You’ve heard of waiting lists for Birkin bags, Chanel nail polish and Louboutin stilettos. Well, the trend has now spread to wedding dresses. Brides are no longer happy to wait for their dream dress, they’re starting to book fittings months before they’ve even landed on our shores.
Kalvin Chow, owner of The Complete Bridal in Perth, says he wasn’t surprised when the phone started ringing the moment brides discovered he would be the only West Australian stockist for prestigious Israeli label Berta Brides’ latest wedding gown collection.
He’s even less surprised that the waiting list to try them on grows every week.
“These days, brides-to-be are very fashion conscious,” he says. “They know their designers, they know their labels, they know what they want – and they know when the latest designs are about to hit!
“They’ve been calling us, they’ve emailed us and they’ve even come into the store to flag their interest in the new Berta collection; they really can’t wait to try on the 2014/15 gowns when they arrive later in the year and, to be honest, we’re just as excited as they are.”
Despite his keen eye for wedding trends and his penchant for stocking the hottest designs, Kalvin says he always tries to cater for every type of bride, “not just those wanting the latest in wedding fashion.”
As such, The Complete Bridal stocks about 1200 or so gowns in sizes ranging from 0 to 30 but, says Kalvin, he still adores living on the edge of wedding fashion and, according to his crystal ball, there are some truly inspiring designs and trends emerging in the 2014/15 wedding gown collections heading Down Under.
Lace is coming back,” Kalvin says. “But not just in the way you might expect. Some people want to use it to create a vintage or traditional look. But other brides are going more modern. For example, they choose long sleeves – which are another big trend at the moment – but pay heed to the Australian heat by featuring them in a see-through material. You can then add lace on top, which appears to be floating on the arm.” It’s very delicate, very fresh and very Kate Middleton, who helped inspire the resurgence with the Alexander McQueen gown she wore to marry Prince William and become a duchess.
Skin is also “in” in a very glamorous way. “In days gone by, brides liked to cover up – they didn’t like a sweetheart neckline to be too low and they didn’t like to reveal too much. These days, however, they’re happy to be more eye-catching and show off a little bit more skin, albeit in a very classy fashion.” It’s actually one of the things that drew Kalvin to Berta, which caters for sizes 2-12. “Plunge is a signature element of their gowns,” he says. “They’re either revealing at the front or revealing at the back. They show a bit of skin and are perfect for brides who want to make an impact.”
Another key trend in gowns is customisation, where brides look to mix and match styles, samples and adornments to create their dream gown. “Brides really love the chance to do this because it means the dress is very much them and very much one of a kind,” Kalvin says. And it’s something that’s growing in popularity. “For example, with Cizzy Bridal, which is our biggest label, we have women who choose a bodice they like, a skirt they like and maybe another style of sash belt. We then bring them together with imagination and flair to make them a one-off gown. It’s all about changing a commercial dress into a custom dress. And they love it.”
Ivory and white will never go out of vogue, but many modern brides look to incorporate pops of colour. These can range from champagne satin lining for a vintage feel or bright shoes worn under their gown to a sash around their waist. “We have one dress with a beaded sash that comes in 31 different colours, so some brides look to match in with their bridesmaids,” Kalvin says. And it’s with the wedding parties that they really go to town. “One thing we’re seeing at the moment is an increase in the number of bridesmaids,” he says. “The norm used to be two or three girls, but now brides are having five or six, and putting them in all different colours and shades. Groomsmen will also have the same sort of suits on, but their ties will match the dress of their bridesmaids.” It’s almost like a rainbow effect, and is one trend he adores. “It just looks so stunning and also makes for great photos.”
Body conscious gowns are another trend that is coming into its own. “We find a lot of brides want a show-shopping number and they have the style and attitude to pull it off,” Kalvin says. It’s another part of the reason he looked to introduce the family-owned Berta label. “Their signature is body-hugging gowns, and their designers fit the dress to the woman exceptionally well, so it really tightly hugs her body, but is still really comfortable. It’s definitely something very different and unique.” However it’s not a trend that appeals to everyone. “It’s for brides who are bold and have the confidence to pull it off.”
Trends aside, Kalvin says the most important thing for brides is to choose a gown that is both fantastic and flattering. It’s about paying attention to factors such as body shape and height, says Grace Vinci, The Complete Bridal’s store manager who attends to all brides personally.
“Because she’s worked in bridal all her life, she knows what kind of gown will suit best as soon as a bride walks in,” he says.
“She will talk to them about what they want, and then be honest. So if a style won’t suit the bride’s body shape, she’ll talk them through better options, and steer them towards something that will make them feel really beautiful.”
It’s all about making wedding dress shopping an event in its own right, and is part of the reason he welcomes walk-ins and is very relaxed about letting people take photos of dresses in store.
“Going wedding dress shopping is one of the most exciting times in a bride’s life, and it’s such an honour to be part of that. We love to make it a beautiful experience,” he says.
To this end, he has something special planned for his eager Perth brides.
“I’ve got five sample Berta gowns coming in October, and in November they’re giving me about 10 more dresses, so I’m going to do a trunk show,” he says.
“It will probably be a ticketed event and we’ll be trying to create the feel of Hollywood movies about weddings, where you go into a shop, you have champagne and you have some finger food.
“Brides really love that experience.”