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Oscar de la Renta is not known for making house calls, but he gladly paid a visit to the staff at Mark Ingram’s Bridal Atelier.
This story first appeared in the October 14, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The East 55th Street boutique is the top-performing retailer for his bridal collection, so the designer also raised a glass of Champagne with employees. De la Renta said he approaches the category with the same amount of thought that goes into his ready-to-wear collection. “A wedding is such a special day for a girl. I try to fulfill her dreams and expectations,” he said.
Ingram and his team earned high marks from the designer for helping to move the dresses out the door. “I don’t know of anyone in the country who sells as many of our wedding gowns as he does,” de la Renta said.
During an impromptu question-and-answer with staffers, de la Renta was asked how the bridal business has changed. “This is sort of the most important time in history for women to be women,” he replied. “Back in the Seventies and the early Eighties, during the women’s liberation movement, for a woman to make it in a man’s world she had to dress in a mannish, nondescript sort of way. Now women can be women. She is discovering her femininity, putting on lipstick and looking pretty, which is a great aspect even in the workforce. All my goals as a designer are really to emphasize a woman’s dream and to dress her in a manner that is a symbol of her femininity.”
The designer noted that the country almost had a female president, and may have a female vice president. “I keep saying I feel sorry for all those guys in the 21st century,” de la Renta said.
More and more women are projecting their own sense of femininity, and using that to their advantage, he said. “That makes it more difficult for designers because she has no loyalties. What’s important to a woman is to project herself. But at the same time, that makes our work exciting and challenging,” he said.
De la Renta also discussed how brides and their mothers often have drastically different views about the ideal wedding dress. He said he often asks to speak with the bride privately so he can find out what she has to say and to guide her the best way that he can. Even First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna (as well as her daughter Barbara) had different ideas about the train of Jenna Bush’s wedding dress, de la Renta said. Normal as that is, “at the end of the day, it’s really the girl’s time,” he added.
Ingram’s staff encouraged de la Renta to design more veils — something that he seemed keen to do. They also mentioned how many brides-to-be take images from his ad campaign to their appointments and are willing to spend whatever price for a dress with which they fall in love. A silk organza pleated gown that retailed for $7,450 and a $14,690 strapless mermaid gown with allover embroidered raffia are the designer’s bestsellers at the atelier.
Ingram’s staff told de la Renta how his bridal customers tend to not want to be “ubersexy,” which was something of which he took note. Lastly, they encouraged him to design more cocktail dresses for women who want to wear one dress for their weddings and another for their receptions.
In other Ingram news, he has opened his first eveningwear salon. Soon, the mothers of the brides who shop at his East 55th Street atelier will have a store of their own where they buy their wedding attire. Mark Ingram 2 is a 2,000-square-foot space at 108 West 39th Street. The salon is geared for what he calls mothers of the wedding, and for anyone looking for special occasion gowns.
The new salon only offers one appointment at a time to ensure privacy and allow each client to receive the consultant’s full attention. Ingram worked with a select group of designers to choose the gowns. Angel Sanchez, Monique Lhuillier, Peter Langner and Redux by Charles Chang-Lima are among the eveningwear labels being sold. A full-time seamstress is on site to customize orders.
While Ingram said he can custom-order select dresses from the eveningwear salon in white or ivory for more unconventional brides, that is not his intention. “If anyone is interested in buying a wedding dress, I am going to turn her around and march her to my uptown store,” he said.