By  on June 12, 2007

BARCELONA — Pronovias kept the froth to a minimum and U.S. retailers said that's the way they like it for 2008.

"My brides don't want frou," said Ida Moore, owner of Ida's Custom Veils in Overland Park, Kan. "They're 26 to 30 years old and they want simple, elegant gowns with no sparkle. They just want to look thin and pretty."

Moore said she would be buying form-fitting styles, "although they aren't for everybody," and necklines other than strapless.

In addition, "We'll be seeing more straps and boleros next year because everybody copies Pronovias." Moore said the Barcelona-based producer/retailer has "the courage to do something different and beautiful every year."

Said to be the largest bridalwear manufacturer in the world, Pronovias invited 1,800 specialty retailers and over 60 foreign journalists from 73 countries (30 more than last year) here June 1 and 2 for a preview of 2008 designs. Mainly customers from the multinational's rapidly expanding global network, the guest list included 250 retailers from the U.S. and Canada, according to a spokeswoman.

The two-day presentation kicked off with an evening catwalk show in Barcelona's Olympic stadium Palau Sant Jordi. The show featured a full range of silhouettes — from voluminous to slinky, body-conscious shapes and short bubble hems — with more restraint than usual; mixed laces; alternative necklines; Empire styles; bows, and lots of versatile cover-ups. There were beautiful mini lines by Valentino and Elie Saab, but the star of the show, retailers said, was the Vintage collection by Manuel Mota, Pronovias' resident designer and creative director.

A grouping of nine gowns the color of heavy cream, Vintage picked up on understated Fifties simplicity in textured silks like brocade and faille, and a little jewel trim.

Watching the show from the front row were the usual long-legged junior socialites (in Mota's debut Fiesta, or party, collection) and celebrity daughters like Lily Costner and Kimberly Stewart (Kevin and Rod's girls, respectively), and Julio José Iglesias, son of Spanish singer Julio Iglesias.

Independent retailer Cheryl Lyon, owner of Bridal Chic in Laguna Niguel, Calif., said, "I absolutely loved the show; it was five-star. Pronovias has a really good range and they're so prolific."My brides are 22 years old to middle age and I have second-timers too," said Lyon. "They want more of an informal look or destination dresses and no ballgowns. Small weddings are more popular this year. I'm buying classic designs, no peasant looks and, in general, I'm continuing with trumpet and mermaid silhouettes, lacy sheaths and jewels."

Strapless necklines are "waning, in favor of deep Vs," she added.

Currently, Pronovias is distributed through 3,800 wholesale customers, 150 franchised stores and 80 company-owned shops worldwide, chief executive officer and founder Alberto Palatchi said.

In an interview, Palatchi detailed the company's ambitious retail plan. Nineteen stores — some franchised, some company-owned — opened in the last six months, including a London flagship on New Bond Street and locales in Tokyo, Istanbul, Cairo and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In addition, Pronovias launched a 2,250-square-foot corner in Harrods last month.

"Our strategy is to open big flagships to upgrade and anchor our brand," said Palatchi. The company is investing 30 million euros, or $40.6 million at current exchange, a year on new stores, he added.

Thirty-seven new locations will be launched within the next nine months, including three units in Mexico and the February opening of the largest Pronovias store in the world, an 18,000-square-foot space — with 50 employees — on 52nd Street in New York.

"Getting off to a good start in New York is our main concentration right now," the ceo said.

Sales expectations for the new store were unavailable, but sources here predicted a potential turnover of $20 million a year at the Manhattan flagship. Palatchi declined to comment on that figure.

He also declined to reveal production figures. With wholesale prices from 1,000 euros, or $1,335, to 10,000 euros, or $13,350, for Valentino and Saab, the Pronovias brand is produced "partly in China and partly in Spain," Palatchi said, but stressed that the designer lines and Mota's signature line are completely made in Spain.

"The quality in China is as good as it is here; China has good hands. Our customers want the best. European prices are not competitive and the weak dollar doesn't help."The bridal group's 2006 sales rose 23 percent over the previous year to 148 million euros, or $200 million, with 2007 revenues expected to reach 180 million euros, or $244 million.

Pronovias closed Barcelona Bridal Week, which ran from May 29 to June 3. The event featured 25 runway shows including a catwalk presentation of Karl Lagerfeld's exclusive bridal collection, produced and distributed by Barcelona-based manufacturer and retailer Rosa Clará. The licensing agreement was inked one year ago.

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