Capturing a Personality in a White Dress
12 May, 2015
Designer Jordi Anguera and founder of the El tocador de la novia stores discusses the bridal season and his future projects.
“I went to my cousin’s wedding and I wouldn’t choose the dress she did but it was perfect on her”. This is the best thing a new customer can say to bridalwear fashion designer Jordi Anguera. “Capturing a personality in a dress isn’t easy and I think that I manage to do it,” he says. That is what his work essentially involves – turning characters and the way someone acts and thinks into shapes to dress them in white fabric. This is a big ask, particularly in the bridal sector. “That’s why it’s great when a new customer comes in because she has seen that we captured the personality of someone she knows”.
Jordi Anguera has been in the wedding-dress business for 23 years. He is able to quickly sketch a profile of the bride-to-be before him and likes to design a new unique dress for each one. “I enjoy working with very different styles. I can move between one trend and another and not get boxed into any particular category,” he explains from the Barcelona workroom where he receives all of his clients. “I always meet with them personally at one stage or another throughout the process,” he says.
Anguera’s firm, which bears his name, is presently working its way through one of the busiest times of the year. “This is when the first fitting sessions start, then it will be the second, third and even the fourth. It depends on each bride and each design,” he says. There are two major work areas inside the atelier: custom-made gowns and collection dresses. Collections are renewed each season and this year’s is characterised by romantic lines with crepe or satin bases and gauze, silk tulle or Chantilly lace. It also boasts sophisticated details in the form of organza and embroidery work, classic structures built on the basis of pique and taffeta, and high waists.
When a bride chooses a dress from the collection, Anguera’s work focuses on adjusting elements of the already finished design to adapt it to her needs. When the commission is for a custom-made dress, the process is more complex. “Then it is very important to see whether there is a good connection between the bride and me. It involves understanding what she needs, her idea of the dress, what she has in mind. To make that possible we need to establish a good connection,” he says. When a Jordi Anguera custom-made dress is finished it is hard to see where the designer’s creativity ends and that of the bride begins. The result is, in reality, a perfect balance between what the client had dreamed of for her big day and the savoir faire Anguera has developed over the years.
“The way we work means that if I am unable to visualise what a bride wants during our first meeting, I have to tell her I can’t make the dress,” he says, bluntly. Anguera believes it is important to combine a result that the bride likes with a gown that can convey the creativity and endeavour of his workroom. “70% of our work is word-of-mouth. We don’t invest in advertising and we don’t enter fashion shows, so the dresses we make are the best way to promote our work,” he explains.
Designing on the body
Anguera started out in the profession at the age of 22. “I was very young,” he recalls, “and I decided to design bridalwear for a purely functional reason. The women who were looking for dressmakers in 1992 wanted someone with experience and I was too young. So I asked myself, ‘What sort of woman could I connect with?’ and the answer was ‘brides’.” He began to work in the bridal sector “out of necessity”, as he himself puts it. The years went by and bridalwear continued to form the core of his work. He made party dresses and accessories, but these were ad hoc commissions over the course of a season.
Today is a Friday in April and while we talk in his workroom on Barcelona’s carrer Muntaner, the team is gearing up to receive brides. He will carry out the first fittings with them now. “This is the time when the fittings start, and although we have finished some dresses, work on the majority of them will start as of this month”.
There are 21 people in the firm Anguera runs. More than half, i.e., 13, work in the company’s most important part – the workroom. Located in the same premises where customers are served, this is the heart of the firm. “I can pop into the workroom, grab a fabric, drape it around the bride and get down to work. I embody what she wants, the idea she has at the time. Having the workroom and boutique together allows me to improvise,” he says.
For this designer, who studied at the IDEP school in Barcelona and completed his education with courses on contemporary dance, painting, photography and sculpture, it is when he is working directly on a woman’s body that the creative process acquires its full meaning. “Haute couture is the only way to work. The person has to experience the whole of the creative process, understand the way the dress she will wear is constructed and experience it from the word go”.
That is why Anguera stresses that he opts for classical couture processes when working on his custom-made gowns. “First we do the fittings with lining, then we present the fabrics and finally we start to work on the dress. In total we do an average of four fittings, but it always depends on the person we are working with. Some people make decisions very quickly, while others need to see the work process develop bit by bit in order to reach a decision”.
More than just an atelier
While a dress from the collection can be tinkered with in “four days, because you only have to adjust the details the bride wants”, a customised gown takes numerous hours of work in the boutique and workroom alike. Around 80% of the commissions Jordi Anguera gets each season are for customised gowns. When this ends, he will have delivered around 170 wedding dresses and then it will be time to present the next collection. In reality, although currently immersed in bridal season, Anguera has already selected the fabrics which will inspire the 2016 season. “We will present it in October at a show for a small group of customers and future brides. We are small, Bridal Week is for those firms that make big collections,” he says, when asked about the Barcelona bridal show.
However, the fact is that Jordi Anguera has not been small since 2005. Unlike other ateliers, the firm not only has the boutique dedicated to the sale and design of wedding dresses but also combines this space with El tocador de la Novia (The Bride’s Boudoir). “This is a project which grew from necessity. Brides were always asking us, ‘Where can I find this particular accessory/the right lingerie/the right shoes?’ so I decided to create El Tocador de la Novia which would have everything in the one place. Today the company has shops in six cities around Spain, including Madrid, Zaragoza and Alicante. “It involves brand assignments. We share advertising and a website but each retail outlet has its own products. The cities are different and what works in Barcelona may not work in Madrid, so the role of the person who runs the store is very important. She has to select the products in accordance with local tastes”.
The designer explains that he has received various requests to open other branches of El tocador de la Novia, “particularly in Latin America”, but says he is prudent and that growth plans are not a priority. The same goes for the boutique. “If you had too many Jordi Anguera salespoints, I wouldn’t be able to attend the customers. My dealings with customers and the way I do things wouldn’t be what they are now, because I can’t be in two places at once. If I want the direct contact with my customers, which is what gives you many clues about new trends, this is the model to follow”.