Here comes the fast fashion bride

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Saturday’s Royal wedding, which cost in excess of £32m, is a luxury most of us can only dream of. As the cost of weddings continues to spiral, couples are increasingly seeking ways to cut unnecessary costs. Even the wedding dress, traditionally considered the focal point of the ceremony, is not immune to this trend.

According to Lyst, the average price of a wedding dress dropped by 20% versus the previous year to just over £800 in 2017. The abundance of fast fashion bridal collections is driving this trend.

Fast fashion retailers have long catered to the needs of wedding guests, rather than the bride, via seasonal occasionwear collections. However, 2016 heralded ASOS’s “affordable bridal range”, shortly followed by Topshop and French Connection in 2017, and most recently H&M and Misguided in 2018 (seen above). These retailers appear to offer more compelling style propositions than traditional high street occasionwear retailers such as Monsoon, and significantly undercut traditional boutiques on price.

H&M offers perhaps the most reasonably priced bridal gowns on the high street at just £79.99, which are principally sold via their “bridal boutique” portal, which also offers bridal accessories, jewellery and even bridal lingerie.

Another fast fashion giant meeting the shopping preferences of today’s brides is ASOS. ASOS offer a range of less traditional dress styles, such as multi-piece bridal outfits and tailored suits and plus size dresses. Last year, 35% brides opted out of a traditional gown and opted instead for a two-piece outfit. In addition, ASOS’s bridal gowns are hand packed, shipped in custom bridal delivery boxes, and honoured with a premier delivery service and returns policy. Whilst online retailers can’t compete with the in-store experience offered by traditional boutiques, they are able to offer a different type of service that can also be engaging.

A survey conducted by Pragma five years ago showed that store visits were the number one source of information for brides on dresses, whereas today it is second to online browsing. This has been supported by a rise in social networks, in particular Pinterest, which was used by 60% of brides in Pragma’s study. Whilst the in-store experience was once considered integral to the purchase of a bridal gown, clearly it is following the same trends we see permeating nearly all retail categories. Digital is playing an increasingly important role in both the discover and purchase of bridal gowns, with positive knock-on effects for online retailers.

The opportunity in the bridalwear market for fast fashion retailers lies in their ability to deliver on both style and price. As always in fast fashion, the brands which win are those able to identify the latest trends ahead of their competition and rapidly translate these into styles which resonate with their customer. Fast fashion bridalwear retailers don’t just look to the catwalk for inspiration, but increasingly take inspiration from celebrities, social media and broader fashion trends. In addition, digital advancements are helping to establish fast fashion retailers as credible players in the bridalwear market as well as differentiate their service offering from traditional boutiques.

Whilst the trend for a Meghan Markle style wedding dress is likely to fade, the encroachment of fast fashion retailers on an increasing range of categories and styles is not.

Sophie Hardaker