Bridal Store Business Plan by zsq15886


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									Spring 2009                      A business resource for the couture bridal industry

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?

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
                  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

   Please contact Marybeth Kaplan at 813 345 8743 or via email at
TA B L E O F                                                                SPRING 2009

                                              Cover: Gown Courtesy of Nicole Fashion Group


  6 News & Happenings

16 Future Styles – Current Trends

33 Accessory Designer Interview:
   Maria Elena

35 StoreBianca
         in Focus:

                                                                                   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

 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
    where she draws her inspiration from.

     2009        Collection

      Novia d,Art is Distributed in North America
      by Mercury Fashion Group 888-796-7679


                                                                                   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
  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.
                                                     New Rochelle, NY 10801.

 6/12/09 – 6/14/09   Noviaespana (Barcelona , Spain)
                                              Subscription Information:
                                                                             To purchase a subscription to
             TBD     Puerta de Europa Bridal Exhibition (Madrid, Spain)         Better Bridal Magazine,
                                                    please visit us online at:
6/19/09 – 6/22/09    Sposa Italia (Milan, Italy)

6/27/09 – 6/29/09    Paris Bridal Fair (Paris, France)                         Advertising Information:
                                              Better Bridal Magazine is
                                                                              published four times a year.
   7/5/09 – 7/7/09   Modatex (Essen, Germany)                             For advertising rates and mechanical
                                                   specifications, our Media Kit
                                                                                 is available online at:
 9/13/09 – 9/15/09   Harrogate Bridal Show (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:
                           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


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.
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
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

                                                    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

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

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
Alessandra R is Distributed in North America
 by Mercury Fashion Group 888-796-7679

The Story of Bella Bridesmaids
                 by: Yelena Jenkins
             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

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

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

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

Images Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

Designer: Kathlin Argiro

Designer: Charsa Maids
Designer: Jenny Yoo

CURRENT TRENDS: Mother of the Occasion
                        Designer: Gail Garrison

 Designer: Rose Taft
Trunk Shows: Are Designer Representatives Really Necessary?

I am designer’s

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
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

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
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


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
 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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