Fashionable musings by our favorite designer and guest blogger, Amy-Jo Tatum:
When I ask editors and brides what trends they want me to report on most their answer almost invariably is, “What’s new with the indie designers?”. Indie defined rules are the likes of Vera Wang, Reem Acra and Amsale, the biggee New York stars obligingly covered by almost every editor and blog out there come Bridal Week. The Indies are different. They include all those just above the curve designers you find on Etsy and Wedzu. The way bloggers are praising Indies whose products grace these sites, Etsy may very well be the new equivalent of Vogue in the arena of wedding fashion. Thanks to the internet, this new genre of fashion star doing its own thing has moved on from the local fair and boutique circuit onto a bigger niche. Here are some names: Carol Hannah, Claire la Faye, Kt Jean and Twigs and Honey–just a handful of successful artisan/designers who have become the number one trendsetters brides-to-be look up when they want to define what’s going on in fashion. In the case of Project Runway’s Carol Hannah, she’s now something of an icon in spite of finishing third on the reality series that eliminates a designer a week.
Not too long ago someone like Carol was typically locally based. An artist selling to nearby boutiques not only had to source materials but sometimes ‘cottage’ out work to contractors (hence comes the term ‘cottage industry’) and go through a middleman to get products sold. This resulted in lower profit margins. Thanks to high tech and the internet that middleman has mostly gone south. This might be the first time in history artisans and indie-designers not only have a presence but real influence in fashion. While they can do this by building up a client base through their own sites and Etsy stores, there are now boutiques cropping up that are exclusively representing indie-designers. Most familiar is Lovely a bridal boutique in NYC. Tucked away in the West Village you’ll find Nicole Miller and Badgley Mischka alongside newcomers like Delphine Manivet and Leanne Marshall of Etsy fame. After it’s launch in 2009, Lovely now has company. Bride, an in-home boutique in the Los Angeles area carrying exclusively indie designs opened last February. Owner Maria Diaz created it for those brides wanting something just above the curve. Bride carries pieces from indies like Peppermint Pretty, Holly Stalder and Kt Jean. Maria says the thing that inspired her most to open Bride was, “As a formal wear tailor and seamstress I realized there were a lot of women who wanted vintage or independent designer wedding dresses but they were limited to online sources like Etsy which didn’t give them the opportunity to try on these kinds of dresses. I thought the ‘at home by appointment only’ setting boutique would keep with the personalized traditions of independent and DIY weddings.”
When I asked Maria recently which indie designers she’s had the most luck with this year she said, “I think brides love Peppermint Pretty so much because of her vintage inspiration. But I have also been having the most success with actual vintage pieces.” That’s right. Actual vintage gowns from the 50′s-60′s era she says are her bestsellers and they range in price between $100-300. She had a few interesting things to say about accessories:”Custom birdcage veils are most popular right now..brides usually want to incorporate some kind of vintage materials (beads, lace, pins/brooches, etc) . . . .”
I have to jump in here and add my own clients also are asking for vintage-inspired gowns with real vintage materials and accents added in, sometimes family heirlooms.
It will be interesting to keep watch on the Indies and new boutiques that carry them over the next year. Designers, however, are faced with a challenge. Given the opportunity will they expand as a company or concentrate on keeping their lines small and unique? Can they do both? My observation over time has been the more successful a line becomes and the more pieces manufactured, the quality typically goes downhill. There is something we can do though. Those who are still small, struggling and talented deserve our reaching out. We can help by purchasing their one-of-a-kind products and giving those artists shout outs and promos via blogging and social media. Will we pay a bit more for these products than something that comes off the assembly line? Maybe. But that little bit more we shell out even in these times can support and help keep these artists going in more ways than you’ll ever imagine . . . .