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Secret Bridalwear Ateliers

5 June, 2015

Verónica Miranda's atelier / Credit: Norma Grau

Less visible than the sector’s major labels, small bridal workrooms are enjoying growing demand due to customised gowns and personal service.

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Barcelona is a worldwide bridal-sector reference. The fact that its principal labels enjoy great global success has led to the city’s name being associated with bridalwear design around the world. The list of names that have achieved this is extensive and is led by Pronovias, followed by companies such as Rosa Clarà and Raimón Bundó. They have made the bridal industry an economic heavyweight within the fashion sector and seen Catalonia head up the list of bridal-gown and formalwear exports from Spain. Catalan firms exported €269 million worth of products, i.e., 43.78% of the Spanish total, in 2014. France is the leading customer for these export companies, followed by Germany and Italy. These figures from the Catalan Ministry for Business and Employment also emphasise that sector exports grew by 23% in 2014 over the previous year.

Big-name companies like the ones mentioned are behind these figures. They form the hub of the economic activity generated by the bridal sector. But the demand for bridal gowns is so diverse that it has the conditions needed to also allow for small ateliers led by young designers with micro business structures but an increasing profile. These are creation spaces that coexist with the supply from the better-known brands and which have a number of characteristics regarding their service and products that have seen customer numbers climb.

Close customer relations

When a woman decides to commission a bridal gown to one of these workrooms, she is motivated by customised care from the designer and, above all, the possibility of working on the dress she has in mind from the very start. These ateliers are intimate spaces which bring the customers closer to classic dressmaking workrooms and invite them to experience first-hand the entire creative process that goes into making their gown. “When a new bride comes in, the most important thing for me is to create a bond with her. That is what allows you to work together and with maximum trust from day one. We start out talking about what her big day will be like. I like to learn all the details,” says designer Verónica Miranda. She has been creating bridal gowns in her Barcelona-based atelier for five years and employs the personal touch that allows her to stand out from other sector labels.

Designer Marta Martí is also a firm defender of customised care for brides. She is committed to an artisanal system in which the end product is no more important than the process. “The way we work with the bride in the atelier is essential. It is extremely important to connect with her from the start. We want the whole of the process to mean just as much as the dress we are making,” Martí says from her workroom, also in the Catalan capital.

A unique gown guaranteed

Miranda’s and Martí’s workrooms are good examples of these small bridalwear firms that work differently to the big names and which are currently experiencing increasing demand for their output. “I think we’re all a bit tired of ‘fast fashion’ and mass production. That’s what we usually buy, so a bride wants a more personalised and artisanal process for a once-in-a-lifetime occasion,” Martí says. Miranda agrees, adding “fashion is increasingly impersonal and brides want dresses that say something about them”. That is why she thinks “craft firms are needed where people can commission fully customised fashion creations”.

At Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, brides can find a different space that fits these characteristics, in the form of Cristina Tamborero’s atelier. “I take charge of designing all the bridal and party wear and care for the details as if they were my own children,” says Tamborero, who recently showed at Barcelona Bridal Week.

All three designers are clear that their most distinctive feature is their hands-on approach with the future bride and her being able to work on the dress that she wants together with them. “The personal touch is a very important factor for standing out from the big companies. We also take charge of the entire look, not just the dress,” says Marta Martí, who has just closed a deal with Raimón Bundó to market her designs
internationally.

On the catwalk

Although all three designers have been working at full capacity these past few months, given we are in the middle of the wedding high season, May was particularly significant for Cristina Tamborero. Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Barcelona Bridal Week, her designs featured there this year for the first time. Tamborero, who established her company a year ago now, says that the key to making a good dress is to sew each seam and backstitch carefully. “For a really good result, things must be done slowly and in a customised fashion. A bridal gown is emotion, it is excitement, security, happiness. It is probably the most special piece any woman will ever wear”.

The possibility of recovering craft processes in dressmaking is what motivated all three designers to strike out on their own. In the case of Verónica Miranda, she had experienced the magic of major haute-couture workrooms during the time she spent in Paris, where she gained first-hand experience about their work methods with John Galliano, Dior and Lagerfeld Gallery. Her time in these international companies, as well as at Josep Font, Teresa Helbig and Sybilla, increased her passion for sewing techniques and, above all, the more delicate genres. “With quality fabrics I can spend time creating unique textures and pieces, and that is a luxury you can only allow yourself if you work in bridalwear,” she says.

Names like Cristina Tamborero, Marta Martí and Verónica Miranda are wonderful examples of the small bridal-design houses in Barcelona that are spearheading a return to personalised design and direct contact between designer and customer. These are secret ateliers for brides and they make the most of the potential of the diversity of sector demand to position themselves at the intersection between fashion, craft processes and a more hands-on approach.

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