Ashley Graham has ben married for more than nine years, but she has just tied the knot with Pronovias to launch a collection of wedding dresses.
Now closer to motherhood than matrimony, Graham said she was “about a week out” from delivering her first child with her husband, Justin Ervin. Graham said Friday, “I’m about to pop a baby out. We are going to tell the name when he’s here. We’re so excited to meet him. I’m so excited to be a mom. It’s just a very exciting time.”
The same might be said of her pre-wedding self in 2010. Her alliance with Pronovias has conjured up some of those memories, especially the wedding dress search. Having only been given a two-month window to plan her wedding, Graham flew to Nebraska to shop for a wedding dress since there wasn’t enough time to buy a custom-made one. Shopping with her mother and grandmother at a local boutique, she wound up with a size 10, off-the-rack dress for her 14–16 size physique. The undersized choice required having a panel sewn into the back of the bustier. “I really didn’t get the option of what I truly wanted because I didn’t have the time or the luxury because of my size. And to be completely honest — because of my budget,” Graham said.
Through the Spanish bridal group, Graham is making her presence known in the $78 billion U.S. wedding industry. After Pronovias approached her about the prospect of a partnership, she “jumped at it, because it’s such an important day for every type of woman who is planning her wedding. It’s beyond a size or a type of woman — it’s really just about her. That’s why I’m so excited there are now sizes from 0 to 34,” said Graham.
The assortment will feature 16 styles including a gown with lace sleeves, an off-the-shoulder silhouette and a tuxedo, which was a must for Graham. The activist, model and influencer enthused about the new campaign that highlights the collaboration. Brides will find options retailing from $1,000 to $3,500. The average bride spends $1,700 for a wedding dress, according to WeddingWire’s 2019 “Newlywed Report.” Couples, meanwhile, typically shell out nearly $34,000 for a wedding, based on The Knot’s 2018 “Real Weddings Study.”
The campaign does not solely feature large-size models, but women of different sizes and different races. “Everything attached to my brand is inclusive. My mission is inclusivity and diversity always,” Graham said. “For me, it was just important to tell my story. In telling my story, hopefully that will give other women the courage to tell their story. It’s a domino effect. When you give a little, other people want to give. The more women that give their story of success, struggle, heartache, ownership — it’s like a domino effect. You are empowered by other women and what they’ve been through.”
As for whether the bridal industry is discriminatory in its sizing compared to other fashion categories that have adopted a wider range of sizes, Graham said, “Curvy sizes are just so limited in general. When you get into the wedding dresses, it feels as though it’s even more limiting. When you walk in, you have to try on something really small or completely oversize. Then you’re dealing with clamps. Or [you may be advised], ‘Oh, on the day of, just do this…’ How do you see yourself in this moment when something doesn’t fit at all?”
Graham’s favorite components of the Pronovias collection are the built-in shapewear and bras. “For a curvy girl like me with big boobs, I would be thinking, ‘What shapewear am I wearing and what bras do I need to buy extra — on top of this because I want to wear a deep-V or a low-back?’” she said. “But it’s already built in.”
The limited-time collaboration with Graham is among the initiatives Pronovias has embarked on to build sales and to try to steady the ship, so to speak. Last month Moody’s downgraded the Barcelona-based company’s outlook to negative from stable. During a phone interview, Amandine Ohayon, chief executive officer of the Pronovias Group, sounded nonplussed about that. Declining to comment on projected volume for the Graham-approved offerings, she noted the company’s goal is to double its U.S. distribution within the next three years. She also said the results of recent investments will be seen this year and emphasized that going through a big transformation like taking a family-owned business to an international one and investing in big-market countries like the U.S. and China takes time.
In addition, Pronovias has what Ohayon described as the leading record in converting many of its 1.5 million Instagram followers into shoppers. While Graham’s dominant social media is undeniable — she has 9.9 million followers on Instagram alone — Pronovias was even more drawn to her all-are-welcome mind-set. Ohayon explained, “For us, it was very important to amplify the conversation around body positivity and body inclusivity, because it is something that has never been done before. She’s incredibly stylish and Pronovias is a fashion-forward bridal brand. And she’s really a girl’s girl. This kind of sisterhood is truly important, when you are going through choosing your dress as a bride. You are looking for best friends, some advice, and she truly embodies that.”
While Pronovias recently closed its Brussels boutique, it has opened one in Boston’s Copley Place, and committed to one in Beverly Hills. The company own 50 stores and also has 49 franchised ones. Additional stores are also on the horizon, according to Ohayon. “I don’t think there are many businesses today that are investing so much in retail. We’re really proud of that, because the moment of truth in bridal is really truly happening in the store. Today, I would say, we really don’t have the right technology yet on the Internet to be able to replace that incredible moment of finding the dress by trying them on in a store. That’s why we really believe in our brick-and-mortar expansion. We’ve been seeing very strong momentum in stores in Europe as well.”
Regarding inclusivity’s rate of progress, Graham said, “At this point, things are accelerating quickly…Although I have been doing this for 20 years, I haven’t been an activist for 20 years. I have to say the last four years have accelerated. Now more than ever there are curvy women of all shapes and sizes, which is incredibly important. Different races, different ages. Now everybody has a voice and the fashion industry has caught up in a major way, because the public has made it very clear that they need to see themselves represented.”
Despite her various work commitments and the imminent birth of her baby, Graham is still working on the podcast “Pretty Big Deal.” “Our next episode comes out on Tuesday — every Tuesday,” she said.
But fans and followers need not worry that her baby’s birth could tweak that schedule. “It’s pre-taped,” she said.