Bridal Fluff, Air Kisses & Wedding Industry Fakery

The Hengrave Collection by Terry Fox (Images by Adam Alex Photography) – Marie Antoinette-inspired awesomeness

So yesterday I was invited to a prestigious industry preview event in London. Basically a posh trade fair where wedding designers (mainly dresses but a few bridal accessories too) congregate to sell their newest lines to the gaggle of press and various bridal boutiques across the world. People come from all over the globe to attend and get the first glimpses of the designs by some of the most decorated British bridal designers. It’s billed as a great place to go to spot new trends and to meet anybody that’s anybody in the wedding industry.

So I went along and even though I wasn’t sure it would be ‘my thing’ I felt it was an event that I should be at. I got up early (for me…hey, I work from home in my PJ’s usually!) and boarded a commuter train to London.

I walked in at 10am, looking forward to seeing the first catwalk show of the day but was instantly met with a feeling of depression…not the giddy, excitable feeling that I usually get when I go to work events. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about this show left me cold. Something was missing and had been replaced by clinical white booths, air kisses and expensive cups of coffee.

Matthew Williamson‘s first ever bridal collection stole my heart

I have to say a few things at this point. I toyed for hours whether to post this or not. My mind was plagued with thoughts of ‘Will I get ostracized for saying these things?’ and ‘Am I cutting my nose off to spite my face/ biting the hand that feeds me’ (and other such metaphors) by saying how I really feel? However I do think that sharing my experience can overall be a positive one, and that even though I left yesterday feeling disappointed, that these feelings did confirm to me that actually I LOVE that I’m different and not swayed or influenced by what everybody else is doing.

So let me get one thing straight, I did get to chat to some lovely people yesterday – the girls from various wedding magazines mainly and a select group of amazing designers who were, interestingly, mainly the new kids on the bridal block. These were the kinds of people that were actually genuinely interested in me and my blog and didn’t simply turn away when I entered their booths…pink head, inked arms and all.

These are the kinds of designers I’d encourage you to check out for your own weddings (I’ve listed my favourites at the end of this article and images from their latest collections illustrate this page.) However apart from these few choice rock stars, the majority of what I saw was pretty much exclusively pretentious and (as I like to call it) expensive ‘fluff’.

Claire Pettibone‘s ground-breaking designs

In all seriousness I left feeling deflated, uninspired and rather disheartened. Was this really the ‘crème de la crème’ of the UK bridal market right now? The best of the best? The people to aspire to? And more importantly was this the stuff I was supposed to be excitedly writing about? I literally left wondering if this was even the right industry for me.

I got home in a funk and put this message on my Facebook fan page wall:

“I have to say…there are only so many pretty dresses you can look at. I left the show today feeling deflated… but now I’m even more inspired to be DIFFERENT, UNIQUE and an alternative choice to the usual wedding fluff. Who’s with me?”

And you know what…you guys 100% came to rescue my sanity with your comments of agreement and support.

Rachel Simpson Shoes‘s new spring line is a feast of colour and new design ideas.

I didn’t get into this industry to smooze my butt off and ‘talk the talk’. I didn’t want to be the same as everyone else or sharing the same things as the rest…and you know what? I utterly hate air kisses and industry fakery.  These people are not my friends. You are. The bride at home stressing about getting her DIY projects finished on time; the photographer who’s just starting out and desperately trying to get better; the designer who’s working from a small home office and pretty much lives in a sea of fabric swatches or paper samples.

I know in my heart that hanging out at the white booths is not the right path for me, the blog or you. I hope you all know that if I don’t like something there’s no way I‘ll be promoting it on Rock n Roll Bride. I won’t be bowled over by brand names, the next big thing or the hottest current trend. I want to blog things that you guys will love…that you guys will be inspired by and that you guys will actually bloody use for your own weddings. YOU are the key to what makes this blog great. Yes, YOU!

I felt totally disheartened yesterday, but after some reassurance from my wonderful readers and friends, I’ve realised that it’s actually a bloomin’ good thing I went and felt so awful afterwards. If I featured the same old designer tat that every other blog or magazine did then you’d probably lose interest or think I’d ‘sold out’ huh? And quite rightly so.

