Net-a Porter is betting on the fact that even brides-to-be don’t have time for a traditional luxury shopping experience.
Though the retailer has been carrying bridal gowns since 2010, this year marked its biggest investment and bridal launch to date, scooping up the entire second collection of emerging brand Danielle Frankel in January. It has also added new bridal brands Galvan and Alexis Mabille, bringing its current selection to 105 looks. Well-known labels Ellery and Rosie Assoulin have been in the mix for a while, and other established designers are set to hit the site before the end of the year. Rounding out the category are popular ready-to-wear pieces by designers including Gabriela Hearst created for Net-a-Porter in white, at the request of the retailer.
“We cater to the nontraditional, modern-day bride who does not want to attend bridal trunk shows and then have to wait six months for it to be custom made,” said Elizabeth von der Goltz, Net-a-Porter’s global buying director. “I like to call our bride the runaway bride — she can simply choose a dress and go.”
Also driving the selection is the idea of “Instagram-moment” looks for every wedding-related event, from the ceremony itself to the engagement party to the rehearsal dinner, she said.
The time is right to go big on bridal. According to Transparency Market Research, the global bridal wear market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 6 percent through 2022, and market research firm Global Industry Analytics estimates it will be worth $73 billion by 2024.
And it’s a category Net-a-Porter’s competitors haven’t tackled. Farfetch has just nine looks on its hard-to-find landing page for bridal dresses, at least one of which seems unsuited to the category. MatchesFashion.com has gowns, but none designated as bridal.
Considering Net-a-Porter’s merchandising strategy, designer Danielle Frankel’s namesake label, intended to straddle the line between bridal and ready-to-wear, is a clear fit. Frankel, who graduated from Parsons and gained experience designing at Marchesa and Vera Wang, released her first collections in October 2017 and April 2018, respectively, in step with the established bridal calendar.
While Frankel is selling at other retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman, Mark Ingram and Moda Operandi, Net-a-Porter is the first to offer her collection as ready-to-ship, versus made-to-measure. The model is uncommon for a luxury bridal brand — Danielle Frankel was the first to go there, according to the designer. But as linking with Net-a-Porter immediately gave her company “global brand” status, Frankel said all was worth it.
“We’re an emerging label in a new category, so we have the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we don’t necessarily want to play by the rules,’” she said, of selling her gowns (which start at around $4,500) online.
The partnership has forced some changes to the company’s operations: When Net-a-Porter expressed interest in carrying the brand’s first collection, Frankel designed exclusives for the retailer to avoid rocking the boat with brick-and-mortar partners. (“Why should their customers have to wait, while others could just click to buy?” she said.) Then, when Net-a-Porter placed an order for all of Season 2 (spring 2019) based on Frankel’s sketches alone, the brand was forced to update its production schedule. The retailer decided to team with Vogue Runway to make the brand’s seasonal imagery immediately shoppable, or “see-now-buy-now,” at its April release. It required more work for Frankel upfront, producing styles in a range of sizes from the get-go, and necessitated a new program giving all partner stores the opportunity to order stock.
Of course, a number of mass and fast-fashion brands, including Topshop, H&M and Asos, are now selling bridal gowns on their e-commerce sites. Also, digitally native startups focused on the category have started springing up in recent years, including Floravere, built on the try-before-you-buy model and selling gowns for $2,250 or less.
But they’re not luxury brands, said Frankel. “There are many alternative bridal brands, and I don’t see myself as an alternative bridal brand,” she said. “I understood the importance of a great quality fabric, everything being made in New York, having embroideries custom made, using certain fabric techniques — I see myself as a luxury brand that can compete with the other heavy hitters.”