Vera Wang Bridal Fall 2013

Designer's local partner had instituted a fee of 3,000 yuan, or $482 at current exchange, to try on wedding gowns at her new bridal flagship in Shanghai.

NEW YORK — Vera Wang has abolished appointment fees at her bridal salons worldwide after the practice sparked an Internet controversy in China.

This story first appeared in the March 27, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Wang’s local partner had instituted a fee of 3,000 yuan, or $482 at current exchange, to try on wedding gowns at her new Shanghai bridal flagship. The fee included afternoon tea and a meeting with a consultant, along with a 90-minute fitting session. According to a Shanghai store staff member, this is usually enough time for a customer to try on eight to 10 gowns.

The decision to implement the fee generated a flood of comments on Sina Weibo, as many as 2,000 earlier this week. The comments came even though some other bridal salons in China charge similar fees.

“Upon careful investigation and review of the policies of our international operators, we will be abolishing appointment fees in all of our stores,” Vera Wang said Tuesday. “We wish for all Vera Wang customers to enjoy the same standard of excellence worldwide. Treating our customers in a fair and equitable way remains a priority. The store in Shanghai has only been open to private VIP preview appointments. The official opening to the public will take place on April 29.”

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The Shanghai flagship, which had a soft opening earlier this year, takes up two floors of prime real estate in the upmarket Xintiandi development and has about 80 dresses on display, priced between 30,000 yuan and 300,000 yuan, or $4,827 to $48,270.

Lovisa Tedesteadt, owner of Lova Weddings in Shanghai, said, “I am in shock. I don’t know of a single boutique in China that has this fee. I visited the Vera Wang boutique in Xintiandi weeks ago….We were allowed to look at the 25 or 30 dresses displayed on the first floor, but the sales assistant confirmed customers have to pay a 3,000 renminbi [$482.95] fee to try on the dresses upstairs.”

Jenny Ji, a Shanghai-based designer with a high-end bridal line, said that while she generally makes made-to-order wedding gowns, she has sample dresses in her studio customers are welcome to try on for free.

Newly-married resident Jing Yuan, 27, was surprised to hear about the pay-to-try policy for Shanghai customers, calling it “irrational. Of course this is too much, normally to buy a quality wedding dress from a good brand in Shanghai is 3,000 [yuan]. I have never heard of another designer brand doing this,” Yuan said.

A staff member at Vera Wang’s Shanghai store justified the fee before it was abolished. “A lot of high school and college students were coming here and weren’t serious about buying a wedding dress so that’s why we started the fitting fee,” the staffer said. “We just wanted to make sure we were serving the right customers, and the [fee] is then redeemable off the purchase price of any gown.”

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