nationwide presence in top bridal Through diligent advertisements and by those that have not heard of an unadvertised boutiques. Initially launching an unknown, providing brides with fashion-forward high line are likely willing to try it on if it is in their unadvertised line without promotion has the quality dresses, Marisa created a successful price range, claims Fein. Unlike the ready potential to doom a line to obscurity in an place for itself in the bridal industry. However, to wear apparel industry, many brides are already competitive industry. continued success seemed contingent on not familiar with the names of wedding perpetual advertising. By the early 2000s, designers and bridal lines until they begin So while the promise of continued success the bridal industry had ballooned to grand their dress search. Amsale can seem just as and cost savings sounds tempting, proportions and bridal lines were buying unknown as Marisa to the bride walking into unadvertised bridal lines are best left to up more and more ad space to stand out in a bridal boutique, a fact that works in the established companies. Getting in the door the increasingly competitive industry. Simple favor of unadvertised lines. at top bridal boutiques, having brides call one-page ads were morphing into ﬁve- and ask if a store carries your brand, and page designer spreads that overshadowed The Allure to Bridal Boutiques free press mentions in magazines all come the other advertisements in the magazine. from consumer name brand recognition. Feeling lost in the shufﬂe of all the bridal The under-the-radar nature of the unadvertised These keys to success for a growing bridal ads, Marisa made a bold decision: forgo all bridal lines eliminates price shopping among line would be extremely difﬁcult to achieve advertising. local boutiques and allows store owners to without an advertising budget. For bridal C make more on these gowns than on well- lines considering the unadvertised route, the Unadvertised & Thriving M known brands. Smart salespeople will show best words of advice are to tread carefully. brides the unadvertised lines carried in Consider all the angles, pros, cons and Y By the time Marisa went stealth as an the store since they are well aware of the possibilities before abandoning a time-tested CM unadvertised bridal line, the company was potential for greater proﬁt. The unadvertised method for creating consumer attention, and well established. Top bridal stores and lines can be exceptionally appealing to realize that you will also be saying farewell MY boutiques around the country carried Marisa budget-conscious brides thanks to their to having a name brand. Name brand CY gowns, and brides had worn Marisa designs competitive pricing. Marisa, for example, recognition is a small price to pay for some, CMY down the aisle for nearly two decades. uses the exact same luxury fabrics from the but can be everything for others. Store owners who carried the line knew the same suppliers as top name brand bridal K quality and look that Marisa stood for, and lines, yet is able to price their dresses at half continued their support of the line when they the retail price. Brides are paying for the stopped advertising. Consequently, Marisa dress itself, not for the company’s advertising was able to eliminate all of their spending budget, states Fein. on advertising while continuing to thrive as a business. What’s more, they have even Marisa dresses generally retail from $1,500 expanded since they stopped advertising to to $2,600, while the same quality name consumers. If one boutique forgoes carrying brand dresses range $2,500 to $5,000. For the line, Fein will directly contact a nearby brides looking at quality and style, the allure boutique to introduce them to the line. So far, of the price difference is undeniable. Fein the plan is working. is quick to reiterate the biggest beneﬁt to boutiques: a healthy markup on the dresses. To others in the bridal industry, the ability “When a girl goes into a bridal store with a to thrive without advertising may seem particular budget and already has a look in implausible. But, as Lee Fein explains, brides mind, you can show the [unadvertised] dress still know that they exist. “Today, every bridal and make a great markup. And you don’t store has a website. On their website they have to worry about being price shopped.” feature the designers that they carry, so in essence you are receiving national exposure So, To Advertise or without being in print media.” Fein felt that Not To Advertise? the online presence of the bridal stores eliminated the need to use traditional print Clearly Marisa has enjoyed success while advertising methods. He expands on this by eliminating the costs associated with saying, “There was no need to be in a local advertising. Though this business model can Philadelphia brides magazine when all of the be an ideal approach for some, it certainly bridal stores would already advertise for