Tobi Hannah designs only short wedding dresses – perfect for Rock n Roll Brides

The great thing about being an independent voice and working for myself (i.e. not having to answer to a publisher, not having to trying to sell my product to the masses to make money, and not having to worry (too much) about offending my advertisers, who are exclusively awesome small businesses with a like minded attitude to mine) is that I can write about whatever I like and in the style that I like – yeah bad grammar and all. Basically If I don’t like something then I’m flat out not going to write about it…no matter who the hell they are.

Ending on a positive though, the show wasn’t a complete bust. Please do check out these designers that rocked it. It really wasn’t all bad no matter how negative I’m sounding right now these guys really are doing awesome things and pushing the bridal boundaries.

♥ Terry Fox

♥ Tobi Hannah

♥ Matthew Williamson

♥ Rachel Simpson Shoes

♥ Vivien Sheriff

♥ Claire Pettibone

Vivien Sheriff – making traditional bridal headwear a thing of the past

The industry is in such a state of flux at the moment. In fact I can almost feel the impending shift from the domination of designer ‘fluff’ to the independent bad ass designers. After the show I wanted to cry but in retrospect I now want to scream out loud for all to hear “YEAAAH! Let’s do this and do it OUR WAY!”

So here’s to being different, here’s to being alternative, here’s to being punk rock and here’s to being goddamn Rock n Roll!

Claire Pettibone

140 comments

  1. Beccy

    Fantastic post Kat, its great to have some real honestly. I know it mush have been tough, a post like this is ultimately taking a risk and sticking your neck out, but the whole reason I (and I’d assume 99% of your readers) love this blog and check it everyday is that you seem to reject the whole wedding machine that can completely obliterate and sense of truth and individuality in a wedding. Well done xxx

  2. FINALLY!

    the tosh that I see as a supplier seriously wants to make me poke my eyes out sometimes.

    Hurrah to the independent funky ‘little’ people out there not afraid to do ‘their thing’ (whether to everyone’s taste or not)

    nicki x

  3. Natalie

    Always interesting to hear another view of these exhibitions. As one of ‘them’ (i.e. an exhibitor at WG) I’d be disappointed if anyone who walked onto our small (but perfectly formed) white cubette 🙂 felt intimidated or thought we were pretentious. I hope that visitors that took the time to talk to us didn’t go away with that impression. Everybody has different tastes – from the more avant-garde designs to more traditional designs – each to their own. Neither is wrong, they’re just different. Fair play for expressing your view – it’s respected – but from the ‘other side’ I have to say that my view is very different. We had a superb time at WG and met LOTS of lovely, genuine visitors and exhibitors who equally think that ‘air kissing’ is somewhat overrated…. Your blog post deflated me after a great weekend, but then again, you picked up on some very real issues…. but not everyone is the same. PS. I LOVE Terry Fox dresses… oh, and mine. 🙂

  4. Hells to the YEAH! Just so you know, you are awesomeness incarnate, Kat.
    I went to one bridal fair, for about 10 minutes… And am now resolutely going to rock my blue hair at my wedding!

  5. be still my beating heart 🙂 Matthew Williamson‘s bridal lush!! its posts like this that keep me coming back!! 🙂

  6. thank you so much for mentioning us, I was there all day on Sunday and was gutted not to get to meet you in person after chatting so much over twitter.

  7. Wonderful post, Kat! I agree that the industry is shifting, and that’s a good thing. I love the designers you did post about and I’m sure I would have hated the ones you didn’t post about, too. : O )

  8. This is brilliant.
    I love how much there is for inspiration there is without having to follow suit.
    I’m also loving the designers you posted.. Especially Claire Pettibone’s new range 🙂

  9. Perfect! There are so many cookie cutter copycat designers trying to pawn off the same ol’ thing as ‘new’ and trendy. Here, here to real original designers with actual new ideas!!! Thanks Kat!

  10. Tara

    I’m glad you are saying this loud and proud. I went to a big wedding show and was totally bored and disappointed.

    I am SO lucky to have gotten my hands on a Claire Pettibone gown from a sample sale at Kleinfeld’s in NYC, from her Rock and Roll line, no less.

    I would have never settled on anything else because 99% of gowns look the same to me and most seem to be strapless.

    I love what Claire and these other designers you mention are doing and I truly hope many more designers follow suit. A wedding dress doesn’t need to be traditional–it needs to have a personality, just like the bride wearing it!

