Social Media and the Bridal Fashion Industry

Monday, April 12, 2010

Anne Chertoff updating AOL's new wedding website Aisle Dash 
at one of the bridal market shows, providing brides with immediate info.

I've been at bridal fashion market in New York this past weekend and while seeing the new looks and dress styles for the upcoming season has been fun, the most fascinating part for me has been seeing how the business of bridal fashion is currently doing.

A quick background for those of you who may not be familiar with how this particular industry works: There are two bridal markets each year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall in which the collections for the next season are shown (so the upcoming Fall is shown in Spring and upcoming Spring is shown in the Fall).  The press and media attend these shows of course, but the bread and butter for the designers comes from the different bridal boutique owners and buyers for the larger stores who attend in order to choose what they will carry for their own inventory to sell to brides in their own markets. The dresses are produced based on orders and then delivered to stores about five months later (so the Fall line presented in the Spring is arriving in stores in the Fall . . . right on time).  The designers then start creating the next season's line immediately following the show, without knowing what from the line they just released will actually sell the best to real brides.

With the immediacy of blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, one of the issues many designers and bridal stores are now facing is that the brides coming into the stores in the Fall and Winter months think that the new dresses are outdated because they've been seeing them online for the previous five months. They also want to see the dresses that they saw from the most recent show in October because they think those are the newest ones, even though those won't be in stores until later in the Spring.

Because of this, a few designers have started creating one collection per year instead of two and adding two or three pieces for the show. Several designers have opted to skip presenting at the April market and focus on October instead while others have chosen to do mostly appointments at the April market and save their resources for a larger runway show at the October market.

Part of this is also due to the economy, unsurprisingly. Many store owners cannot afford to attend the shows twice per year so they choose one or the other to place their orders and purchases at. The upside of this is that it allows the stores to do more efficient budget forecasting and allows for both the designers and the stores to better determine which dresses brides are actually buying.

As expected, social media has helped extend the brand recognition of both the various designers and stores engaged in it, but even the companies not actively participating online are being affected by the shift social media has created in the brides' expectations of what is available to them. While only a few designers have switched to producing one line per year, it will be interesting to see how many others follow suit.

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