you is not for every bridal line. Notably, before that they carry your line.” Marisa has gone they were unadvertised, Marisa built a solid so far as to stop updating their own website, brand and name recognition over the course 9 Alessandra R is Distributed in North America by Mercury Fashion Group 888-796-7679 www.MercuryFashionGroup.com 11 The Story of Bella Bridesmaids by: Yelena Jenkins A fter spending three based business model. Bella Bridesmaid as an afterthought. Stores that offered grueling years earning her began in a tiny, one room top ﬂoor both wedding gowns and bridesmaid law degree, Bridget Brown Victorian building in San Francisco’s dresses also tended to hustle both moved to San Francisco lively Marina district. Business grew decisions into the same appointment, in 1998 with no intention slowly at ﬁrst without the aid of a business which was overwhelming for the bride. of practicing law. Instead, she founded loan. “Each time I sold a bridal party, it “I think it’s hard to as a bride to focus Bella Bridesmaid, a bridesmaid dress enabled me to buy more samples [and] on ﬁnding her own dress and then throw business that has grown to include 29 invest in printed collateral,” Brown the bridesmaids dress decision into the locations across the country, with ten explained. Thus Bella Bridesmaid was mix all at once,” she explains. more opening in 2009. The secret to born, one bridal party at a time. her growth has been creating the perfect “Bella Bridesmaid [provided] recipe for repeatable success; the The concept behind Bella a separate shopping occasion where same recipe that made McDonald’s a Bridesmaid is to offer brides a modern, the bride can focus her attention solely worldwide phenomenon - the franchise. fresh approach to the traditional on her bridesmaids and allow herself bridesmaid dress shopping experience. to enjoy both experiences - wedding Much like her unplanned foray Brown noticed that when a bride went gown shopping and bridesmaid dress into the bridal industry, Brown did not shopping for her wedding dress, the shopping - equally,” adds Bridget. The initially plan on creating a franchise- bridesmaids dresses were presented concept was a smart one, and brides responded enthusiastically to the ﬁrst believes that success is achieved at much endless compliance issues and different San Francisco boutique. But brides were higher rates since franchisees can share regulations and reporting guidelines not the only group who loved Brown’s in the secrets of her business model for every state, something that her law concept - top names in bridesmaid dress while avoiding the pitfalls she endured degree helped her tackle. Finding the design also fell in love with the idea of opening a small business. Creating a right people to entrust with your store’s a “bridesmaid only” boutique. successful small business recipe is a long name and brand can also be a challenge, road ﬁlled with setbacks and failure, and though Brown considers herself lucky Brown initially sought out franchisees beneﬁt tremendously from to work with smart, energized and designers who were making their name the direction they receive with proven professional franchisees. as chic bridesmaid dress designers ways to thrive as a business. including Simple Silhouettes, Jenny Even in an economy where small Yoo and Charsa. The business grew For Bella Bridesmaid, the key to business are struggling to keep aﬂoat, by word of mouth, and today Bella a well-run franchise business is keeping Bella Bridesmaid franchises are thriving. Bridesmaid boasts a large selection the stores consistent across the country. Another ten boutiques are slated to of fashion-forward bridesmaid dress “Each franchisee receives an Operations open this year, and Brown believes that designers that stylish brides crave: Manual that outlines everything from the bridesmaid dress industry is fairly Coren Moore, Melissa Sweet, Priscilla how their store should look and feel to insulated from the economic storm. She of Boston, Two Birds, Lula Kate, Alix how we do day-to-day business,” says has found that some brides are even & Kelly, Vera Wang, Amsale, Queue, Brown. “The paint on our walls, our forgoing the traditional bridesmaid gift Tricia Fix and Kathlin Argiro, in addition logo and our demeanor are consistent in order to help pay for part or all of the to the aforementioned brands. Brown’s from coast to coast. You can walk into a dresses, which retail from $175 - $450. idea of the ‘bridesmaid only’ boutique Bella Bridesmaid in New York city and Brides are prioritizing their budget and was a success with bridesmaid lines one in Greenville, South Carolina and making smarter choices, but are still and brides alike, allowing the business know that you are in the same store.” spending money on necessary items to expand. After opening up ﬁve more like bridesmaid dresses. As the success Bella Bridesmaid boutiques on her own, Bridget believes that keeping of Bella Bridesmaid can