This year’s London Bridal Show at Olympia saw a big turnout of retailers from across the UK as well as those who travelled from far further afield; it was an event that signposts optimism within the industry
When it comes to indicating the health and well being of a marketplace, attendance at major trade events says a lot and visitor numbers at this year’s London Bridal Show at Olympia suggest that the bridal industry is in great shape right now. The event registered a 10% increase in visitors year on year, with international buyers accounting for 25% of the total, the increase coming most notably from France and Southern Ireland. Retailers were in shopping mode and keen to see the newest collections from some of the big names in the business, while spending time looking at what new and upcoming design houses had to offer.
Said Mark Lesley, showing his eponymous labels as well as his designer bridal collection and occasionwear label Candy Quinn: “It was brilliant. Mark Lesley did wonderfully in terms of increased sales and new customers but Donna Salado was simply outstanding.”
Vikki McCarthy-Wright of Mooshki fame, used this exhibition to launch the stunning new Grace Philips collection agreed. “I cannot believe the reception this new collection has had. It was awesome.”
Europe’s first buying event of the season gave out a clear signal that glamour dressing leads the way, with daringly low backs, mermaid dresses with swishy tails, body-hugging silhouettes, and lace motifs on nude tulle creating a tattoo effect on the skin. Brides who always harboured that dream of being a fairy tale princess on their big day, will almost certainly fall in love with the astonishing array of ballgowns that the key designers are showing for the 2016/2017 season – sumptuous dresses with whittled-down waists and voluminous skirts, some made of layer upon layer of tulle, organza, chiffon and lace, others in simple, elegant fabrics such as Mikado, skilfully sculpted to form the desired fullness.
Alongside the perennial laces there were jewelled and embroidered appliqués introducing a different surface texture, and wonderful jacquards with their own glorious patterning that needed little more than a bead-worked belt to make the right impressions. Long or short – and there were plenty of knee-length and tea-length 50s-style dresses to be seen – it made little difference as long as that message of design confidence and quality make was present and very apparent.
In occasionwear, buyers were wooed and wowed with an amazing rainbow of colours and beautiful fabrics chosen for their drape-appeal, with a fair amount of sparkle to add to the red-carpet experience. Celeb dressing remains key in this sector of the market, where stand out is essential.
One feature of the show was the Monday seminars, run by experts for experts. Retailers attending got to hear first hand about every area of the business and how they could improve their own operation by taking note of what others were doing. Everything from entering awards, to dealing with difficult customers, to closing sales successfully, to working with suppliers was covered and the buyers lapped up the information handed to them.