As someone who attends a lot of them, I can be pretty critical when it comes to conventions. But as far as trade shows are concerned, the National Bridal Market is one of my absolute favorites!
For those of you who don’t know, Bridal Market is a bi-annual merchandise show for the bridal industry. Designers set up exhibits and retailers attending the show are able to view products for the upcoming season. From there, the retailers decide what they want to order for their stores. It’s pretty straight-forward – and also pretty fun.
(Hint: that’s an understatement. It’s unbelievably fun!)
This was my second season attending the show as an assistant buyer with my boss, Krista, from I Do Too! Bridal. Trish, our maids gallery supervisor, also attended this season. Even though the spring show is usually the slower of the two, it’s been a very busy three days for us! I’m exhausted and my feet are screaming after being in heels the entire time, but I’m so excited about what we saw from our vendors.
Legally, I couldn’t take pictures of anything on the showroom floor. That being said, I do want to share some trends that you’ll be seeing later this year, as well as what you can expect from some of the biggest designers! And also a peek at what attending Bridal Market is like, for those of you who are curious!
(All photos personal unless otherwise stated.)
Sunday was an early start! I made my way to the Merchandise Mart to meet up with Krista and Trish at 8:30 AM, and after we had our little reunion, we went through registration. With our badges in hand, we headed up to the showroom floor.
Up first, we attended the Casablanca Bridal fashion show at 9 o’ clock.
I always love the exhibit set-up of Casablanca. Comfortable chairs, a lovely runway, and they also offer a delicious free lunch later in the day! (Free food is the quickest way to my heart. Fortunately it’s plentiful at Market.)
When it comes to Casablanca’s dresses, I’m usually a fan – one of the top contenders for my wedding dress is Casablanca 2056! But when it came to their Fall 2013 preview… I can’t say anything from this upcoming collection really “wowed” me. Of the 21 dresses we saw, there were only one or two that took our breath away and we felt like we needed to buy.
One of the most prominent design elements they featured was blue, both in lace and beading. So for brides who want to incorporate their “something blue” into their dress, Casablanca may be a line to keep in mind if you start shopping later this year!
Between the three of us, we agreed that we’d focus on bridal for most of the day and save our maids and moms shopping for later, so the next exhibit we went to was Maggie Sottero. As an industry powerhouse, their shows are always a little overwhelming, and we decided to tackle their new collection on the computer systems they had set up. This way, we’d have an idea of what we liked and didn’t like before we’d see the dresses in person on the runway.
As always, Maggie had a huge variety, although a lot of the dresses were very similar to each other with only slight variations between them (such as the necklines). There was lots of lace, lots of beading, and a surprising amount of more mature and almost matronly silhouettes. Maggie is also introducing a new fabric to their collection; it has a very “slinky” nature and is used in many of their art-deco dresses. Which they have quite a few of, so all of you Gatsby brides out there will have plenty to choose from!
We ended up having more trouble than we anticipated making a decision about which gowns we wanted to order for our fall stock. We loved many of the dresses when looking at the photographs beforehand, but on the runway, we weren’t as taken with them. Yet there were a few that we said yes to immediately, one of which was Liberty. This was one of my favorite dresses that I saw this weekend – unfortunately no media pictures of it have surfaced yet, but if I find one, I’ll be sure to share it!
We figured we’d take a break from Maggie and come back for their next runway show later in the afternoon, thinking we’d have an easier time deciding on gowns after seeing them in person a second time around.
We popped over to the Andrew Adela exhibit to say hello to Lynn and Dusty, the company heads. They gave us a quick run-down of the new merchandise they had, but before diving into it, we took a quick lunch break.
The lunch offered by the Market caterers was a spinach salad with edamame and strawberries, topped with carrots and a ginger soy vinaigrette. There was also a quiche of some sort, but it had milk in it, so sadly I couldn’t eat it! I made due with a whole grain roll instead – and I couldn’t resist swinging by the Casablanca booth again to nab a chocolate-covered strawberry. (What can I say? Chocolate-covered anything is my weakness!)