attest, savvy Brown soon came to realize that there the look and feel of the Bella Bridesmaid brides will always ﬁnd a way to include were limitations involved with trying to stores consistent strengthens the brand. the important style elements they need to be a hands-on owner operator of so Individual franchises also beneﬁt from make their special day beautiful, weak many stores across a wide geographic Bella Bridesmaid’s established selection economy or not. span. of designer dress lines that would be difﬁcult to accumulate as a start up After much research and business. Franchisees can pick and contemplation, Brown decided to choose from amongst the designer lsit to franchise her business. Brown realized ﬁll their stores with a selection of dresses the importance of having her boutiques that best suit the local demographic. Each be owner-operated, and felt that this type store contributes to a yearly national of business works well due to the owner’s advertising budget, which allows Bella emotional and ﬁnancial investment in Bridesmaid to take out full-page ads in the company. Keeping with the tradition mammoth bridal publications like InStyle of the original Bella Bridesmaid, Weddings. Brown wanted the owners of all Bella Bridesmaid franchise stores to be in the Ms. Brown characterizes her store every day working with customers experiencing turning Bella Bridesmaid to identify the trends and desires unique into a successful franchise as a to the store’s location. She hoped this rewarding experience. She has loved would allow the individual stores to every second of it, despite the big follow regional trends and adapt their changes in her role that she found herself sales and samples accordingly to best unprepared for. “I went from being on serve their customer base. the ﬂoor, working with customers in my San Francisco boutique to becoming Setting up Bella Bridesmaid as a teacher and mentor for franchisees a franchise business was a smart move, across the country,” she explains. both for Bridget and for the women who “Moving from selling dresses to selling opened subsequent franchised stores. franchises was certainly an adjustment.” Statistics from the U.S. Department of Turning a single owner business into a Commerce back up Brown‘s decision, large franchised company is not for as 90% of franchise businesses are still everyone, nor is it for every business. As operating after ten years whereas 82% Brown can attest, franchising a business of independent businesses fail. Brown is a massive undertaking that involves rides Maid’s dresses and Mother of Bride gowns are integral design features in every wedding. Often relegated to secondary status, these gowns are anything but background fabric. Designers take greater risks and bolder strokes with every season that passes. Drawing inspiration from the runways of New York, we witness which styles and silhouettes are on the horizon while examining the current design trends. FUTURE STYLES: New York Fashion Week Designer: Farah Angsana 17 Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week FUTURE STYLES: New York Fashion Week Designer: Georges Chakra Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week FUTURE STYLES: New York Fashion Week Designer: Erin Fetherston Designer: Caroline Herrera 19 Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week FUTURE STYLES: New York Fashion Week Designer: Ralph Lauren Designer: J. Mendel Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week FUTURE STYLES: New York Fashion Week Designer: Badgley Mischka 21 Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week FUTURE STYLES: New York Fashion Week Designer: Lela Rose Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week FUTURE STYLES: New York Fashion Week Designer: Tadashi Shoji Designer: Venexiana 23 Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week CURRENT TRENDS: Brides Maids Designer: Kathlin Argiro Designer: Charsa Maids CURRENT TRENDS: Brides Maids Designer: Jenny Yoo 25 CURRENT TRENDS: Mother of the Occasion Designer: Gail Garrison Designer: Rose Taft 27 confession Trunk Shows: Are Designer Representatives Really Necessary? I am designer’s representative. It’s a funny job – I get to travel across the representative accompanies the collection country, meet interesting people, work on its tour in their stead. directly with brides and help stores make sales. I’ve been mooned more times than Despite some store and boutique owners’ I can remember (seriously ladies – what’s insistence they have plenty of experience the deal with no underwear?) and have and don’t need help, a representative can endured too many mother/daughter battles be an invaluable tool when it comes to than one should in a life time. selling wedding gowns. Yet I’m eyed with suspicion by some sales Representatives also provide an excellent associates who are convinced that I’m resource for designers as they prepare trying to steal their job and more than a looks for the following