  11. Angelica Adams

    What a great article!I couldn’t agree with you more! It’s only a matter of time

    Huge fan of tobi hannah short dresses and terry fox dresses are SO awesome, thanks for putting up, i had never heard of it before, i think i just died and went to heaven 😉

    AA
    xx

  12. *applause* Damn good post, and almost all the things that I wanted to say have been said by others. As, always I like that you go against the grain good on you for being so honest.

  13. Eerie Indie

    I kept trying to post this yesterday but am a bit remedial with my new phone… Kat we read your blog because you’re different, because you champion the little guys who don’t have massive advertising budgets and because – shock horror – some of us brides to be don’t want the big White frock and uber trendy wedding and aren’t supermodels with massive budgets. Keep doing what you’re doing and bollocks to what anyone se says!

  14. Great post as always Kat, I do agree with everything you said and your fans too. Dont ever change OK? Im helping my daughter plan her off the wall wedding and its fun but frustrating too, the tat and fluff are everywhere – three cheeeeers for the Rock and Roll Bride – we all need you!! XX

  15. My sister dragged me to a wedding fair a couple of months ago and honestly, its was absolutely awful… there were some interesting stalls of cakes (always good) and friendly people but the dresses, the venues… everything all looked the same, so boring and ‘traditional’ I guess. And the catwalk show was a joke, my Mum and I spent more time laughing at it than admiring anything (which my sister was not happy about haha)

    Yours is the only wedding blog that I read because I love that the weddings are individual and personal to each bride and groom, I definitely want to have that. I came away from the fair thinking ‘my wedding is going to be nothing like that’ and I think thats a reason to shout YEAH too 🙂

  16. Well, personally I don’t really understand the controversy (didn’t read the above comments yet tho). This is the RocknRoll Bride, an alternative to ”cookie cutter, pastel and often puke-worthy wedding world’, isn’t it? So did anyone expect a different story than above – shout outs for new interesting and different designers and lack of excitement with the boring stiff wedding world? This is the reason we love this blog and Kat, for being different, being on the other side of the force 🙂
    Do not ever change girl!

  17. As a bridal boutique owner I attended the White Gallery. I agree with some of your points that in terms of finding something unique and different, it wasn’t the place to be. But that isn’t really the aim of White Gallery as it stands…its simply a room where boutique owners can go and select gowns for their boutique, dependant on the needs of their clients. I only went to see Stephanie Allin, who’s collection although not groundbreaking, was very special, wearable for both glamorous brides and traditional and I have to say I’m suprised not to see it listed above.

    Mathew Williamson was a also a beautiful launch collection – but very sadly in my boutique in Hampshire, as much as I would love it too it just wouldn’t work.

    Unique and uber fashion forward for brides are wonderful, but commercially accross the UK brides still like a traditional and classic style and in a time when businesses are struggling to survive, the reality is that boutiques have to sell what the majority of their customers want to buy!!

  18. Blimey, your post was so honest and true. Love the way you speak about what you think – which does take courage in an industry that historically leads you in the other direction. I hope that makes sense! Thank you.

  19. Hi Kat,

    As a new name in bridal also, The White Gallery being my 2nd ever wedding show, I also had similar thoughts and feelings as you. I thought it all very clinical and wondered if everyone had to have the same layout in their booths as there was no imagination or flair to promote what are essentially expensive and couture gowns. It was all white and business like, even the models were dull!!!

    As a new retailer to launch in the industry, the main drive of my business and fundementally the basis for developing The White Room was soley because everything that you have spoken about, is the opposite to what I wanted to create!!!
    I wanted a space where people feel comfortable, can listen to good to music whilst trying on unique and creative designs, allowing them to push the boundaries of traditional bridal wear but remaining true to themselves, and don’t feel like they have to ‘dress up in their Sunday best’ to walk in the door! I want honesty, flair and passion, not boring and dull.

    At The White Gallery I went to the designers only who I am stocking as these are who I believe are being different and creating something special, Claire Pettibone and Rachel Simpson is in that mix. I didn’t even look at the others, as I know that I have to represent a brand and that brand is me and I just don’t feel like I would do justice to the ‘traditional princess’ designs as I don’t love them.