Once we were done eating, we went back to Adela to begin selecting our dresses for mothers. We’re extremely excited about the new Ambiance collection; whereas a lot of “mom dresses” tend to look very old and almost grandmotherly, Ambiance is showing a push towards more youthful styles and more of what you’d see at a higher price point.
Aside from bright colors and lace, we also saw an emphasis on separates (i.e. you choose a top, a bottom, and a jacket to create an ensemble). I can’t say I’m hugely in favor of this trend, but I know many moms who will be thrilled!
After working through the moms gallery, we started to go through the new bridesmaid dresses. The combination of bright colors accented with lace was also very prevalent here, along with illusion backs and illusion necklines, and buttons trailing down the back, the latter of which is a bridal trend that’s finally transitioning into the maids as well. Two major color trends we saw are blush and mocha.
Before we knew it, it was time for the final Maggie runway show of the day, so we ended up not being able to finish our Adela order at that time. We hurried back across the showroom to see the new Maggie collection again, and once it was over, we had a much easier time deciding on our new stock pieces.
By the time we finished finalizing our order, the showroom was closing for the evening. Once we’d said our goodbyes to the Maggie reps, Krista, Trish, and I went to the Grand Lux Cafe for dinner. It’s arguably my favorite restaurant in Chicago and I insisted that they had to try it!
We had a bit of a later start on Monday morning. I got to the Market at around 10 o’ clock and spent some time walking around while waiting for Krista and Trish.
I used this opportunity to do a bit of bridal trend-spotting, especially from designers we don’t carry, and here are the main trends I saw:
- Ombré (especially the combo of ivory/gold)
- Peplums on both brides and maids
- Sparkle tulle
- Shades of blue incorporated into bridal gowns via beading and appliqué, as well as colored tulle underlays
- Three-dimensional flowers
- Extremely low backs
- Slitted dresses
- Art-deco/”Gatsby”-inspired bridal gowns
- Large satin flowers on maids
At 10:30, I headed to the Andrew Adela booth to meet up with Krista and Trish. We finished our maids and moms orders, along with adding a couple of size runs on flower girls and junior bridesmaids.
Before we wrapped up our order, we took a look at the new Adela accessories. Two-piece satin belts with lots of bling? Check. Diamond brooches with ribbon woven through them? Check. Lovely beaded ribbons that come in a variety of colors, including dusty pink? Check, check, check!
By the time we left Adela, it had taken us nearly three hours to sort through everything. We still had a bit before we wanted to take a lunch break, so we walked over to the Bari Jay exhibit to speak with one of the execs about our decision to drop their line for the time being due to faulty zippers. While we were there, one of the reps we know well encouraged us to check out the Ellis bridal line… more on that later!
Knowing that it would be a quick stop, we swung by Symphony Bridal on our way to the cafe area. Like last season, we didn’t see many dresses that we liked. To me, a lot of the designs seemed either too tired or too “out there.” Instead we looked at their veils, which we were much happier with! I was wearing an ivory dress, so Krista had me model a few veils for her, as well as several comb tiaras that have been great sellers.
Lunch was a nice house salad, a veggie wrap, and some veggie chips. I also indulged in a Diet Coke because by that point I desperately needed the caffeine!
It was already 2 o’ clock when we made it to the Levkoff exhibit. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of these dresses, since the construction never seems quite up-to-par, but they sell extremely well and many brides are quite happy with them. Their upcoming maids collection features crisscross pleating and several one-shoulder gowns. Nothing stunning, but their designs are very tried-and-true.
Our next stop was what we were most excited about for this trip! Krista has been wanting to expand our mother-of-the-bride gallery for a long time now, primarily to cross the bridge into the next price point as it’s what our clients have been requesting.