season. few just plain ignore me. Occasionally I’m made to feel that I’m in the way and not Intimate Product Knowledge: needed at all. I know things that no one else does Well, I’m here to say, loud and clear, I am necessary. (And I’m not after anyone’s job) Every bridal collection is different. Despite the obvious superﬁcial similarities, each As the modern world has put increasing designer infuses their collection with a pressure on a designer’s time, a unique combination of silhouettes, fabrics, beadings and style. The range of options within a single collection can sometimes be staggering. During a trunk show, over 20 gowns gown must be understood to help the bride may arrive at the store which the sales ﬁnd her perfect dress. associates have never had experience selling before. It’s an impossible task to A designer rep has the beneﬁt of living and learn the nuances of each gown before a breathing the collection for most of the year. show. Using our experience we can ﬁnd the right gown quickly and help to close the sale. Designer Reps are taught detailed information on each of the gowns in Advocate of the Brand the lines. From the types of fabrics and beadings used, to which gown works the A trunk show is a ﬁnancial risk for the store. best on different body types. I spend weeks The boutique or salon must pay for the just learning the in-ands-outs of each dress gowns to be shipped and typically cover in the collection. the travel and accommodation for the rep. But the trunk show is an equal risk for the A sale can hinge on whether the proper designer. silhouette is matched against a particular body type. If a sales associate is unfamiliar A designer earns their living on good with the dresses in the collection, the right products and a good reputation. A dress may never be tried on! It’s not enough trunk show exposes a career’s worth of to identify the drop waist gowns versus the reputation to misrepresentation. The last natural waist gowns, the subtleties of each thing any designer wants is a person not 100% familiar with the line making 29 promises about potential changes or I’ve heard comments ranging from “This Now is not the time to take chances. Reps delivery dates. looks horrible” to “This dress makes me like me, with our intricate product and look so skinny” and “if only this dress didn’t experience, can quickly augment a sales I help to make sure that the right promises have this feature” – I notice trends. If I see staff’s knowledge base and provide them are made and kept – delivery dates, factory and hear the same comments over and the tools to make sales. alterations and different colors. over, I’ll let people know so next year’s collection will be even better. Nothing can be better for a store owner First Hand Observations: than ﬁnishing a trunk show with orders in I’m the eyes and ears of the When a store picks up a collection, they hand. designer are entering into a long term business relationship with the designer. I’m there to I Travel Light Trunks shows are fantastic opportunities to make sure the product gets better every interact consumers, i.e. brides. Designers year. Lately a lot of stores are under ﬁnancial create, to some degree, in a vacuum. The pressure and are backing off of paying for designs are debuted at market and stores In Tough Time Reps Are Even reps to accompany the trunk show. It’s true select their samples. A designer gets only a More Important: I make that a store is usually responsible for airfare small picture of what the overall consumer sales! and accommodations and that those costs trends are. can be a burden. In my case, and probably I can make sales. What better reason in many others, designers are now capping A trunk show provides the designer a can you think of to have me in a down the expenses of the ﬂight at $200. unique opportunity through me, their economy! representative, to listen to what the bride For a two night stay in a moderate hotel likes and what she dislikes. It’s unusual to Brides are more frugal than every before. and ﬂight capped at $200, an investment get such honest insight directly from their While the quantity of brides is about the in a rep may cost no more than $400. The consumer – a bride would never say the same, the scrutiny with which they spend small investment in return for more sales same things directly to a designer as she has never been greater. They’ll shop more, and detailed product knowledge is well would to me. A representative becomes looking for the best deal. They may even be worth it! If I bring in just one more sale, I’ve a third party that can listen, observer and willing to sacriﬁce the perfect dress if the paid for myself and more. take notes on what style elements are “pretty close” dress is signiﬁcantly cheaper. successful and which are not. Plus, we’re fun. Lea-Ann Belter Bridal offers affordable elegance made in North America. Exclusive territories are available. Lea-Ann is the proud recipient of the 