BARCELONA, Spain — Prospective brides seem to be looking for dramatic ballgowns with a dash of eccentricity, puff sleeves, as well as corsetry details and sensual high slits, while grooms are venturing into riskier territory, trading formal blue and black suits for brightly colored and laid-back attire.
These were the key trends that emerged at Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week, which returned as a live event again after a two-year hiatus. The five-day trade show closed on April 24 with a bang, drawing 18,600 visitors, mostly international, which compares with 22,000 attendees in 2019.
“Brides and their families are going way out now with large weddings and expensive gowns. The feeling coming out of the past two years with COVID-19 had really taken a toll on the bridal industry. Now everyone is back in the celebration mood, and it seems that the sky’s the limit,” said Dorothy Silver, director of sales and merchandising at Kleinfeld, anticipating the company’s budget will increase.
Pandemic fatigue didn’t dampen the mood at the fair and buyers lauded the event’s organizers for the upscale offering, while brands were optimistic about a recovery, noting bridalwear is fully enjoying the back-to-life vibe. Brides-to-be were also engaged via the fair’s digital platform, which amassed 40,000 views.
A host of runway shows, headlined by the first catwalk presentation of the Viktor & Rolf Mariage collection, a buyers’ favorite, punctuated the cloudy Barcelona days, with brands including Nicole Milano, Sophie et Voilà, Marco & Maria and Rosa Clará, among others, parading their spring 2023 collections at the fairgrounds.
All brands with an 8:30 p.m. show slot took the audience to the city’s landmarks for runway spectacles, including Pronovias, which orchestrated a show on Barcelona’s Montjuïc hill marked by dancers, giant balloons hanging from the ceiling and a cameo appearance by Y2K fashion model Esther Cañadas.
Esther Cañadas walking the Atelier Pronovias runway show for spring 2023.
Manuel Lastiri/Courtesy of Pronovias Group
According to Mark Ingram, chief executive officer of New York-based Mark Ingram Atelier, the fair improves every year. “The fashion show production is very high and impressive, and overall, it is an extremely well organized and attended event. I am a firm believer of a centralized market. To my knowledge, a bridal exhibition of this magnitude exists nowhere else in the Western world.”
The Sophie et Voilà spring 2023 bridal runway show.
Stephen Jaffe/Courtesy of Sophie et Voilà
French department store Printemps attended the trade show for the first time as it aims to grow its bridal division and strengthen its positioning and offering with the introduction of designer brand bridal-inflected pieces from the likes of Jacquemus, Khaite and Zimmermann, among others.
According to Karen Abi Aad, bridal buyer for Printemps Mariage, future brides “are looking for a unique dress, and after two years into the pandemic they have bigger budgets. We noticed an increase of the average price point, as brides request quality and more coolness.”
Case in point: At Pronovias Group, average spending for wedding gowns has increased 10 percent, with its high-end collections from Nicole Couture and Pronovias Privè enjoying momentum. “It’s showing that brides want to see their wedding happen with a lot of drama,” said Amandine Ohayon, chief executive officer of the group.
“The market is extremely dynamic, we’re seeing a pent-up demand happening, we’ve seen that the restrictions have impacted the market for the past two years, but girls have been holding onto their dreams,” Ohayon noted, anticipating a strong couple of years ahead. She said the company is above 2019 revenues, with retail sales in the first quarter of the year up 9 percent and a positive outlook for Italy and the U.S., as well as China.
The Atelier Pronovias show telegraphed the group’s bullish plans to “take the market by storm,” as Ohayon put it, with a 44-look parade of opulent gowns inspired by Versailles’ lavish ceremonies.
The company has recently ventured into NFT territory reflecting its ambition to engage brides wherever they are, including the metaverse, the CEO explained. The move tops other digital-driven initiatives, including the website revamp and virtual appointments, but the executive ruled out embracing online sales altogether.
“Girls want to return to the stores and have physical interactions with the stylists and, more importantly, when you find your dress, it’s something that you feel when you try it on…it cannot happen online. It’s not as magic[al],” Ohayon said.
Backstage at Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week in April 2022.
Eleonore Tornev/Courtesy of Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week
Over at Pignatelli, the hesitation of grooms to buy their wedding outfits online hindered the brand’s resilience throughout the pandemic, with 2021 sales still below pre-COVID-19 levels despite a 40 percent jump versus the previous years.
Francesco Pignatelli, the brand’s creative director, said he expects 2022 to mark the long-awaited rebound and the company’s presence in Barcelona signaled its ambitions of internationalization, given it generates 85 percent of revenues in Italy and has little exposure overseas.
The spring 2023 collection answered demand for outdoor ceremonies, breezy fabrics, and laid-back atmospheres, Pignatelli said. He injected a light and colorful spin into three-piece suits bearing damask embroideries, offered color-blocked combinations and tassel-bearing suits inspired by Moroccan vibes.
A look from the Carlo Pignatelli spring 2023 groomswear collection.
Courtesy of Carlo Pignatelli
A buyers’ favorite was Andrea Sedici, a relatively new name on the radar, which stole the spotlight with its couture-level gowns — often light and airy, embellished with bling and lace flourishes. The designer Andrea Di Ninno established the brand and atelier in Italy’s Abruzzo region in 2019 after a six-year stint at Giorgio Armani and received praise at Milan’s Sì Sposaitalia trade fair that same year.
“Barcelona was the natural next step. I’m excited because a lot of the big bridal retailers have shared positive feedback and this confirms that my bet of powering through the pandemic was farsighted,” Di Ninno said. At Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week, the designer presented a selection of his creations, as he gears up for a destination fashion show somewhere in Italy later in the summer. With a strong international wholesale footprint already, he said he’s looking forward to landing at New York Luxury Bridal Fashion Week later this year.
Although seasonal trends such as demure bridal pantsuits, delicate and flat embroideries and threadwork, sheer layering, as well as off-shoulder sleeves were ubiquitous, bridal brands appealed to a wide array of sensibilities and styles to tap into a broader audience.
“I think most brides want to have a red-carpet moment…whatever that means for them,” noted Ingram. “I think slightly ‘over-the-top’ styling mixed with minimal design is super chic.”
“Ultimately, it’s all about finding their unique style. That was the best part of the show…from bohemian, to modern, to romantic, to traditional. Today’s brides want to find the dress that speaks to their personal style,” echoed Lori Conley, general merchandise manager at Anthropologie-owned Bhldn. She praised the event for its networking quality and said she left the trade show feeling inspired and invigorated.
A look from the Yolancris spring 2023 bridal collection.
Manuel Lastiri/Courtesy of Yolancris
Among her favorites was the family-run Spanish brand Yolancris, helmed by creative director Yolanda Pérez — she of the bohemian bridal look. The designer said it feels “riskier to stick to a single aesthetic,” and worked her spring collection over different themes, flanking her signature corsetry details, lace embellishments and belly-revealing crop tops with edgier looks, such as short frocks sprouting feathers and minimalist column dresses with high slits featuring cutouts and hardware details.
“It’s a good moment, we’re starting again to see a brisk activity, but I think recovery will happen step by step and we’ll probably see a rebound toward the end of the year,” Peréz contended.