Considering the differing opinions we hear on the news, it’s impossible to predict when things will feel stable and weddings will pick back up. But brides with late-2020 weddings in the works will need to make a decision soon, and if they choose to move forward as planned, they’re going to need a dress. For designers, getting their business will mostly depend on how deftly they embrace technology. Danielle Frankel has already been taking appointments with brides at home via video chat: “I have a very specific customer and can connect directly with them now more than ever,” she says. “I want to provide the same experience a bride would receive in the studio, but with a sensitive approach to every fitting, as each bride is facing her own hurdles in wedding planning right now.”
Frankel is also working on relaunching her website next month with an option for virtual fittings, and she’s using the grant she won as a runner-up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund to invest in a capsule of ready-to-wear gowns that can be purchased immediately online. “These gowns will be available the moment you click purchase and they’ll ship within a week,” Frankel explains. “This is more relevant than ever as women won’t be shopping in stores.” It also echoes what she told Vogue last year about brides needing faster turn-around times and more online, “off the rack” options. That was long before we knew our lives would be so dramatically changed by a global pandemic, but even when things (hopefully) calm down, the ease and efficiency of virtual appointments and e-commerce will appeal to busy women.
“We’ve been FaceTiming with current Lein brides to talk through their changing timelines, and we’re consulting with new brides who are planning weddings for fall or 2021,” Stoecklein adds. “We guide them through the design process, assist with measurements, and offer to send fabric swatches so they can see and feel the fabrics and trims without leaving their homes. So far,” she continues, “the response has been great. If there was ever a time or opportunity for change, it’s now. We are focusing on ways to stay connected with our brides and future brides, and will launch a newsletter, focus on virtual fittings, and overall try to stay positive and support our brides during this time.” (Stoecklein also expressed plans to introduce “ready-to-wear” gowns for retailers.)
Giselle Dubois, the co-CEO of Spina Bride showroom, has been advising the designers she represents to do remote meetings as well. “I still think it’s important for a bride to come in to a store and try out a gown before committing, but the idea of doing virtual consultations is genius,” she says. “This experience has been an eye-opener. Even [after the crisis], virtual appointments could help brides narrow down their ideas before they come in for an in-person meeting.”
Another silver lining? None of the women we interviewed seemed to think weddings would be any less popular in the months and years ahead. “On the other side of this,” says Frankel, “there will be explosions of happiness and togetherness after a very rough period.”