Vera Wang and Pronovias are getting hitched.
The designer has struck a 10-year licensing deal with Barcelona-based Pronovias Group to manufacture, distribute and market Vera Wang Bride in its global fleet of stores and wholesale accounts, beginning in October. Vera Wang Bride is priced about 60 percent lower than Wang’s couture wedding gowns and is intended to reach a broader and international customer base.
Known for her cutting-edge designs for both the red carpet and weddings for such celebrities as Hailey Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys and Victoria Beckham, Wang has been one of the most influential bridal designers in the industry over the past 32 years.
“It’s very exciting. We’ve always done upper-end bridal and that’s obviously a limited audience. You’re never going to get any sizable volume when you’re doing dresses that start at $4,500 or $4,000, and go up to about $12,000,” said Wang in a telephone interview.
“Pronovias Group is one of the most respected and successful bridal companies in the world with a huge international reach. But the most important value we look for in a company when signing a licensing agreement is the ability to create a great product. Product is king: it is where it all begins. Pronovias Group understands this,” said Wang.
Amandine Ohayon, chief executive officer of Pronovias Group, added, “It has been so incredibly fulfilling to work with Vera and her team. There is true commitment from both sides toward the new Vera Wang Bride brand. Vera’s unique signature and iconic designs, together with our wide capabilities on sourcing high-quality materials and technical abilities, is leading to a unique collection that we are very proud to offer to fashion-loving brides worldwide.”
Vera Wang Bride will be at a more accessible price point than the designer’s high-end line, which has a sweet spot of $8,000. The new collection will retail from $1,600 to $4,000, with the sweet spot being between $2,000 and $3,000.
“It will be an opportunity for her to speak to a completely different audience, without sacrificing the luxury and craftsmanship of the dresses,” said Ohayon, who was reached by phone in London.
Pronovias dresses brides in 105 countries through a network of 102 retail stores, including flagships in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Milan, London, Shanghai and Barcelona and more than 4,000 points of sale. Spain is the number-one exporter of bridal fashion. Pronovias has eight freestanding stores in the U.S. Wang had never sold her bridal dresses at Pronovias, which was acquired by private equity firm BC Partners in July 2017.
This global deal represents the sixth brand for the Pronovias Group, which includes Pronovias (including Marchesa for Pronovias and Ashley Graham for Pronovias), House of St. Patrick, White One, Nicole and Ladybird. The addition of Vera Wang is viewed as a move to solidify Pronovias’ luxury position as a group and strengthen its business in the U.S. and China, as well as other areas around the globe.
For nine years, Wang had a licensing deal with David’s Bridal that ended in 2020. Wang explained that David’s is a national U.S. brand and has a certain audience that it was targeting. “I really wanted to avail myself of the archives we’ve developed over 32 years. That was really not its [David’s] business model. When the Pronovias thing came up — I’ve been talking to Pronovias on and off through the years — it is such a respected and financially successful business, and its reach is global,” said Wang, who approached Pronovias during the pandemic and she and Ohayon started discussions over Zoom.
Attracted to Pronovias’ craftsmanship, infrastructure and global penetration, Wang said, “There are areas it reaches such as Scandinavia…It didn’t even occur to me.”
Wang said her own bridal line has a solid business in Japan, where it has had stores for at least 10 years and have six doors in Japan, two of which are freestanding units. The company also has a deal in Mainland China, where it is about to open two more stores in Beijing and Shenzhen. She said she really couldn’t break into Europe, other than selling Brown’s in London. “I couldn’t break into Italy, or Spain, or France, not really….”
Wang has four freestanding bridal stores in the U.S. — in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.
She said both the Wang and Pronovias teams worked together on Zoom during the pandemic, with Wang’s team in New York, Pronovias’ team in Barcelona and their manufacturers in Asia. They designed 100 dresses, which they edited down to 85, and then the Pronovias team came to New York. “They [the dresses] are like all my children, there are so many beautiful dresses. We couldn’t have all of them. We got to the anointed 60,” said Wang.
Pronovias will offer a new Vera Wang Bride collection once a year, in addition to special occasion dresses that will be introduced in January.
Asked whether she incorporated new ideas or are all the dresses archival, Wang replied, “They’re archival, but they’re done in a new way. I think they’re done in a fresh way.”
For example, she cited the botanical dress, which was extremely challenging to do even in her brand’s couture room. “There are references to that,” she said, citing the floral motifs. She explained that because she designed 60 dresses, Pronovias can offer a range her brand can’t do when it’s designing 12 dresses for the main collection. “You will see things that I could explore maybe that I haven’t done, like more beachy dresses and things that are kind of fun, or maybe a rehearsal dinner dress.”
All of the dresses have the brand’s codes, such as the way the backs are draped.
Wang said she was blown away when the completed Vera Wang Bride dresses arrived in New York, where they did a photo shoot. “When I saw the dresses arrive, I was so excited. I looked at the dresses and thought maybe these are the first eight that arrived and they’re maybe the simple dresses. As I saw the more complex ones come in, I was amazed. I hope this continues. You know I know clothes. If I’m saying they’re really beautiful, you’ve got to believe they are,” said Wang.
But of course the question becomes whether these more accessible dresses will have a negative impact on her high-end business.
“First of all, this is not the same thing they did for David’s Bridal, which was a very different price point, where they were $700 to $1,900. David’s is an American national brand. This [Pronovias] is a really global business, with huge infrastructure. And they can get us into South America and they can get us into Scandinavia. They can get us into Europe, in a way we’ve never been able to do,” said Wang. She believes she can also be helpful to Pronovias in expanding its business in China, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. Part of Pronovias’ strategy is also a massive launch of Vera Wang Bride in China.
