BARCELONA — Pronovias, the world’s largest bridal manufacturer, put on quite a show in its hometown here, U.S. retailers said.

This story first appeared in the July 13, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The company invited some 1,800 specialty retailers and journalists from more than 30 countries last month for a preview of spring 2005. The guest list was made up of customers from the multinational’s global network, including 80 U.S. retailers and major buying groups from Italy, Germany, Holland and Japan.

“It was better than last year, more diversified, and we loved Badgley Mischka,” said Mara Urshel, president of the Brooklyn-based boutique I. Kleinfeld.

Pronovias makes 480,000 gowns annually — half of them shipped to about 60 countries. The 40-year-old firm distributes through 2,000 points of sale in Europe, including 110 company-owned or franchised stores in Spain, three in France and three in Greece.

Annual turnover is 125 million euros, or about $134 million at current exchange, said Erik Hoover, director of Pronovias, North America, based in East Rockaway, N.Y. In the U.S., retail accounts include Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and major bridal specialty stores for a total of 180 sales points, he said.

Cecilia Flores, bridal manager of Saks Fifth Avenue, described Pronovias’ designer collections as “showstoppers.” She praised the fabrics, “shimmery without being overdone” and the “out-to-there” trains. “The gowns are different, exciting and they fit beautifully. Elie [Saab] started something last year with the champagne and nude colors.” Saks’ customers have accepted the darker tones, Flores said.

Ilyse Gouse, Saks bridal and designer evening buyer, said, “The sophistication and elegance of the designer lines are a way to advance our [bridal] salon with something nobody else has.”

The two-day event kicked off with an evening runway show at the Pabellón Italiano in the Barcelona fairgrounds. Badgley Mischka, negotiating a contract for 2006 with Pronovias, and Emanuel Ungaro debuted exclusive minicollections of six styles each. In addition, Pronovias’ stable includes Saab; creative director Manuel Mota, who does a signature line, and lesser-known Spanish designers Miguel Palacio, Lydia Delgado and Hannibal Laguna.

Ungaro opened the catwalk presentation with a two-piece look of crystal-beaded tank top and frothy tulle ballskirt on Karolina Kurkova. Saab sent out a champagne gown in alternate panels of tulle and Chantilly lace with delicate sprinklings of paillettes. Badgley Mischka showed a lingerie dress in liquid silk reminiscent of Gilda and vintage Hollywood and, in a less bride-like vein, a ribbon-belted cashmere sweater with lace trim and simple skirt.

“This will be Pronovias’ best-selling collection in several years,” a major East Coast retailer said.

“The show defined current trends,” said Kleinfeld’s Urshel, ticking off embroidered lace, draping, flounces, long sleeves, back interest and jackets. In general, “bridal looks more and more like ready-to wear,” she said.

The audience of 2,000 included Pronovias’ founder and chief executive Alberto Palatchi; junior socialites such as Tamara Falcó, daughter of Isabel Preysler and Carlos Falcó, Marques de Griñon, in a splashy Roberto Cavalli minidress; U.S. designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka with Nati Abascal (Duchess of Feria) in a tailored white dinner suit, and Ungaro designer Gianbattista Valli.

Buyers got down to business — and a minimum order of 30 garments — the next day at the five-star Hotel Arts, where 165 bridal gowns priced from $200 to $2,000 were paraded down a multiple runway. International designer gowns ranged from $2,310 to $5,520.

Pronovias’ cocktail and mother-of-the-bride collections featured feminine, body-skimming silhouettes in black lace and pleated organza; draped tops and tiered skirts in bold florals, and halter necks with soft pants treatments. Strong colors included pumpkin, orange sherbet, gold, fuchsia, ruby, aubergine and celeste blue. Prices ranged from $140 to $810.