The British Bridal Fair trade exhibition takes place twice a year at Harrogate International Centre, showing new seasonal collections in March and September.
Today 15 March 2011 was the last day of the 3-day exhibition.
Each show attracts over 3,500 visitors to town when key bridalwear buyers visit from across Europe and beyond.
An industry awards dinner takes place during the Spring Fair and this year HIC’s Head of Sales and Marketing, Alison Griffin, attended the dinner with newly appointed director, Angus Houston, who presented the Exporter of the Year Award at the dinner.
Alison comments: ‘This is one of HIC’s largest events and definitely the most glamorous. We have hosted the show for more than 15 years building a strong working relationship with the organiser over that time. We look forward to continuing the relationship over the coming years by continuing to deliver a first-class service.”
The wedding industry remains relatively unscathed by the recessionary downturn which continues to affect other markets and wedding wear, in particular, has seen year-on-year improvements, despite the VAT hike in January
According to retailers across the country, once a girl has the ring on her finger her search for the dream dress starts, even before a date has been set for the big day. And although she may be taking longer to make that final decision, when her heart is lost to a particular gown, that’s the one she will have.
At BBEH, the first show of the annual bridal buying circuit, there were no less than 270 collections on offer, from high-price labels from British, European and American designers to the budget-priced dresses that are perfect for destination weddings in the sun. Alongside those sat some brilliant occasionwear ranges – all bright colours and bold prints, handsome men’s formalwear collections that have taken to tapered jackets and narrow trousers and lots of lapel details, and a dazzling choice of accessories from sparkling headdresses (side detailed head bands with vintage influences were everywhere) and glittering ‘bird-cage’ veils.
Always an attraction at this key show, where buyers not just from across the UK and Ireland but also from around the world flock to see what the big-name makers have to offer, are the lavish catwalk shows. These major production numbers that include the new looks from top houses spell out the trends that will emerge in the months ahead. It’s show-biz all the way, and the two daily performances in Hall Q play to packed houses. Hall Q, open for the first time at a March show, due to demand, will be home to some of the major players – market-leading brands including the Sincerity, Sophia Tolli and Mark Lesley.
There are other features in the March BBEH that give reason to retailers to attend and get there early! First, there is the Monday-night Bridal Buyer Awards ceremony, a glittering black-tie event (hosted this year by TV presenter John Scott), in which the winners of no less than 17 award categories get to hear of their well-deserved titles and pick up their trophies. Recognising excellence in all areas of bridalwear, from retail to design and manufacturing, and from export to innovation, this awards programme leads the way internationally. And, importantly, the shortlisted companies know the kudos, and added business that being a finalist brings.
Also a star feature at the show is The Gallery, which is sponsored by Swarovski Elements. Six names – Ian Stuart, Jason Jennings, Madeline Isaac-James, Halo & Co, Liza Designs and Richard Design – were given an open brief to product a work of art using Swarovski Elements. The finished pieces, which range from a crystal-encrusted IPad with a specially created visual, to a one-metre-high headdress fashioned into a swan, will move from the UK and go on show in Amsterdan and then Essen.
One of the great pulls at BBEH is always to new names in the business who are ready for wide-scale exposure. This March, the talent pickings have been rich and include: Elizabeth Stuart’s bridal collection, a delicious mix of the contemporary and the romantic. Originally from New York, but now firmly in residence in the UK, Stuart believes on accentuating the positive so every one of her gowns fits superbly and flatters wonderfully. Then there is Sarah Janks, whose training included stints with Jenny Packham and Roland Mouret. Based in Sydney, Australia, her first bridal bolection includes grand statement ballgowns, slinky bias-cut dresses and light-as-a-feather gowns that can be rolled up into a suitcase. Other new comers include Verna Marina who lives in Honk Kong but studied design in Australia and has worked in the US, Japan and France; Timeless Chic, where the focus is on chic little 50s-style dresses that are perfect for informal weddings, and Rebecca Louise, whose jewellery makes the perfect bridesmaid gift, as well as a treat for the bride herself.
March Harrogate, for the third time, features a series of seminars, this year covering social media, customers service and marketing.
Photographs by www.timothycook.co.uk