MILAN — Brides-to-be may rejoice — after two years of pandemic-scuppered weddings and ceremonies, 2022 may be the lucky year to celebrate.
Banking on the rebound of events and brisk activity for the industry, Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week is returning to its usual IRL showcase from Wednesday to Sunday with a mixed format that combines a busy schedule of shows running until Saturday and a trade show held at the Fira de Barcelona fairgrounds overlooking the city’s Plaça d’Espanya over the last three days. In 2020, the fair moved online, while in 2021 the digital platform was flanked by a single gala event and runway show.
“Getting back together here in Barcelona and for the city to return as the international point of reference for the bridal fashion industry is a reason [for] happiness and pride. We managed to build an event that is considered the go-to place for bridal globally and that is no easy feat also considering that we’re not part of the international fashion circuit,” said Estermaria Laruccia, the trade show’s director.
“Our goal is for bridal to enter the fashion conversation, and it’s not always the case. In certain countries, such as Italy and Spain, bridal is not considered at the echelons of fashion, even though wedding gowns are often embedded on haute couture runways,” she noted.
The five-day event will draw 320 brands, 80 percent of which hail from 25 countries such as Italy, the U.S., the U.K., France and even Malaysia. “These could be viewed as just numbers, but in fact they are testament to the quality of the event for its geographic representation, of different styles and positioning,” Laruccia said, mentioning, for instance, couture-like creations from Zuhair Murad and contemporary pieces by Justin Alexander.
On the opening gala night, design duo Viktor & Rolf will mark the runway debut of their successful bridal collection, named Mariage, which was introduced in 2017. Founders Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren had booked the Xavier Corberó Center for Research and Artistic Activities venue, a labyrinth of arches, niches and nooks that was once home to artist Xavier Corberó located in Esplugues de Llobregat, on the outskirts of Barcelona, but due to bad weather conditions, the runway show will be held at the fairgrounds. The spring 2023 bridalwear collection of 40 looks will be combined with a selection of couture creations.
“They are not only master couturiers but their creations also convey a dash of transgression, which we like because what we’re trying to do is associate the bridal sector – traditionally romantic and feminine – to something more fashion-oriented,” Laruccia said, noting how shows’ grand productions are aimed at upscaling the event’s positioning.
The event’s format is not dissimilar to what international fashion week operators have been doing with local fashion trade shows, held in tandem for a business flywheel effect. To that end, all the 33 brands holding runway shows are requested to attend the fair as well.
“The idea is that the event should not only spur visibility for participating brands but offer opportunities for business transactions. In this context, after two such complicated years, it’s all the more important,” Laruccia noted.
Brands holding runway shows include, among others, Atelier Pronovias and the Marchesa for Pronovias line, Isabel Sanchis, and Ramón Sanjurjo from Spain, as well as Peter Langner and Carlo Pignatelli from Italy; South Korea’s Vestal; Poland’s Agnieska Swialty; Modeca from the Netherlands, and Katy Corso from Ukraine.
Corso is among the 12 Ukrainian brands that managed to attend the fair, a particularly dear achievement to Laruccia and the team at Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week. “Ukraine is an important country for the bridalwear sector, in terms of design and production, we usually had a strong presence of [Ukrainians]. By supporting them we’re doing our tiny part in helping the country,” she noted.
The executive anticipated a strong edition given the effervescence of the industry right now, with buyers increasing their budgets and weddings back in full force. Although attendance numbers won’t be shared until after the event, Laruccia said the fair expects the number of visitors to equal those in 2019 except for buyers from China and Russia.
This year Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week is opening up to brides-to-be, too, turning into a business-to-business-to-consumer event via a digital component, the show director explained. “As events and celebrations are back, sustaining the rebound of the sector, we decided to cater to brides-to-be because we realized that end consumers are the ones really moving the needle of this industry,” Laruccia said.
The official event’s app running through June 20 will feature livestreams and on-demand content embedded with interactive tools, which Laruccia described as in tune with the gamification trend. “It helps us also collect data and insights from future brides and to target them by geographic area, which is quite crucial especially for bridalwear as tastes and fits vary a lot from region to region,” she explained.
The trade show has also forged ties with Weibo Wedding China to stream content the week after a local distributor, keeping retailers in the country engaged.
On the b-to-b front, she said the app will function as a lead generator and networking tool, stretching the buying season, in sync with retailers’ increased strategy of spreading their orders throughout the year.