2007 Designer of the Year award. LEAANNBELTER.COM • For more information: International Sales Manager, Karen Lackner, 440 915 3704 or firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGNER: M MARIA ELENA by: Kara Targonski n 1992, Maria Elena’s brand’s creative director, and Maria the production work. Every piece daughter, Marile, couldn’t ﬁnd a Elena’s sister heads up the quality in the collection is made by hand headpiece she wanted to wear for her control department. And of course, exactly to Maria Elena’s speciﬁcations. wedding. Unlike a typical mother of the there is Maria Elena, who is the Once ﬁnished, each tiara, brooch, bride, Maria Elena didn’t search every founder, namesake, and designer. or handbag is carefully scrutinized to nearby bridal salon to ﬁnd the perfect Maria Elena creates every prototype ensure every stone, prong, or bit of headpiece—she simply made her own. for the new collection by hand, ribbon is ﬂawless and stable before “She has always been very crafty,” drawing on inspiration from antiques being shipped to stores. Quality says Maria Elena marketing and sales and vintage heirloom jewelry. Without is a key component of the brand director Gisele Del Busto. Today, an art background or formal training strategy- and while manufacturing the Maria Elena is known for her intricate inﬂuencing her work, her process is headpieces and jewelry overseas could ﬁligree headpieces, many of which are very hands on. “She does not draw be a less expensive option, it is one the dotted with seed pearls, encrusted with anything,” says Del Busto. “She has a brand would not consider. Swarovski crystals, and woven with room in the back where she has all of silk ribbon. Maria Elena also produces her ﬁligree and she just starts playing Del Busto spends most of her days jewelry, hairpieces, and handbags. with the ribbon, crystals, and ﬁligrees concerned with the brand’s image But it was that very ﬁrst ceramic until she creates something beautiful.” and how well it is performing in the headpiece, created for her daughter, marketplace. With a presence in over which started the brand. Del Busto credits in-house production as seventy stores in the US and overseas, a major factor of the brand’s success. exclusivity has become an important “We are like a family,” says Del “The only way to have total control part of the Maria Elena business Busto. And Maria Elena Headpieces of your product is to manufacture it strategy. “We are very particular about is, in most ways, a family business. in house.” After completing a design, who carries our line,” says Del Busto. For many years, Marile acted as the Maria Elena passes the ﬁnished piece “The brides who buy our product are to her team of artisans who handle 33 DESIGNER: MARIA ELENA the higher end brides, so we want they are meant to be worn.” Del Busto and business cards. For Del Busto, Maria Elena in higher end stores.” can’t stress enough how important the the update is about making the brand Maria Elena is exclusive in Kleinfeld, trunks shows are. “It is important to get look modern and fresh, to represent and Del Busto is working on gaining her collection out there and known,” Maria Elena in the marketplace as an exclusive relationships with other bridal says Del Busto. elegant, exclusive brand. But all of salons as well. Del Busto plans to limit it—the website, the new packaging, the number of stores which carry the Del Busto acknowledges that Maria the trunk shows-- are simply what Del line in any given area to ensure that Elena has made an impact in the Busto describes as a ‘translation’ of Maria Elena continues to be a special marketplace since the very ﬁrst Maria Elena’s inspiration and vision. and coveted line. collection, but no one at Maria Elena Maria Elena’s vision began with one is willing to rest on previous successes. headpiece created for her daughter, Trunk shows are another crucial focus This year, Del Busto has a complete but a strong commitment to quality, area for the brand. “During season I website overhaul planned. Recently, a dedication to the customer, and am out of town all of the time,” says all of the packaging and marketing superior craftsmanship has turned Del Busto. “I love doing the trunk materials were updated. Changes Maria Elena into a successful bridal shows. I get to deal with the bride. include a pearlized white with silver accessory business. I get to see the reaction of the bride color scheme and crisp square boxes with our pieces. To me this is most important—being a part of that special moment.” Equally important is training the store staff on the collection. During each trunk show Del Busto likes to spend at least thirty minutes with the staff. “I sit down with them and show them how to sell the gowns with the headpieces. I show them how to wear the headpieces. We have a lot of ribbon headbands, so I give them a little training on hair, and show how Store in Focus: BELLA BIANCA by: Yelena Jenkins T imes are undoubtedly