The international bridal market is evolving

Fighting for the bride of the future
Fashion mirrors society and it is the same with bridal fashion. The international bridal market is undergoing a dramatic evolution. Especially in the German market, large changes are taking place. In addition to typically established values, new, trendy bridal boutiques are appearing in every city. “Anyone who wants to win the battle for the bride of the future must quickly pick up on the new trends and transform themselves,” says Viktoria Wildt, Account Manager for the German-speaking market at MRFG.

It has been going on for some time now: small, hip bridal boutiques growing in the German market. Inspired, amongst other things, by the popular TV show “Zwischen tülle und träne”, motivated young entrepreneurs are opening their own bridal boutiques. Furnished as cosy living spaces, they form an attractive alternative to the established shops with their often large, more traditional sales areas. Whereas a city used to have one large and one smaller bridal shop, today there are about ten. The other markets where MRFG has a strong presence are also evolving. Viktoria Wildt, Linda Boccara (agent in the Netherlands), Heidi Waring (agent in the United Kingdom), and Neus Blanch (agent in Italy) speak.

Does the increase in the number of boutiques affect the bridal market?
Viktoria: The result is that in just about every city traditional and hip bridal boutiques compete for the attention of the bride. That’s not without a struggle. After all, the number of brides hasn’t risen. We expect the market to look completely different in the near future.

Linda: Also in the Netherlands a new batch of bridal boutiques is popping up. They are smaller and work in a very personal way. I think those are the stores of the future.

Neus: This trend is less pronounced here. We are a little more traditional. A wedding dress is very important and the bride is still looking for the perfect dress with her mother. That happens in a large, well-known bridal boutique.

What effect does this have on the established stores?
Viktoria: The older boutiques are struggling. They have been around for many years and are now seeing their revenue drop. For example, at the beginning of the bridal season in August, we saw the 2020 collection at -20% discount. Painful!

Linda: In the Netherlands, we are still doing well in these circumstances. They hire younger people to keep up with the trends. Still, I believe more in the smaller stores that offer nice brands, nice fits, nice fabrics.

Neus: The traditional boutiques are still doing well with our collections. What we do notice is that brides are waiting longer to order. There are more gowns to choose from, the brides are well informed and that makes it more difficult to choose.

What does this evolution mean for MRFG?
Linda: An opportunity. We make everything by hand. At MRFG, we employ four designers who create the dresses. This way we respond to the wishes of the bride. I also strongly believe in the new, curvy line for women with a larger size. There is certainly a market for that in the Netherlands. The average size here is 40/42. We are just a little bigger and strongly built.

Heidi: Brides are tired of the stereotypical boho bridal gowns with lace bodice and chiffon skirt. They may be romantic but they all look the same. So now you see a lot of different looks and you have to, because the bride wants a dress that is unique. I see a lot of opportunities for the new Marylise and Rembo Styling collections.

Viktoria: It’s not an obvious situation. We strongly believe in long-term collaboration and want to stay loyal to our existing customers. On the other hand, we receive a lot of requests from the new generation of boutique owners. They are highly motivated, although not every new case has potential. We realize that the market will look different in the near future as a natural selection will take place. We are looking for a healthy balance.

How do you do this?
Viktoria: We maintain relationships with our loyal customers and support them where we can with advice. In addition, we build contacts with new players and keep a close eye on everything. Anyone who wants to work with us must be as passionate as we are about craftsmanship.

What are your tips for entrepreneurs in bridal fashion?
Viktoria: the millennium bride is the first generation of digital natives and that has an impact on the way they shop. They first browse the internet looking for their dream dress and then go to the boutique. Social media plays an enormously important role in the selection of the dress. Bridal boutiques that are not committed to a digital strategy are losing market share. A good website and visual communication via Instagram are essential.

Linda: As a bridal boutique, you won’t succeed anymore with dresses from China that are not distinctive. What I notice is that the individual becomes more important. There has to be more. Particular attention points are an eye for detail, an eye for the figure of the bride. Whoever picks up on that, will succeed in the future.

Neus: Italians have an exceptional fashion sense. Bridal boutiques have to keep up with the trends. What they also have to take into account is the demand for comfort. A bride wants to be beautiful, but she doesn’t want to feel trapped in a stiff dress.

Heidi: Speaking the same language as the bride is absolutely essential. When a bride walks in and asks for a bohemian dress or a chic urban dress, you have to know what she means and not just make a suggestion. Some older shopkeepers might recommend a typical old fashioned ball gown as a boho dress but they don’t understand the bride. Boutiques who don’t keep up with modern trends are destined to fail.

Viktoria: The furnishing of the boutique also plays an important role. Once the bride has chosen her dress, she will try it on and expects a personal approach and a cosy space. She finds large, impersonal boutiques unattractive. For many established stores, this requires a major turnaround in the way they think.