We sat down with a rep from Mori Lee to look at their VM Collection, and we loved what we saw! Lots of elegant beading, pleated chiffon, and sophisticated silhouettes that tend towards a more runway look as opposed to the matronly look that’s so prevalent in the industry. What I loved most is that many of their dresses have matching jackets designed specifically for that dress, as opposed to a handful of generic boleros.
It took two hours, but by the end of the session, Trish and I were ecstatic!
At that point, we thought we were done… but as we were making our way through the showroom, we passed by the Ellis Bridal exhibit. We caught a glimpse of the dresses and started [figuratively] drooling, and then Krista mentioned that this was the line that Derek (the rep from Bari Jay who had left to work with Ellis) wanted us to see. Unable to resist, we went inside.
And we promptly fell in love.
Krista had no intention of picking up a new bridal line during this trip, but we ended up being so thrilled with what we were seeing that she placed our order to start carrying them! Ellis Bridal is a UK brand that has been around for over a century. Their designs are classic and each one is breathtakingly stunning. From intricate beading to illusion laces to unique necklines, their dresses are the epitome of romance.
They featured two new fabrics for bridal: a crinkle chiffon and a satin/organza blend.
And the dress I am most excited about… Style 11286! And we’re getting ours in a gorgeous shade of pink!
Once we were done at Ellis, it was past 6 o’ clock and the floor was officially closed. (Because we’re apparently those attendees – you know, the ones who never leave when we’re supposed to.)
Before we left, we picked up Krista’s best friend Jodi, the head of Alexia Designs. She treated us to a wonderful dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, which was exactly what all of us needed after two exhausting days!
But we weren’t done quite yet.
On Tuesday morning, our I Do Too team headed to the Allerton Hotel where Jasmine Bridal had an off-site showing. We got there at 9:30 AM and were treated to a complimentary continental breakfast. (Free food, man. I’m tellin’ ya’, these bridal vendors know all the tricks.)
Once we were done eating, we dove headfirst into the maids collections, determined to get through everything we needed to see before they began tearing down the showroom. We worked with Krystene, who was so friendly and helpful! She was eager to hear our feedback on the dresses: what we liked and didn’t like, any suggestions we had to improve the designs, and so on. She was so attentive and made sure we were happy with everything we were ordering.
We started with the B2 and Belsoie lines, where we were introduced to two new fabrics from Jasmine: amber satin chiffon and arielle.
The amber satin chiffon is offered in a wide variety of colors; it’s extremely lightweight, and it drapes beautifully and has fantastic movement. I had the pleasure of trying on one of their new gowns and found the fabric very easy to wear.
The arielle fabric is somewhat of a cross between organza and Tiffany chiffon. The colors it’s offered in are more limited, but both dark and light shades are available. Like the amber satin chiffon, it’s also very lightweight.
Several of their dresses featured beading, but we found it to be rather poorly executed, and in many cases it cheapened the appearance of the dresses. Fortunately, Jasmine offers the option of eliminating the beading at no extra charge, as we were pleased to learn.
It look us longer than we anticipated to get through the maids, so we had to be quick and executive when looking at the Jade and Jade Couture lines (which are for mothers). Luckily we were able to make decisions more easily, as we either really loved the dress, or we hated it.
We saw lace, we saw sequins, we saw shorter dresses, we saw various shades of red and purple… But one of the most exciting things we came across was jersey knit! It’s very rare that you’ll find a mothers dress made from knit fabric, but it’s something mothers are always asking for because of how comfortable it is to wear. So when we found not one but two Jade dresses made from knit, we were literally jumping for joy!
We were able to wrap up our order at noon. By that point, they had already begun to disassemble the room, so we said a quick goodbye to Krystene before we left.
After that, Krista and Trish had to hit the road to start their drive back to Michigan, so we parted ways on Michigan Avenue.
I’m unbelievably sad that Market is over – I had such an incredible time! Thank goodness it happens twice a year. I’ll only have to wait six months for the next show!