tough for small business owners, industry trends, their budding boutique just outside Chicago is even in the seemingly untouchable quietly thriving. bridal industry. Financially stable couples are losing jobs, brides are Sisters Melissa Russell and Natalie cutting their budgets, and large Bauer always knew they would dream weddings are being scaled end up working together. Growing down to intimate family affairs. up in a family where their mother During a time when most aspiring and father ran small businesses, entrepreneurs are putting their they understood the hard work business dreams on the backburner, and dedication required to run two sisters decided to weather the a small business of their own. storm and launch an upscale bridal Prior to opening Bella Bianca, store called Bella Bianca. Bucking Melissa was a project manager 35 for Jam Productions while Natalie and Melissa crafted a business loan. Their biggest challenge in worked as a marketing manager plan in late 2007 for their own full- bringing their business dream to for Mesirow Financial. Though service bridal boutique. reality was locating the ideal space their former career ﬁelds seem for their new boutique. “We were to be a stretch from the wedding “It took us exactly one year looking for a free-standing building industry, the sisters credit from when we decided to move that was large enough to hold the their success to past jobs that forward with the business to secure concept we had for the store, and required a tremendous level of ﬁnancing, ﬁnd a location and was also in a central location,” she customer service and relationship complete the space,” Melissa said. explained. After a long search, the management - cursory skills for Financing came from a combination sisters settled on a 6,000 square running a bridal boutique. of personal savings, family foot space in Oakbrook Terrace, investment, and a small business an area easily accessible by major Natalie and Melissa’s foray into the bridal industry began after their own disappointing experiences shopping for wedding gowns. “While the gowns were beautiful, we felt that the experience itself was missing an element of excitement that we assumed would accompany ﬁnding a wedding gown,” Melissa explained. The sales consultants were not always friendly, and the focus was more on making a quick sale than on helping them ﬁnd the perfect wedding dress. In some stores, they found the layout and design uninviting, and felt that digging through racks of tightly packed dresses did not allow brides to properly see the gowns. Resourceful and determined to create something better, Natalie highways that was close to the free marketing experience to get established stores [accustomed to suburbs and Chicago. Oakbrook the word out about Bella Bianca. the days of big spending], that may Terrace is also known for its high- Natalie and Melissa issued a press ﬁnd it more difﬁcult to cut back and end retail stores, making it the release to local newspapers, took make adjustments.” Opening Bella perfect spot for an upscale bridal out ads in major industry websites Bianca in a recession also impacted boutique to put down roots. and local bridal magazines, and the sisters’ selection of wedding hosted a grand opening party. gown designers. Instead of carrying While launching their business, Local press, industry contacts and only high-end, pricey labels, they Melisa and Natalie focused on brides were invited to the opening focused on choosing quality dress creating the elusive experience that event help create a buzz about designers that encompassed a wide they felt they missed out on. “It was their boutique in the community. price range. very important to us that our store be large, with all of the gowns But according to Melissa, the Ines Di Santo, Liancarlo, Renella De out on the sales ﬂoor for brides to most useful advertising tool so Fina, San Patrick, Novia D’Art, and see. We chose high end materials far has been bridal website The Alfred Sung made the ﬁnal edit, for every square inch to ensure Knot, along with positive word of with gowns retailing from $1,000 that brides felt that the interior of mouth from satisﬁed brides sharing to $8,000. The variation in gown the store matched the caliber of their experience with friends. prices gives budget-conscious gown that they were purchasing.” Additionally, Bella Bianca’s user- brides plenty of price ﬂexibility, Additionally, they made sure that friendly website has helped bring in while still offering a selection there was plenty of room for the a steady amount of business during of top-notch couture dresses for bridal entourage to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ their ﬁrst few months, allowing them those wish to spend more. Though over the bride in her dress. “Our to meet ﬁnancial projections. Bella Bianca is just establishing favorite part of shopping for our itself, the owners’ sharp business gowns was spending the day with “With no prior