Wed, May 04, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Fashion firms scramble to retail royal gown

Kate Middleton’s simple wedding dress instantly changed the face of special occasion wear

BY Anne D’Innocenzio  /  AP, New York

Dressmakers Lucie Konirova, left, and Emile Karr put the final touches on a replica of the wedding dress worn by Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Photo: AFP

Seconds after Kate Middleton emerged from her car outside Westminster Abbey in a ball gown with lace sleeves, designers around the US, glued to their TV sets, were sketching her look, setting in motion a mad rush for mass-produced versions that are expected to be in stores as early as next month.

For brides-to-be who can’t wait even four weeks, David’s Bridal, the largest US bridal chain, was already trumpeting a strapless look from Oleg Cassini, paired with a lacey bolero jacket, on its Web site as an already available stand-in as it scrambled to push out modified knockoffs of the real thing to stores by September.

Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, didn’t break new fashion trends on Friday, but fashion experts say her elegant understated look, which featured a V-neck intricate lace bodice, is expected to bring back a new era of classic wedding dressing that was just starting to re-emerge in designers’ collections.

In particular, her dress should spur a demand for lacey sleeves in all special-occasion wear and reverse the sexy strapless gowns that have been popular for several years. Many experts say that Middleton’s gown, designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen’s fashion house, even paid homage to what film star Grace Kelly wore on her wedding day to the Prince Rainier of Monaco more than 50 years ago.

More importantly, fashion industry experts like Brian Beitler, chief marketing officer of David’s Bridal, believe Middleton could

re-energize the wedding industry, which has been hurt by shoppers focused more on expense-cutting and less on the fairy tale.

“I thought it was going to be over the top, but it was more about simplicity and elegance,” said Allen Schwartz, co-owner of ABS, which is known for pumping out copies of celebrity dresses. “This is Grace Kelly revisited. This is iconic. She will have a huge impact in fashion. She will be the new ‘It’ girl.”

Schwartz, who started sketching as soon as the gown was revealed on TV, said his team arrived at 5:30am at his Los Angeles showroom, ready to cut the pattern. He unveiled the gown at a charity gala on Friday night and on Saturday, one of his ABS stores in the area had a sample on display for customers. The gowns, which will be produced in local factories, should be in department stores by late next month. They will retail for US$900.

Family-owned Faviana, a special occasion and wedding dress design company based in New York, will either send its sample of the dress to one of its factories in China or have it made domestically. The company’s version will be in stores within the next eight to 10 weeks.

Hat companies like Serendipity Tiara have credited Middleton for helping to popularize the fascinator, a feathered hat worn perched on the side of the head. QVC reported it has sold 54,000 units of an affordable copy of Middleton’s sapphire ring since her engagement last November. It’s priced at just under US$40.

Fashion companies interviewed said they’re not exactly copying Middleton’s gown, but taking elements of the design to make it more wearable — and of course more affordable.

Clearly, Middleton’s dress, which had a 2.7m train, compared to the late Princess Diana’s 7.6m train, is more easily interpreted for the masses. Moderate-priced fashion companies are using polyester-based satin instead of the more expensive satin. But for the rest of the details, each company has a different take, though they are embracing the overall silhouette and the long lace sleeves.

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