BARCELONA — Talk about a big reception.
This story first appeared in the August 6, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Pronovias, the Barcelona-based bridal manufacturer, invited upwards of 1,300 specialty retailers and journalists from 45 countries to its hometown last month for a preview of spring. The guest list, mainly customers from the multinational’s global network, included 57 U.S. retailers, organizers said, and major buying groups from Italy, Germany and the U.K., Saudi Arabia, Japan, Turkey, and Brazil.
Pronovias is the largest bridal producer in the world — 480,000 gowns yearly — half of which are exported. The 40-year-old firm distributes through 2,500 points of sale in 60 countries, including 115 company-owned or franchised stores in Spain, three in France and two in Greece.
Annual turnover is $112 million, or about 100 million euros, converted at current exchange, confirmed Sever Garcia, national sales director of Pronovias USA, based in East Rockaway, N.Y. In the U.S., customers include Saks Fifth Avenue and bridal specialty stores for 180 sales points, he said. Strong European markets are Italy and Germany with 350 doors each. “We can make any style at any price — for any market,” Garcia added.
The event kicked off with an evening runway show, held at the Pabellón Italiano in the Barcelona fairgrounds, highlighting next spring’s bridal trends such as less structure and a new, softer silhouette; finespun, gossamer fabrics like tulle and specialty laces; delicate crystal embroidery; flamenco ruffles; the ubiquitous train, and assorted necklines. The latter is a plus for one Pennsylvania-based retailer. “The American market has been dominated by strapless gowns in the last few years. It’s nice to see straps, halters and sleeves for a change,” she said.
The palette was dominated by ivory tones and off-white, champagne, vintage gold and mother-of-pearl.
In addition, Pronovias introduced mini-collections by Elie Saab and lesser-known Spanish designers Miguel Palacio and Hannibal Laguna.
Saab opened the catwalk presentation with a heavily-beaded organza and lace full-skirted gown on blond lioness Karolina Kurkova, one of the Lebanese designer’s favorite models, while Palacio sent out a shapely slipdress with gauzy ruffles that snaked around the body. Laguna scored with a less-is-more strapless gown in ivory brocade worn by top Spanish model Eugenia Silva.
Pronovias’ resident designer, Manuel Mota, added less-traditional silhouettes including shorter hemlines; back-laced bustiers and corsetry detailing, and a few pants.
U.S. buyers, looking for innovation in detail and texture, they said, were high on Pronovias’ new femininity. For instance, Mara Urshel, president of I. Kleinfeld, Brooklyn, N.Y., praised the softer styling and lack of rigidity, “especially the chantilly lace and flounces. There are lots of nice things that will sell very well and I loved Elie Saab; I know we’ll do well with it,” she said.
According to Ailsa Williams, Pronovias U.S. regional sales manager (East Coast), ivory and champagne combinations and lace with crystal beading are popular with American brides. “The average age for today’s bride is 27, so, in general, she’s looking for a more sophisticated, sleeker silhouette,” Williams said.
The following day, buyers sat down to business at the Cataluña Congress Hall where 228 bridal gowns with wholesale tags from $180 to $3,890 (including U.S. import duties) paraded down multiple runways. The biggest hand went to Mota’s theatrical one-sleeve-in/one-sleeve-out ivory lace gown with petal effects priced at $1,820.
Pronovias’ cocktail and mother-of the-bride collections featured bias-cut column silhouettes and dressy separates with below-the-calf handkerchief lengths and fringed Spanish shawls in a range of high-gloss colors like coral, tangerine, creamy orange, green apple, fuchsia, sunflower yellow, lead gray and mink. Prices for the cocktail line range from between $140 and $630, including U.S. import duties.
The event closed with a gala dinner at Barcelona’s Contemporary Art Museum.
Pronovias expected to generate “orders for half a year’s production,” said Garcia, “or about 240,000 gowns.”