sales, we can’t instincts and focus on providing our mother, sisters and friends, so it comment on how the economy value to customers sets a promising is very important to us that there is has impacted us at this point,” precedent for future success. ample space for each group to feel says Melissa. But she will admit at home,” Melissa added. that launching a business in a bad economy certainly has an Though they spent readily to create advantage: “We will learn to a high-end space with upscale maintain our ﬁnancial stability in [a materials, they relied on their own tough] environment, as opposed to 37 Callie Tein Mother of the OCCASION by: Kara Targonski A ncillary collections can add additional proﬁt and increased customer satisfaction for bridal designers. Callie Tein, owner of Modern Trousseau in Connecticut, knows just how successful (and proﬁtable) an extra collection can be for a designer. In addition to her line of modern and elegant bridal gowns, she sells an extensive collection of what she refers to as “mother of the occasion dresses” or “MOTO” for short. This collection, designed exclusively for mothers, offers over a hundred mix and match pieces in the ﬁnest lined silks. “I never thought I would end up in Bridal,” says Callie Tein owner of Modern Trousseau. “When I started it was very much the Princess Diana look--big hair, even bigger dresses, and lots of beadwork and lace.” But after completing her degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Design, their arms. They have tummies that they she began an apprenticeship for want to hide, so I design the collection wedding gown designer Mariana to hide ﬁgure ﬂaws.” Tein also designs Hardwick. Under Hardwick’s tutelage the collection to be beautiful and she discovered two things: her personal elegant. “So many of the mothers want design aesthetic (which she describes to fade into the background,” she says. as very classic and elegant) and a love “But I remind them to have fun with it. I for designing bridal. “Once you have tell them, ‘We don’t do frumpy, we do designed wedding gowns there is no fabulous.” going back,” says Tein. Looking fabulous in a couture gown And Tein hasn’t looked back. Her doesn’t come cheap, and cost is the original line only offered bridal gowns primary reason why Tein refuses to but by the end of 2005 she had added branch out into apparel for the rest a small collection of mother of the bride of the bridal party. Each dress in the dresses to accommodate her clients. ‘Mother of the Occasion’ collection is “Mother’s would come in begging for custom made in Connecticut by a team a dress,” Tein says. “At the time, there of ten seamstresses. “We do a lot of was really nothing out there for them.” custom work, custom measurements. In response to her customer’s request Each piece is cut by hand,” Tein says. Tein designed a very small collection While she doesn’t feel the average of four mix and match pieces and retail price point of her ‘Mother of the debuted them during a trunk show. Occasion’ gowns ($800-$1200) would “I was so nervous,” Tein says. “I was work for the bridesmaid dress market, waiting there and thinking ‘I only Tein knows that the mothers don’t mind have four pieces. No one is coming.’” paying for a couture dress. But her fears were unfounded. The collection was a hit. Tein doesn’t disclose exactly how proﬁtable her “Mother of the Tein credits the early success of her Occasion” collection is, but she ‘Mother of the Occasion’ collection to does mention that “both areas of her willingness to listen to the feedback the business (the bridal gowns and from her customers. Mothers and brides MOTO)are doing very well.” Well are two very different customers, and enough, that Modern Trousseau has Tein never forgets this when she is been able to grow during an economic designing the ancillary collection. “You crisis. Tein has added extra staff, and are designing for a mature ﬁgure,” Tein is trying to expand the collection into says. “The mothers have issues with more stores. She credits running a small, ﬂexible business with Modern Trousseau’s success during a difﬁcult economy. “We can react quickly to various trends. We can keep our top end to fewer pieces and expand the lower end of the line. We can change quickly. We don’t have to seek approval from different levels of management. We don’t have to call China.” And with more and more customers seeking items ‘made in America’ Modern Trousseau is well positioned to win over more customers. “I just want to dress the three most important women in the wedding-the bride, the mother of the bride, and the mother of the groom,” says Tein. Her business model is a smart one for other designers and bridal salon owners to follow, particularly in an economic climate where even the virtually recession proof wedding industry, has seen a little belt tightening. Why dress only one woman in the wedding when you can dress three?
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