    There is nothing worse than fakery and although that is some boutiques main selling point, i’m of the belief in honesty, integrity and reality sells gowns and makes brides happy. They feel inspired in a creative environment and react to reality, they feel like they can trust and believe that you are out to do the best by them, not by you and that is my ethos.
    Yes, all gowns are pretty but only the girls who are allowed to express themselves in an environment will flourish and air kissing, invading others personal space, pretense and fakery is just dated and worng. Time to get in to this time and this era and recognise it throughout the whole industry.

    Well said Kat!!

  20. Your view of this show is just that – YOUR view. And I for one am so glad that a balance can be found between gushing ‘Oh that’s divine, darling’ and ‘what WAS she thinking’ comments. We are all different, and I prefer REAL kisses & hugs to air kisses!!
    I too, like Natalie, hope that the visitors that talked to us genuinely expressed their tastes and views – each to their own indeed. We had a fabulous time at White Gallery and made so many new friends and contacts, as well as picking up more orders than we ever dreamt of!! We must be doing something right!!
    The best comment I heard at our stand was from a highly respected American lady with an intimate knowledge of the industry, and in particular putting on Bridal Shows – “There is enough business for us ALL to have a piece of the action, without treading on anyone else’s toes’. Wise words indeed, just as long as nobody copies designs, or believes that they can be an overnight success!
    Thanks to all the genuine ‘well-wishers’, ‘good luckers’, and ‘if i can help you at all-ers’!!

  21. Ah yes! I hate the fakery! I sometimes wonder in my failure to indulge in it is hindering my progress. But just like when trying to write an about me page I can’t pretend. So I just have to hope for couples who like me the way I am already.

  22. Hell yeah! Always be true to yourself, we dig what you say/ feel which is why we follow the blog. Originality foot forward. X

  23. Annie-Blake Lavender

    sounds like a big baby cry…just because people like what you so label ‘prententious’ and ‘fluff’ and ‘fakery’! but what about if you’re different ideas are labelled by others…not accepted? do you feel this is ok? because you are engaging in the exact same labelling, name calling behaviour. i am very dissapointed. i like that you are different. i like that you are unique. but this is a complete low.

  24. I’m a bit late with this post but felt the need to comment!

    Thankfully, the majority of people and suppliers I have come across since entering the wedding industry are lovely people. They are genuine, sweet and passionate about what they do. Unfortunately, there are the odd few who spoil it for the rest with their pretentious air kissing and ‘lar de dah’ attitude but they are few and far between and I just take them with a pinch of salt and move on ….

    It’s our big Save the Date Wedding Event with a Difference on 16th October and we promise there’ll be no snobbiness or yucky people there – just lots of lovelies! Hope you can make it! xx

  25. Alan Hannah

    Enjoyed your post, but its not exactly duffing up the military industrial complex is it ,it’s the bridal industry for gods sake. Although some of your points about the general atmosphere of the thing have a ring of truth I  think you are a big vague with your points. Don’t know about fluffy fakery, come and work with us for a day and see how many air kisses we are blowing. We make all our gowns in our own small factory in North London with passion care and craft and we do it because we love it. Our designer Marguerite tries to be as groundbreaking as possible while of course making gowns which will actually be bought by more than one crusty and her dog. Why don’t you name names and back it up with some examples of bad design/designers and then we can all agree or disagree on something specific.
    When I was a punk we at least said we hated Yes and Status Quo rather than merely aluding to them.
    Lots of love and kisses darling xxxx 

  26. I completely know where you’re coming from with the sterile feeling. I’m (attempting to) start off as an Interior Designer and every design show I’ve been to, the majority of people come off as cold and uninteresting. Not very inspiring to say the least. But you are not alone! It unfortunately happens in all walks of life and really makes you second guess your passion. It’s tough to at times, but focus on the small few who actually made your trip worth while!

    – Alex

  27. Just been browsing some of your older posts!
    Finally somebody has said what I’ve been screaming inside my head for a long time!
    I design Wedding dresses myself, and while my designs are not bad ass, I am a little bit! 😉
    I hate the whole schmoozy thing. There are people who I love in the industry and I get on really well with them, but it puzzles me that others don’t recognize the people who are taking them for a ride, sneering behind others backs . . . Oh the stories I could tell . . . . 😉 Xx

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