BARCELONA — Pronovias’ message was crystal-clear: Gowns drenched in beads, sequins, glitter and shine; crocheted lace; illusion necklines, and sheer back treatments are key trends for next year’s brides.
Buyers loved it. “I thought I was going to cry, the dresses are so beautiful, inspiring and emotional. It makes me excited about what I do,” exclaimed Janet Cooper, owner of Angela’s Bridal in Albany, N.Y. The single-store retailer said she was picking up vintage elements and the Gatsby look and “I loved the back detailing, the tone-on-tones and the warmth from the gold; it wasn’t a harsh contrast.”
She reported increased buying this year “because we’re expanding the store.” Husband Gavin added, “We’ve taken over an old bank, with marble floors. We’ll be the Saks Fifth Avenue of Albany,” he said with a chuckle.
The Barcelona-based Pronovias invited 1,400 specialty retailers — mainly established customers from the multinational’s vast global network — and 400 international fashion editors, ingenue celebrities like Francesca Eastwood and Pronovias models Petra Nemcova and Stacy Keibler, local socialites and politicians to its hometown May 3 and 4 for a preview of 2014. Buyers came from about 80 countries, including first-timers Libya, Peru and Panama, and a group of 60 from the U.S. and Canada.
The two-day presentation kicked off with a nighttime runway show in the Catalan National Art Museum’s Oval Room. Featuring 67 styles by Atelier Pronovias (a label formed after the January death of creative director Manuel Mota) and Elie Saab, the only outsider line in the Pronovias group, dresses ranged from shapely fit-and-flare and second-skin silhouettes with flapper fringe to full-skirted gowns and covered-up styles in layers of finely embroidered lace on tulle or chiffon with floral appliqués, the ubiquitous beading, feathers and sleeves.
The following day, buyers placed orders at Barcelona’s Palau de Congressos, where 240 bridal gowns, a wide range of accessories and more than 100 cocktail/mother-of-the-bride dresses from the brand’s Fiesta line were on display.
Retailers praised the variety. “It’s less redundant than last year and especially ethereal with lighter looks in soft tulle, not stiff or heavy, and nothing is overprocessed. Less is more, and they’ve reached a great balance,” commented Jennifer Martin, co-owner of Gowns by Design in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Her mother, Karen Jones, cited Pronovias’ “usable” styles. “We’ll be buying about the same [quantities],” she confirmed, “including fitted skirts, a lot of the organza flowers and one plain short dress.”
“I’m excited about this collection. It’s better than the last few years, and there is more variety,” said Alyssa Kanhai, co-owner of Pure Bridal in Edmonton, Canada. “We do very well with the lace, feathers and laser-cut bottoms,” she said.
“Pronovias is definitely going soft and less structured; it’s gorgeous,” added her sister Corinna Ha. “Most of our brides are in their 20s, with lots of students who are looking for softer V-necks and convertible dresses with detachable skirts. Thirty-five percent of our business is destination weddings because it’s so cold where we are, but that doesn’t mean brides don’t want to do the whole wedding dress. We’re buying about the same as last year.”
“Pronovias is our main line,” said Mona Richie, owner of Mona Richie Boutique of Woodbridge, Canada. “I loved the show and plan to increase my order 30 percent, including the beautiful laces, flowy tulle and fitted styles with normal waists and ruffled bottoms and, because we have a lot of second-time brides, detachable cover-ups and jackets — and belts are very important.
“Thanks to online orders, two out of three customers call for Pronovias. There is no price resistance because the collection looks more expensive than it is and the quality is not disappointing,” Richie said.
Pronovias closed fiscal 2012 with worldwide turnover reaching 165 million euros, or $216 million at current exchange, an increase of 10 percent over 2011, and a retail presence in 90 countries.
There are major changes afoot for the bridal firm, according to president and owner Alberto Palatchi, “because it’s one thing to be superficial and another to be profound,” he said, referring to international market share. “We have two alternatives — go cheaper or go better.”
Palatchi said he will relinquish “some” control with the appointment of Manuel Ehrensperger, a senior vice president at Swarovski, as Pronovias’ new chief executive officer and managing director, effective July 1. “Manuel is the first ceo we’ve ever had. He will be responsible for the company’s next step and for the harmony of the brand’s key elements — from stores to people.”
The timing is right, he added. “We changed the design team [because of Mota’s death], and at the same time, we’re reinforcing management to push the brand forward,” said Palatchi.
The focus, he said, continues to be on the U.S. and Canada, Pronovias’ biggest markets.