“And we might be able to bring them a new client in the U.S.,” she said.
In Wang’s opinion, Pronovias has a certain look to it which is more of a glam, European style. “We’re bringing our freshness and a lightness. It won’t be the construction of what we do handmade in our sample room in New York,” she said. All of Wang’s high-end wedding gowns are manufactured in the U.S.
She plans to rename her high-end, ready-to-wear and bridal line Vera Wang Haute. The name change will enable her to still explore and grow and become more viable and creative. “In bridal, it will give me more grounds for exploration and study,” Wang said.
During bridal market weeks, Pronovias will show Vera Wang Bride. For the past five years, Wang hasn’t had fashion shows and instead has made films to showcase her ready-to-wear and bridal to express and tell a story. She designs 12 to 15 high-end bridal dresses twice a year.
For the Vera Wang Bride collection, Wang appears to have hit on all her favorite trends. “There are some gowns that are minimal, structural and architectural, some are bohemian and romantic and very deconstructed and whimsical, and then there are dresses done in incredible draping. We’re known for tulle, and there are dresses that are explosive ballerina dresses, ballgowns,” she said.
“It’s got that whimsy,” she continued. “It’s very youthful. Pronovias’ other brands are more womanly, they’re kind of sexy, va-va-voom. That’s not us. I think it’s very whimsical and also very artsy. We’re artsy. I can’t take the chances with them that I do with the Haute brand. With the Haute brand, you never knew what I’m going to do. I just finished the 10 dresses yesterday. You can see reflections of it at Pronovias. Now I have permission to go more expensive. Now I don’t have to worry about the $4,500 dress. I can go to $6,000 to $14,000. I can develop beading at a more European level,” she said.
Wang said she styled the Vera Wang Bride photographs and will be doing a lot of social media to promote the collection.
After working through the entire pandemic and having to shut down her stores twice, board them up with plywood, and then re-tag, re-press and re-merchandise all the clothing, she called it a “horrifying,” year that’s also been “hopeful.” Working on the Pronovias project has been a lot of work, but gratifying. “It’s a real new business strategy and model for us,” said Wang, who also recently launched Vera Wang x Chopin Vodka, a limited-edition collaboration.
According to Ohayon, the Vera Wang Bride dresses will be made to order. The bride comes in and tries on the dress, they take her measurements, and the gown will be made in one of the company’s factories in Barcelona, or elsewhere in Europe and Asia. “It depends where we’re sourcing the materials. The haute couture embroideries are sourced in India. We do it based on the capabilities of the different factories,” said Ohayon. For the bride, the fittings will take place in their local Pronovias stores and their wholesale partners, including wedding salons. Vera Wang Bride won’t be in every single point of sale, said Ohayon. “We want to keep the collection very premium, but it will be a significant amount,” she said.
Vera Wang Bride will be positioned in the front of the Pronovias stores on black racks. People can make an appointment, and book online, and there will be separate bookings for Vera Wang Bride. Vera Wang Bride will have its own web site, social media and content. “It’s really like a stand-alone business,” said Ohayon. The brand is also offering plus sizes and petites as well as sustainable options.
Ohayon said there were three important objectives for establishing Vera Wang Bride. First, it has to be a Vera Wang collection. Second, it was very important to have instantly recognizable Vera Wang signature dresses, such as the princess-style ball gown with full tulle skirt worn by Kim Kardashian, or the strapless, super-fitted bodice with sculpted neckline and long, voluminous skirt worn by Victoria Beckham. The third one was to bring some newness. “Vera is an innovator, she wants to be ahead of the curve,” said Ohayon.
Because it’s a global deal, Ohayon said Wang “was very keen to understand what Italian brides love, and what French brides love. We told her Italian brides loved romantic, but Wang wanted to do romantic edge. Spanish girls love crepe dresses with long sleeves, but they’re making it with something in the back with a big bow or flower,” said Ohayon.
Wang is also designing accessories for Vera Wang Bride. There will be some natural flowers on the head or as a corsage and on the belts. There will be tiaras. “We have some really cool head pieces. They have a cool, rock edge to them. She’s designed some amazing gloves, too,” said Ohayon.
Discussing the state of the bridal business, Ohayon said that prior to 2020, Pronovias’ business had been flat for 10 years. She said growth had been zero percent, so one knew what to expect year in and year out. One-quarter of Pronovias’ business is done in the U.S. Currently, the company is noticing pent-up demand in countries where COVID-19 vaccinations are progressing well, such as Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. Overall, there were 60 percent fewer weddings in 2020 than 2019. Pronovias only had 5 percent of cancellations of its dresses, said Ohayon. Some brides decided to go ahead with their weddings, and others decided to postpone them.
“It’s starting to get under control. Hopefully, the second half will be very strong, and 2022 and 2023 will be great years,” said Ohayon.
She visited the U.S. earlier this month and the stores were busy because women have been coming and want to get their dress. “What is very interesting is they don’t look at the price, they really just want the dress to be on time. Second, there’s a sentiment that they’re going to treat themselves because people haven’t spent money in many months. They’ve had to reorganize their weddings, and they may not be doing 500-people weddings over three days in a secret destination. They’re downsizing a little bit their ceremony from a spending standpoint. The one thing they really think that they deserve to treat themselves is a dress,” said Ohayon.
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