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BARCELONA — A new sobriety with pared-down shapes and minimal glitz worked its way into Pronovias’ wide-ranging bridal collections for 2010, and international buyers here said it was right for the times.
“The caught-up ball skirts — and there was a serious grouping of them — are fine for early to mid-20-year-olds, but we have more of a demand for slimmer silhouettes for destination weddings and outdoor bridal events,” said Karen Jones, owner of Gowns by Design in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “We’re seeing a lot of older, over-30 brides and they’re beyond the big skirts.”
Influenced by First Lady Michelle Obama’s inaugural dress, Jones said she bought a one-shoulder gown for the first time in the store’s 15-year history. “Our clients are conservative,” she said, adding that they typically choose looks in ivory.
Her daughter and partner, Jennifer Martin, said she was picking up chiffons, soft laces and plain silhouettes from Pronovias’ core line.
“The absence of beading was made up for by fabric used as design, not embellishment,” she said. As for Fiesta, the brand’s dressier range, “It was very pretty with a wider customer scope.…We’ll be continuing with similar quantities as last year.”
Barcelona-based Pronovias invited 1,500 specialty retailers, mainly established customers from the multinational’s expansive global network, to its hometown June 12 to 13 for a preview of 2010. Buyers came from 70 countries.
A celebrity-free runway show in Barcelona’s Palau de Congressos de Catalunya featured more than 250 styles. They included poufy, hitched-up ballgowns as well as slim, body-conscious silhouettes with loads of draping, woven treatments, ruching and top-toe ruffles; the ubiquitous strapless neckline; Empire styling and a few one-shoulders; lace and material mixes, and bows and fabric flowers. First out was Pronovias’ signature collection followed by Manuel Mota’s Prét a Porter and Costura (both bridal) and Fiesta (cocktail/mother-of-the-bride), and mini lines Elie by Elie Saab and Valentino Sposa.
Mota, Pronovias’ prolific resident designer and creative director, said the quieter tone and lack of excess was an obvious reaction to the economic climate.
“The collection is more commercial because our customers need to sell,” Mota said. “It’s not the time for fantasy — but [fantasy] will be back again in a few years.”
Chief executive officer Alberto Palatchi put it another way.
“We didn’t want to show off,” he said. “There are good ideas from the U.S. market — passed on by our New York store — such as the ballgown story included in our collections. Leading markets like the U.S. are a big influence worldwide.”
Danish retailer Jonna Gehrt of Askepot & Valentino, a multibrand store carrying bridal, cocktail and men’s wear, said she’s increasing her order because smaller neighborhood shops have closed in the weakened economy.
“Customers that have money still exist — there are just less of them,” she said. “We’re a big store and we’re buying a little of everything, especially straight and slim styles from the Pronovias brand. The line offered lots of new ideas, precision cuts and the prices are OK. Ninety-nine percent of our customers want plain and simple.”
Nicki Hill, a one-store retailer in Botley, Hampshire, U.K., said she, too, was buying across the board “except strapless and sheath styles, because my clients are not built like models, but definitely Empires, A-line and princess silhouettes, one-shoulders and wavy necklines.”
Like other retailers, Hill said, “Customers are watching their pennies.”
But in general, the bridal business — and Pronovias, in particular — appears to be coping with economic turbulence better than other fashion sectors. With as many as 3,800 global sales points, the bridal group had 2008 worldwide sales of 177 million euros, or $246 million at current exchange, an increase of 5 million euros, or about $7 million, compared with the previous year.
“We’re becoming the major line in all our stores. We’ve increased our share in the U.S. by 15 percent,” Palatchi said.
U.S. reps played up the company’s growth potential. “Sales are up comfortably over last year,” said Keith Lurie, Pronovias’ national sales manager for the U.S. and Canada. “Crisis or no, girls are still getting married and more of them are wearing my gowns.”
Added Scott Ross, Pronovias U.S. Northeastern agent: “We had unprecedented growth last year and we’re on pace to maintain or continue” that growth.
During a candlelit dinner under the dome of Catalonia’s National Art Museum, Palatchi welcomed the crowd, saying: “Our company is committed to doing more — more in business and product innovation and more satisfaction to you, our customers. Despite the crisis. We’re better than ever, as a brand, a team and as an organization.”