By  on November 16, 2010

NEW YORK — Vera Wang, who built her reputation on bridal gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses, is closing her directly owned bridesmaid business.

Monday was the last day that her 100-plus doors would take orders for her bridesmaids’ dresses, which retailed from $180 to $330. The stores will honor the orders that have already been placed. Mario Grauso, chief executive officer of Vera Wang, confirmed the exit and said the bridesmaid business would “shift over to David’s Bridal.”

Last May, Vera Wang struck a deal with David’s Bridal to design a less-expensive bridal collection called White by Vera Wang, with bridal gowns retailing from $600 to $1,500, with most under $1,200. The arrangement will begin with wedding gowns this February at 150 David’s Bridal stores, and the line will expand to bridesmaids’ dresses and shoes. According to Grauso, the White by Vera Wang bridesmaids’ dresses, which will hit stores in June and July, will retail from $150 to $200. The dresses are expected to be “very similar in feeling” to Wang’s bridesmaids’ dresses, said Grauso, adding “it’s classic Vera.” The line, designed by Wang and the David’s Bridal team, will be offered to over 300 David’s doors and on David’s Bridal’s Web site, beginning in June, he added.

Wang’s bridesmaid business was reportedly doing $5 million in wholesale volume at its peak several years ago. However, the business, which was a special order business for bridal salons and specialty stores, became increasingly difficult to maintain and volume deteriorated. Grauso cited several advantages to shifting the entire bridesmaid business to David’s Bridal. “This is a more ideal distribution. There are far more David’s Bridal shops than specialty stores we can do business with,” he said. He also noted that David’s Bridal can offer more colors, fabric options and the ability to buy online. “Ten bridesmaids can go to 10 different David’s Bridal Shops and buy their dresses,” he said. He also said David’s Bridal has the ability to ship dresses more quickly. “It’s not something we can do. It goes back to customer convenience,” said Grauso. Wang’s store, Maids on Madison, at 980 Madison Avenue, which did the bulk of Wang’s bridesmaid business, will remain the site for high-end bridal fittings.

Asked if the bride would buy a high-end Vera Wang gown, which can sell anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 and above, and have her bridesmaids wear the David’s Bridal bridesmaid dresses, Grauso believed they would. “I’ve worked very closely on this. The integrity of David’s product is very exceptional. They’re wonderful partners. They are equally as interested in the design integrity as Vera and I are,” he said.

Wang is closing one business at a time when others such as Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, BCBG, White House|Black Market and, in particular, J. Crew are jumping in and taking market share.

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