By  on June 28, 2005

BARCELONA — Pronovias, the world's largest bridal manufacturer, knows how to put on a show and U.S. retailers responded — snapping up innovative gowns and body-conscious silhouettes in soft, tissue-thin fabrics and feathers.

"I'm trying out feathers for the first time," said Mindy Woon, bridal manager at Bergdorf Goodman. "Our brides are a little more sophisticated — they're looking for something different like beaded lace and novelty fabrics."

Elena Grapsas of Ultimate Bride in Chicago, said she was shopping for couture gowns "with a difference, something nobody else has."

Pronovias invited more than 1,500 specialty retailers and journalists from 45 countries to its hometown on June 17-18 for a preview of 2006. The guest list, mainly customers from the multinational's global network, included 500 retailers — 65 from the U.S. — and major buying groups from Germany, Italy and the U.K., organizers said.

"Valentino was not a disappointment; he had four pieces to die for," said Mara Urshel, president of I. Kleinfeld, the famed Brooklyn retailer that is to move in July to a 35,000-square-foot Manhattan store with 52 fitting rooms.

Key bridal trends are "romance, fantasy, glamour and detail," Urshel said. "Strapless is still number one, and for the American market, white and ivory, that's it." Destination weddings are "still big" and, in general, weddings are alive and well, "more so then ever," she added.

Valentino's premier collection for Pronovias was the big draw for retailers who could afford it. Depending on the style, a Valentino gown might sell for as much as $25,000, sources said.

In addition, the bridal group includes: Emanuel Ungaro; Elie Saab; Badgley Mischka; resident designer and creative director Manuel Mota, whose signature line sells in the U.S. exclusively to Bergdorf's, and lesser-known Spanish designers Hannibal Laguna and Pronovias' newcomer, Lorenzo Caprile (one of Crown Princess Letizia's favorites for special royal occasions).

The event kicked off with an evening runway show at the Pabellon Italiano in the Barcelona fairgrounds. Valentino's minicollection of eight gowns opened the catwalk presentation with Empire and dropped-waist styles, opulent embroideries and a cascade of mini rosettes. Saab sent out what a veteran buyer described as "an orgy of chiffon, tulle and Chantilly lace." Ungaro showed snug torsos with poufy tulle skirts, Swan Lake feathers and oversized confectionary hats, and Badgley Mischka opted for second-skin gowns with pearl and rhinestone trims and more feathers.

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