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In lucrative wedding trade, battle on for bridesmaids’ affections

These days, the bride no longer exerts total control over her bridesmaids’ style. — Reuters pic
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From her office in New York City’s garment district, Corie Hardee is getting ready for summer wedding season. Racks of bridesmaid dresses, which cost between US$50 (RM188) and US$75 to rent, are crammed into her small warehouse space. Frantic brides and bridesmaids will soon saddle her with emergencies — once, a bridesmaid’s dress was chewed up by a dog; another time, a bride had 10 dresses stolen off her porch. A year ago, when Hardee’s business was much smaller, these would be occasional interruptions, she says. “Now, it’s a new scenario every week.”

Hardee’s business, called Union Station, is one of many budding new entrants in the battle for bridesmaids. Powerful mainstream retailers, such as Urban Outfitters, Ann Inc, and Target, have in recent years launched lines for nuptials, backed by their robust, well-trafficked websites. And several startups, including Union Station, Vow to Be Chic, and Weddington Way, are pushing brides to consider new ways of finding and ordering bridesmaid dresses. All are seeking to supplant the old guard of local shops and bridal chains through online shopping.

A lot of money is at stake. In 2012, weddings included an average of four bridesmaids, each spending about US$136 on a dress, according to the most recent data from Wedding Report, an industry research firm. That puts the bridesmaid market at about US$1.7 billion nationwide, Wedding Report estimated. It’s a big bonus on top of the price of a gown, a US$2.5 billion market on its own.

Picking out a white gown is often a lengthy process beloved by brides, but bridesmaid dresses are much more likely to be acquired online, industry experts say. And shopping for a bridesmaid dress can be a source of anguish. Bridesmaids often have little say in the dress they’re forced to don. It’s tough to make the whole group happy. Coordinating logistics can be a burden. And after being worn once, a bridesmaid dress usually languishes in the closet.

Hardee, who founded Union Station in 2012 as Little Borrowed Dress, attracts brides who don’t want to inflict a one-use-only purchase on their best friends. Instead, brides register their parties and select the styles and colour palette they want. The rest is up to the bridesmaids, who discuss fit, styling, and colour with reps before getting shipped a dress and a backup size. Customers return the dresses after the wedding, and Union Station handles the dry cleaning. Though men have enjoyed rental services for decades, since many tailors and clothing stores offer rented tuxedos for black tie events, it’s a more recent model for womenswear. “It seems like the bridesmaid space is kind of the stepchild of fashion,” says Hardee. “Because it’s kind of an afterthought.”

“It’s an incredibly outdated industry,” says Kelsey Doorey, founder of Vow to Be Chic, an online bridesmaid dress rental service based out of Santa Monica, California. Doorey launched Vow to Be Chic in 2014, following a stint at Rent the Runway, a pioneer of online fashion rental. (Rent the Runway also has its own bridesmaid dress rental service). Vow to Be Chic’s loaner garments largely run between US$95 and US$125 and include labels Nicole Miller, Jill Stuart, and LulaKate.

Doorey says the bridal industry is “out of touch” with how young women shop. They don’t want to drive around seeking different dress designers or convene at a bridal shop to get fitted for dresses together. Instead, bridesmaids are mostly looking for convenience. And because people are now getting married at an older age, groups of friends are more likely to be dispersed geographically, making it impossible to get everyone together the old-fashioned way. That’s where the online players come in.

The website of Weddington Way, a San Francisco startup that sells bridesmaid dresses online (with a rental service in testing), invites bridal parties to “Buy your bridesmaid dresses as a team.” Founder Ilana Stern, a Stanford MBA and former buyer for Bloomingdale’s, is trying to simplify the decision-making process without having to physically corral a group of women. On her site, brides and bridesmaids can convene online and pick between US$330 Badgley Mischka satin dresses or more affordable looks from such labels as Alfred Angelo or Dove & Dahlia. “It’s been an administrative nightmare for bridesmaids in the past,” says Stern. “And technology is really suited to solve that.”

JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions, a wedding planning company in New York, says the bride no longer exerts total control over her bridesmaids’ style. Cookie-cutter, mono-hued sets of bridesmaids aren’t as common as they used to be. “They’re allowing them to be their own person with a voice, without forcing them to get a horrible bridesmaid dress they’ll stick in the back of their closet,” she says.

Neighbourhood bridal shops and many major bridal labels have struggled to adapt to the online shopping world. David’s Bridal, the nation’s biggest chain, is working on improving its digital business, though an executive recently told Racked that its website remains “less than optimal.” Most other traditional retailers are still banking on brides’ desire for the classic experience — and the bridesmaids’ dresses that go with it. It’s a dangerous play, says Gregoli, because they may be left behind. Sensing the incumbents’ stagnation, big brands have stepped into the fray in recent years and are “going to force these other companies to make a move or be antiquated,” she says.

J. Crew led the charge when it started selling bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses in 2004, with multiple others following suit over the past several years. Ann Taylor and White House Black Market boast collections of clothes for the big day. Target’s Tevolio label offers up satin bridal gowns and lace bridesmaid dresses. Kate Spade has a smaller shop for gifts and accessories. Urban Outfitters added boho-chic bridal clothing to its Free People label in May. Five years prior, Urban launched BHLDN, a dedicated bridal brand, which posted a near triple- digit increase in sales last quarter.

Weddings are an attractive bet for mainstream apparel brands because they’re a low-risk, consistent source of consumer spending, says Simeon Siegel, an analyst at Nomura Securities. And while the way a bridesmaid shops for her dress is changing, the fact that she needs to wear one isn’t. “Until people can start proposing with smartwatches, you need to go get a diamond ring,” Siegel says. “Within that rule, there’s also this notion that you need to have a white dress and you need to have a bridal party.”Read more here:pink formal dresses

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Kendall Jenner Denies Being A Feminist, But Gave A 'Valid' Reason

[9:37] Model Kendall Jenner presents a creation from the Michael Kors Fall/Winter 2015 collection
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Kendall Jenner does not identify herself as a feminist but does not shun it like other female celebrities do as well. Kendall, who may have irked many because of her family and their infamous reality show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” is not always lauded for what she says, but how she articulated herself when she denied being a feminist wowed many.

Huffington Post reports that Kendall Jenner’s response to a recent Sunday Times interviewer asking her thoughts on feminism showed how much the model had grown and became mature in her own way. The reality said no when Ruby Warrington the interviewer asked her if she is a feminist, but she did it with no spite against the movement or the people who supports it. Instead, she said that she cannot really speak on it because she “does not know much about it.” She also said she is willing to be more educated on it.

Stars such as Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Emma Watson have long joined the movement and put the word and debate on feminism back on the map. They somehow made it mainstream again to discuss gender equality and the underlying issues still unresolved until now. That is why, whenever female stars themselves would try to distance themselves from the movement or refuse to label themselves feminists because of some “inaccurate” understanding of the movement, they cannot help but rub feminists or those who support gender equality the wrong way, no matter how they justify their positions. Examples of such stars are Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson and “Divergent” star Shailene Woodley. Most of them believe that feminism is equivalent to man-hating and they would somehow, disappoint their fans. Kendall’s response therefore, is considered the best way to respond when one is not sure whether she aligns with the feminist movement or not.

Kendall did not have it easy, growing up in the public limelight because of her family’s controversial reality show and because of her equally controversial family, which includes sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashain and Kylie Jenner. There is also her mom Kris Jenner and then dad, Caitlyn Jenner (previously known as Bruce Jenner), who is making the headlines for days now because of her Variety magazine cover, showing off her transformation into a female.

