Werner De Vlieger:
“Creativity is the asset for the future”
“The future of bridal fashion is guaranteed,” says Werner De Vlieger. “The sector is in the hands of young people and that is a positive evolution. Experience is playing an increasingly important role, and both we as a producer, as well as our customers, the bridal shops, have to focus on that. You have to constantly reinvent yourself. ”
“How will the consumer look at a wedding dress in 5 to 10 years? How will her purchasing behaviour change? These are questions that concern us. When I see what has changed in the last 5 years, I assume that we are faced with another revolution” says Werner De Vlieger.
What has changed?
We notice that the bride is very well informed. She knows the collection well, sometimes better than the retailers themselves. She knows everything, she sees everything, she knows the prices, she knows exactly what’s going on. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the stores to surprise their customers.
How do you deal with that? What advice do you give to your customers?
Stores must concentrate on creating emotion because that is what brides are looking for. The wedding party starts with choosing a dress. Experience plays an increasingly important role. Some stores do this with glamour and others opt for an intimate atmosphere. We’re seeing smaller designer shops popping up with a very personal approach. They don’t go for the big numbers.
People go to a specific store for a salesperson who gives them tailor-made advice and because the environment appeals to them. If I am going to buy something myself, that is exactly how it is. If going to the store is not an experience, I might as well buy it on the internet.
How do you take advantage of this trend?
You have to constantly reinvent yourself as a store but also as a brand. In our niche, it’s all about creativity, especially if, like us, you envisage the broader, international market. I have been fortunate in that Chiara decided to join the company. Together with a young dynamic team that she has gathered around her, we have taken steps for the future. I could not have done that on my own.
What is also important is making contacts in your own niche. We have made an internal pool of photographers, tent builders, caterers, wedding planners that focus on boho chic. We exchange information and mood boards. We help each other and strengthen our niche. That’s how we inspire each other.
How do you see the evolution in bridal wear?
What is the reality: 90% of the wedding dresses are Made in China where creativity is limited. Those dresses look alike. It is painful but it is true and that will always remain, I think. For certain target groups, the price is very important. If I think as a manager in marketing terms, I too might make a standard product and produce it in large quantities. The profitability is much higher.
What we do is a hundred times more fun. We are in a niche, that of fashionable wedding wear. First it was vintage, then boho chic and now there is something new coming up. We will not stop. It is not always easy because you can make incorrect decisions and then you are left with a bad collection that doesn’t sell, but it is pure passion.
It is as Dries Van Noten says in his film: “I made good collections and bad ones that almost brought me to the brink of bankruptcy. It is the bad ones from which I learned the most and where I stand where I am today. ”
Last year, Flanders DC nominated us with Rembo Styling for Fashion Brand of the Year. I am very proud of that; it is a recognition for our unique Belgian craftsmanship, but also for our niche – the bridal fashion. For a long time it was not considered fashion by the sector. I regard our nomination as a reward for our hard work in recent years.
What is your motivation?
We want to make people happy. Our existing clientele is and remains the most important thing. We are fortunate to have loyal customers. I’ve known most of them for 20 years or more.
Is there a future for online sales in bridal fashion?
Everything is possible. For the time being, this is not an issue for us. What we do think about is to expand our range. For example, we get a lot of demand for shoes that complement our dresses because most brands are too traditional. We also get questions about outfits for the groom that match our dresses. We cannot make and sell these items ourselves but there will certainly be manufacturers who can jump on our bandwagon. We would like to think about that.