What does the future hold for the Bespoke Bridal industry?

As part of a module in their degree, second year students on our BA (Hons) Textile Design course have written about contemporary issues affecting the textile industry, with particular emphasis on a professional job role and industry sector of their choice.

Lecturer Sarah Burton commented: “This project always provides a great opportunity for students to learn more about global issues affecting the textile industry, as well as gain further understanding of a specific job role that they aspire towards. This year, as the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry continue to be felt, students have questioned what the ‘new normal’ is for our industry and considered how designers and creatives will need to adapt in the ever-changing environment."

Here, Naomi Cross reflects on how lockdowns and Covid regulations have affected the bespoke bridalwear industry. 

Naomi Cross
BA (Hons) Textile Design Student

A bride and groom arm in arm

Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic have been felt by all, no less than the wedding industry and thousands of couples who have struggled globally. As a bride to be myself, do I want to celebrate extravagantly when social distancing limits my guest list to just 15? Countless brides share this view too and so how will this impact the industry, more specifically the bespoke bridal industry? What does the future look like for a bridal embroiderer and embellisher?

A bridal embroiderer creates beauty in design, depicting a client’s vision with a meticulous eye for detail, patience, and creative flair. Covid-19 has resulted in limited studio access, detrimentally affecting the collaboration between client and maker, an idea discussed by Emily Farra writing for Vogue: “shopping for a wedding dress is still an in-person, collaborative experience. It often takes multiple appointments…over the course of several months. In our time of social distancing, that just isn’t possible”.

Less weddings have also meant less business; sales have dropped with bridal industry losses of around £87.5 billion. There are consequently concerns regarding the stability of the future bespoke bridal industry however, as discussed in a recent industry report, there is one thing we can be sure of: “the market will be sustained by the continued faith in the religious sanctity of marriage”.

Covid-19 has caused us to reconsider our weddings entirely. Glamour Magazine discusses how bridal designer Phillipa Lepley has seen the impact of this: “A high number are enquiring about what I call classic ‘fairytale’ … statement silhouettes” whilst many “are hoping to have smaller intimate wedding celebrations … every decision they make has more meaning than ever before”. Although some brides still want the showy wedding, many are instead looking for a simpler affair that holds more sentiment, something that Hermione de Paula pride themselves upon; incorporating memories such as dates or quotes into bespoke embroidered bridalwear.

A bespoke embroidered face mask and a model of Tomtex biosequins

Left: Bespoke Embroidered Mask, Hermione de Paula (2020). Right: Tômtex Biosequin, Tômtex (2020)

How has the bespoke industry responded to the pandemic? Masks. Throughout history they have always been part of society. Surgical masks. Beauty Masks. Masquerade masks. But now bespoke masks! Claire Foster comments in WGSN, “As masks become normalised, more consumers will shift from servicing an immediate protective need to a more aesthetic-driven mindset and will use masks to create style or make personal statements.” This can certainly be said for Bridal Designer Hermione de Paula who is selling a Bespoke Embroidered Mask for £235! Is this the cost of future luxury? Similarly, at a slightly cheaper £70 is Jenny King Embroidery’s tasselled free hand machine embroidered floral mask. There is clearly a market for bespoke masks, a secure future for an embroiderer. Will I be spending £235 on a mask for my wedding day? No! But as brides, on our big day, we need to feel comfortable wearing masks physically, so why not make them aesthetic?

There is also an opportunity for sustainability in the bridal industry; how can embroidery and embellishment be generated in a sustainable way? Tômtex is a biomaterial formed from seafood shell waste and coffee grounds as a sustainable alternative to leather. Tômtex Biosequin takes this initiative one step further, laser cutting biomaterial sequins for luxury embellishment. Can this be the way forward for a bespoke bridal embroiderer and embellisher? Can bespoke masks be sustainably produced?

No one knows what the future holds. Will we experience another lockdown, or will the vaccine work? The future of bespoke textiles is unknown too, especially if weddings continue to be limited, reducing the demand for bespoke embroidered bridalwear further. Could this pause in the industry pave the way for sustainable thinking that could influence bridal wear long-term? Sustainably embellished dresses or accessories? One thing we can be certain of however is the current demand for masks, be they bespoke hand-embroidered, sustainably embellished or a 3-ply cotton printed mask.

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