This is why on her most recent ET Online interview, she clarified yet again that growing up on her part had been difficult, even if other people cannot see it. “I feel like this life comes with so many blessings but it’s also just difficult…” she shared. “It's extremely difficult and you are growing and making mistakes and everyone is judging you,” she added.Read more here:red carpet dresses

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AMM students create stylish clothing line

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Senior students in the apparel production option of the apparel merchandising and management major at Cal Poly Pomona have finalized their spring and summer clothing line, and are expected to debut their production at a product launch event next week.

The clothing line, called AM2, was established in 2001 as part of the AMM program. Students explained that it is a spinoff on the department’s name itself. Working on the line is part of the program’s senior capstone courses, which helps students learn about preparing and producing a clothing line. The clothing is then sold in the Bronco Bookstore.

“This year, we wanted to reestablish AM2 as the brand itself and focus on this being another season of the brand,” said Zachary Thomas, a fourth-year apparel merchandising and management student and this year’s production leader. “We’re obviously a school-produced manufacturing company, and we should embrace that.”

The theme of this year’s clothing line is Seize the Day. The students decided to aim their clothing line towards comfort, while incorporating fashion.

“We decided to go with T-shirts and basics with a twist,” said Madeleine Neuburger, a fourth-year apparel merchandising and management student and the team’s promotion coordinator. “All of our stuff for the Seize the Day collection is pretty relaxed and casual, but you can wear it during the day or at night.

“We wanted to aim toward the CPP student [and] the Los Angeles student that can go from a day at school to a bar at night, or maybe even just doing homework. Everything is super versatile and super comfortable and very flattering at the same time — basics with a twist.”

Each student is assigned individual roles within the production, and must work as a cohesive unit. The class must produce garments in a successful and timely manner, as the students only have two quarters to produce their line.

“We organize the class like a company,” said Associate Professor Muditha Senanayake, who leads the manufacturing side of the department. “We have a production coordinator, a team leader, and I have assigned teams for different styles. Each team has job functions, like pattern makers, quality and inventory controllers, sample producers and mark makers. The students have their own job functions.”

The beginning of the development line started in January. As a class, the students came up with styles they wanted to produce. After conducting surveys to help reveal what would be trending in the spring and summer quarters, the class agreed upon six designs..

“We do design processes, pattern making, revising, source the fabric, source the trim, source production and then at the end of the quarter, we present it to the [Bronco Bookstore,]” said Thomas. “This year, they accepted all five of our styles.

“From all of the design concepts of last quarter, now you’re actually putting it into play and putting it into practice and taking everything that you thought of and turning it into real garments, turning it into orders and quantities to be sold. It’s just the process of thinking and then making.”

Fifth-year apparel marketing and management student Jessica Isago was the project’s pattern maker and pattern grader.

She and her teammates were in charge of two styles in four different sizes, and had to make patterns for both men and women.

“We just took our base sizes and graded them to a larger size or a smaller size depending on which gender we did them for,” said Isago. “Our group had both men and women, so we did different grading sizes for those.”

Students worked one-on-one with professional contractors and vendors in order to produce their line within a given budget.

American Apparel and the VF Corporation donated fabrics to assist the students’ production.

“We are working with American Apparel, who are big supporters of our program”, said Senanayake. “We are also working with another contractor in El Monte, and we pay a price for their services. We do costing, we negotiate prices and [students] agree on a price.”

Kit Kwok, a fourth-year apparel marketing and management student and production coordinator, enjoyed working with an actual manufacturer.

“My favorite part of this experience was the opportunity to discuss our production line with the actual manufacturer, American Apparel,” said Kwok.

“That was a great experience. We had the opportunity to talk to their pattern maker and their production management. We learned a lot about real world production.”

Next week, the students will debut their collection during U-Hour at their launch event. The event will take place Thursday in front of the Bronco Student Center. There will be models presenting the clothing line and a deejay.

The items will be sold at the Bronco Bookstore starting this week and throughout the summer. Garments will range from $15-25. Additionally, the AMM department will open boutiques in Building 2 and Building 45, where they will sell select items not sold in the bookstore.

Proceeds will go toward next year’s production budget. Leftover funds will be used for scholarships.Read more here:evening dresses online

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