The Chinese wedding industry is booming — and Hong Kong is leading the way.
For brides the world over, finding the perfect gown is one of the biggest decisions in planning a wedding. For bridal gown designers, it's a business that's growing, lucrative and, more than ever, looking East.
In the last year, the wedding industry has boomed in the Greater China region (which includes China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) with Hong Kong brides discovering the joys of buying rather than renting gowns, and Mainland Chinese brides moving away from tradition toward a more Western idea of how their big day should look.
As with everything in China, the numbers are staggering. In the world's most populous nation, there are nearly 10 million weddings each year — that's 10 million brides looking for just the right dress. And, as their buying power and international awareness increases, they are heading to Thailand or Macau for their honeymoons (weddings already represent 50 percent of banqueting business at The Wynn Macau) and turning to Hong Kong to shop for gowns.
The trend is not lost on retailers here. Joyce Boutique, for example, recently held a teatime trunk show to reintroduce Vera Wang wedding gowns to the market. Anita Wong, vice president of merchandising for Joyce, said, "This is like a relaunch of bridal. We started in the very early Nineties but stopped for awhile. Now we think it's about time to start again. We have demand, especially from our older customers' daughters. It's the right time and we really do see potential from the Mainland Chinese customers, too."
Wong says the gowns, with prices ranging from 40,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $5,125 at current exchange, to 160,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $20,500, are sold by appointment only and require a four-month lead time.
"There is a big potential. Right now, people have to fly to New York or Paris for the clothes. It's a service to bring bridal here so that they can choose the gowns and have the fitting here," said Wong.
Joyce is not alone in trying to tap into this market. Central Weddings is a bridal boutique located across from Louis Vuitton in the city's chic shopping mall, The Landmark. The year-old store carries bridal labels such as Carolina Herrera, Badgley Mischka and Monique Lhuillier. "Local brides tend to rent gowns, so this is a niche market. It's really a matter of how much they want to spend and showing them something other than the Cinderella gowns you usually see here," explained Carolyn Chow, general manager of Central Weddings.She and three friends started the business after each experienced the frustration of being a bride in Hong Kong who couldn't find designer gowns. "Buyers are just now getting educated about this. It takes a while," she said, adding that 10 to 20 percent of the store's business comes from overseas, including Southeast Asia and Mainland China.
"It's difficult or impossible for some brides to travel to the U.S., so they come here," she said. "We have had some Chinese brides come in — there is definite interest and the business is just starting to develop."
The store does not advertise locally, only in international bridal magazines. It also uses tie-ins with some of its neighbors, including Tiffany & Co. and the Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel, to help attract international brides. "We're a single store, so these cross-promotions really help," said Chow.
Local designer Dorian Ho is taking a similar tack, working with the Intercontinental Hotel here to promote his bridalwear. The hotel's Crystal Wedding package, starting at 990,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $126,800, includes accommodations, a banquet and a custom-made gown covered in Swarovski crystals designed by Ho. The designer is determining whether there's enough business for him to warrant a separate bridal operation.
Cindy Lu, director of DH Wedding, says business is booming, and only slows during the Lunar New Year holidays.
"Dorian started the bridal collection in November 2005, but before that he had a lot of customers requesting bridalwear. There is a big demand," said Lu, who added that a few factors are working in their favor: "Our customers are often educated overseas. They have the concept of owning wedding gowns rather than renting and they like the idea of Western-style gowns. Plus, the government changed a regulation here so that people can get married wherever they want to. Now we have beach weddings, destination weddings and so on."
Another reason the industry is so competitive and lucrative here is that Chinese brides change three or four times in one night.
"You need more than just the white dress," said Lu. She said few brides look for the traditional qipao, but nearly all want something that gives a nod to tradition. Ho's solution is his D'Orient collection of gowns in celebratory red, each with one or two Chinese elements, like a Mandarin collar, silk frog closures or traditional floral beading.Not surprisingly, Mainland Chinese brides are as keen to mesh East and West as their sisters in Hong Kong. Lu says that China represents "a small but growing part of the business. Their spending power is significant — and they like to spend a lot on weddings," she said.
Even for brides who cannot or choose not to travel to Hong Kong, the look of weddings and the wedding industry is changing in China. New bridal fairs are added to the exhibition schedules every year and new outlets are springing up regularly, such as the Zhengzhou Wedding Goods One-stop Shop Wholesale Market, a one-year-old venture that is home to nearly 300 wedding-themed shops.
Analysts say China's bridal industry now generates more than 250 billion yuan, or $34.5 billion, each year, and may reach 500 billion yuan, or $69 billion. For brides and dressmakers alike, that's Double Happiness indeed.
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)
Breaking News: @hedislimane joins @celine as its new artistic, creative and image director. One of fashion’s preeminent image-makers and trendsetters, Slimane is to join the LVMH brand on Feb. 1 and unveil his first fashion proposition for men and women next September during Paris Fashion Week. It marks a major homecoming for Slimane, who cemented his reputation – and influenced men’s tailoring for more than a decade – as the designer of Dior Homme between 2000 and 2007. He went on to reinvent and ignite the house of Yves Saint Laurent, which he rechristened Saint Laurent, between 2012 and 2016 – all the while maintaining a close relationship with the Arnault family, which controls LVMH and Dior. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
“Personally I believe the Eighties have been the richest and more vivacious period for international fashion,” Giorgio Armani said when asked what his favorite decade of fashion is. It was a moment of disruption and experimentation and only thinking back to the first years of that decade is always an emotion for me, for what they have meant to me and my work.” The influence is clear in @giorgioarmani spring 2018 collection, pictured here, which was full of bright colors and unexpected prints. Read more about which decades designers loved most on WWD.com #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
For Lady Gaga’s only Italian show on her “Joanne World Tour,” the singer wore a range of @versace_official outfits. The standout piece: this custom-made bodysuit inspired by the brand’s spring 2018 collection. #wwdfashion (RG: @ladygaga)
@_camillaruth_ is expanding on the wellness-craze concept with @westbourne – a new NYC restaurant that’s both a healthy-minded café as well as a business that gives back to the community. Marcus works with the Robin Hood foundation to give back to The Door, a non-profit providing youth development services, and also hires employees through The Door. Read our full interview with Marcus on giving back through food on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)