NEW YORK – Anne Barge celebrated its 20th anniversary Thursday with a New York fashion show and a one-night retrospective, and creative director Shawne Jacobs is planning for the company’s next chapter.
A graduate of the American Intercontinental University in Atlanta, she joined the company in 2001. In 2012, during a trip to one of the company’s factories in China, Jacobs and her husband learned of Barge’s succession idea. “She saw us really working together as a team. Me working as creative director designing for the brand and my husband running the financial side of it,” Jacobs said.
For Thursday night’s Anne Barge runway show, gowns from the namesake’s archives were reimagined to infuse new elements to some traditional and classic styles. The result led to architectural designs made with Italian Kalika and allover floral Alençon laces for more feminine accents. There were also tulle designs with 3-D textures and metallic floral embroidery. To give brides-to-be more youthful options, the company offered jumpsuits, bustiers and illusion necklines.
Having attended its first bridal market in China in July, the company aims to build sales in China, which is not overflowing with Western bridal designers. In addition, brides in China typically wear four or five different dresses on their wedding day, and are increasingly inclined to wear a white one, as is customary in the West. “It’s really the only country where I see immediate growth opportunity for us – and really all of bridal,” Jacobs said.
Anne Barge launched an e-commerce site last year to create more of a one-on-one connection with consumers. Previously, brides called retail stores to ask questions, which would require a call to the corporate office and then a return call to the inquisitive bride. “Now we’re able to speak to the bride directly, answer her questions and direct her to the retailer where she can actually find what she’s looking for. It’s actually saving her time,” Jacobs said.
While brides-to-be are still tentative about online wedding dress purchases due largely to the price points and a desire for in-store customer service, Jacob expects that to change. In the meantime, accessories are the strongest online sellers. “A lot of retailers see that we’re not trying to take that customer away. We’re trying to drive the sales to them,” she said.
Next year the company will launch a little white dress collection of chic short dresses and pantsuits that can also be worn for wedding-related events like rehearsal dinners and post-wedding brunches. Selling from $350 to $800, the 20-piece line will be sold on Anne Barge’s site and at retail.