BBFW puts bridal wear centre-stage in shows bonanza, prepares 2022 edition
Sunshine is back after the storm, and it is time for party nights again. This is at any rate the approach that Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week (BBFW) seems to have adopted, as it held its first in-person event in the wake of the pandemic. On Thursday October 14, BBFW staged a gala evening by the magnificent fountains of Montjuïc in Barcelona, decked out in all their finery for the occasion. The event featured 20 bridal wear designers and labels showcasing their creations, watched by 500 select guests from Spain and elsewhere. Weddings, parties and galas are back on the agenda, and the industry is determined to get back on track after the harsh blow inflicted by the pandemic.
“We have never stopped organising functions, but few events actually managed to take place. We were waiting for the recovery to start. In the end, we saw that we could learn to live with Covid-19, and it was time to start moving again,” said Estermaria Laruccia, head of BBFW, interviewed by FashionNetwork.com. Laruccia mentioned the difficulties the industry has experienced in recent months, and the obligation to continue to make progress despite the prevailing uncertainty. “This is the time to move forward, to be happy again to meet in person, honouring the talent and creativity of designers; this is a new beginning,” she enthused. Laruccia acknowledged that “everyone has lived through tough times, personally and in business. But the time to look to the future has arrived.”
After the last ‘normal’ edition, BBFW had to be postponed several times, before the organisers resigned themselves to hold a hybrid session in collaboration with La Fura dels Baus. “Markets dictate formats. The world has made great advances in digitalisation, and we must take advantage of the benefits this brings, such as viral campaigns and a changed relationship with clients and future brides,” said Laruccia. However, physical events remain indispensable for the wedding sector. “I believe we need to make the best of both worlds. We need to be able to hold in-person events again. And while human contact is not the same through a screen, it goes much further, much faster,” she said.
An evolution prompted by circumstances that have shaken the industry to its core. “Some companies have not been able to survive the Covid-19 crisis, but in general, the sector has been quite resilient. We all tried to be flexible in the face of the situation, and we continued to work while waiting for normality to return. Everyone is ready to get back on track now,” said Laruccia. In addition, labels are “excited” at the resumption of in-person events. As Laruccia pointed out, the pandemic forced labels and designers to “reinvent themselves to meet new needs,” adopting new, different presentation and commercial formats and schedules, which they could not have envisaged in the past.”
The ready-to-wear sector has been able to rely on online sales, and to diversify by introducing sportswear-oriented collections and loungewear. But bridal fashion has not had so many opportunities to diversify during the lockdowns and related restrictions, when weddings were allowed only a limited number of guests, if they were allowed to be celebrated at all. “Future brides will soon find their enthusiasm again,” said Laruccia. A return to normality is envisaged for next year: “a boom in marriages is on the cards, between those that could not take place before, and those that are scheduled in 2022.” Laruccia added that “the outlook is very good. Our industry has suffered greatly because of the pandemic, but there are significant recovery opportunities, as weddings have not been cancelled, simply postponed.”
An optimistic vision shared by Amandine Ohayon, managing director of Pronovias. “Our sector is incredibly resilient and there is no shortage of events to celebrate. Next year, there will be 20% more marriages,” she said. Pronovias had the honour of opening the catwalk show gala, which was presented by Renata Zanchi and Javier de Miguel and broadcast live on several sites. So, what are the future bridal wear trends? Like the rest of the fashion world, the industry is moving towards “greater diversity, integration and environmental responsibility,” said Laruccia. Yet, “as with other sectors, it will take time for this to become a reality,” she admitted.
After this troubled period, will different-sized companies find it more difficult to coexist? Is market saturation a threat? Laruccia is not of this opinion. She argued that the bridal wear sector remains chiefly the domain of small and medium-sized companies. “Some large groups do exist, but [the industry’s] traditional artisanal and family-based core will survive.” The growth of online sales will depend mainly on end-consumers. They, according to Laruccia, have naturally embraced the advent of e-tail. “When they walk into a shop, future brides are well-informed and know what they are looking for,” she said. But final purchases are rarely made online, because “visiting a store is already part of the big event, something they like to share with friends and family.”
To showcase next season’s trends, BBFW staged a streamlined runway event in which each label/designer presented four looks, two of them worn by influencers like Desirée Cordero, Melyssa Pinto, Marta Sierra and Daniel Illescas from Spain, Andrea Dal Corso from Italy, Patricia Gloria Contreras from Mexico and Chenyue Wang from China. BBFW managed to bring together leading industry labels like Pronovias, with its St. Patrick and Nicole Milano brands, Carlo Pignatelli, Ramón Sanjurjo, Yolancris, Carla Ruiz, Cristina Tamborero, Justin Alexander, Marco y María, Sophie et Voilà and The Atelier. The event's patroness was Spanish actress Hiba Abouk, ambassador for Save the Children, a charity that advocates the eradication of forced child marriages.
BBFW is already working to prepare its next edition, which will take place in Barcelona next April and will also have a digital dimension. “We will put to good use what we have learnt in recent months,” said Laruccia. BBFW is already holding talks with potential new sponsors willing to take over from cosmetics brand Valmont, which withdrew in 2018. According to Laruccia, the goal is to continue to secure Barcelona’s position as the global capital of bridal fashion.
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