I don't know anything about these designers and what many of the terms in this article mean ("The heavy chiffon drapes better," "cap sleeve," "similar bodice but with a straighter drape") but it looks like Pippa's royal bridesmaid dress made a big hit...
At Last, a Reason to Be Always the Bridesmaid
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD
Published: May 5, 2011
Shortly before the start of the royal wedding last Friday, designers and bridal boutiques planning knockoff dresses went into action when they got their first glimpse of the gown.
“The second we saw it on the screen, it was beautiful,” said Omid Moradi, chief executive for Faviana, a dress-making business based in Manhattan that plans to produce its own version. “It was just very elegant and glamorous.”
It was Pippa’s.
He immediately called his mother, the design director of Faviana, to tell her to begin sketching the dress of the bridesmaid, Pippa Middleton, sister of the bride, Kate Middleton. “It almost looked like a bridal gown,” he said.
Celebrity wedding gowns have inspired many creative copies, but executives in the bridal business say this is the first time they can recall companies wishing to design a dress based on what a bridesmaid wore, too.
“There was really no anticipation about Pippa’s dress,” said Dan Rentillo, design director for David’s Bridal, which will also make a version of her gown. “I can’t think of one where there was such a fuss over the bridesmaid’s dress.”
Now, many companies across what is called the fast-fashion industry are scrambling to reproduce not one, but two gowns designed originally by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, doubling the pressure to turn the couture designs into mass-market creations as soon as possible.
Ms. Burton did not seem shy about reproducing either — several fashion critics have pointed out that Pippa Middleton’s dress resembled one that Cameron Diaz wore in 2010, also an Alexander McQueen.
Some of the swooning, though, was about Ms. Middleton herself, not the dress. “She wore it so well, so we said, ‘We’ll do that dress right away,’ ” said Andrew Hops, vice president for JS Collections.
The timetable for this particular part of the bridal industry is critical. Sample dresses are sewn in about 48 hours, to ensure shipments of mass-produced versions to stores within about 12 weeks. “We want to get to market. The demand is now,” Mr. Moradi said. His company, Faviana, is producing versions of both of the Middleton sisters’ reception and ceremony dresses.
“Before she even walked down the red carpet, we were getting calls from customers and consumers,” he said. “‘When can we get it?’ ‘I have an event next month, can I have it then?’ ”
Getting the dresses into stores ahead of competitors, and the summer bridal market, also requires speedy production.
“The immediacy of the world that we live in today changes our customers’, and our brides’, expectations on how quickly we can respond,” said Brian Beitler, executive vice president for David’s Bridal, which expects to have versions of the dresses in stores by August.
Faviana makes wedding, prom and evening dresses sold at places like Nordstrom and eDressMe. While customers can buy wedding gowns that look like Chelsea Clinton’s or Eva Longoria’s, no famous bridesmaids’ dresses have been produced there, until now.
“Bridesmaids’ dresses are generally ugly. Nobody wants to wear them,” Mr. Moradi said.
Not this time. His mother, Shala, finished her sketches last Friday by 8 a.m., before meeting her 12-person design staff in the company’s Garment District offices in Manhattan. In the workroom, they began cutting and draping muslin over mannequins, trying to mimic the shape and fall of the Middleton sisters’ dresses. Next, they made paper patterns; the cap sleeve for Pippa’s dress, the shaped bodice for Kate’s.
By 10 a.m., Faviana employees walked through the doors of district fabric shops, buying a stretch of ivory fabric for Pippa’s dress and lace for Kate’s. Ms. Moradi had already collected bolts of white satin. Next, the designers cut fabric according to the paper patterns and handed the cut pieces to a team of women sitting at sewing machines at one end of the room. By midday Sunday, with few breaks for sleep and food, the Faviana group had completed initial versions of both dresses.
Three days later, in the long, light-filled workroom, a pattern maker bent over a large table, using a red wax pencil to make tiny marks on the paper pattern for Pippa’s dress. He was modifying the sample. The fabric they had chosen didn’t quite work. The Faviana group would sew another two or so samples of each dress this week, incorporating feedback from department store and boutique buyers, and adjusting patterns and fit for the mass-market versions.
With headless mannequins looking like a Greek chorus, mother and son argued.
“We don’t know exactly what we are going to do,” Ms. Moradi said, fiddling with a pile of chiffon that lay on the pattern maker’s table. They were seeing if it worked better for the Pippa dress than what they had originally used. “The heavy chiffon drapes better, and the stretch fabric we used for the sample — that, for the neckline, was not perfect.”
“But I think the color is a little yellow,” Omid Moradi said, lifting the chiffon to the light.
His mother shook her head, saying that a lining would provide just the right shade of ivory.
After Faviana settles on the design for each dress, mannequins, then models, try it on. A specialty company fits the various pattern pieces onto a “marker,” a giant piece of paper the width of a fabric bolt. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” Omid Moradi said, meant to minimize any wasted fabric.
Next week, Faviana will send a package of patterns, trims, a sample dress and the fabric choice to its factories, and an e-mail of the marker design. A Chinese factory will produce the more complicated dress Kate Middleton wore. A factory in New York will make her sister’s.
The factories will begin work on the dresses right away. Faviana has not completed its order, but typically produces 500 to 3,000 copies of a dress. It may have dresses in stores as early as late June, Mr. Moradi said. The Pippa Middleton dress will sell for $320 and Kate Middleton’s for $1,800. A party version of Kate’s dress, keeping a similar bodice but with a straighter drape, will sell for about $500.
David’s Bridal will likely order equal numbers of both dresses, executives said. JS Collections is ordering more of the bridesmaid-inspired dress.
At Faviana, though, executives are predicting that although Pippa Middleton’s dress will sell well, Kate Middleton’s dress will outsell it. The bride, now known as the Duchess of Cambridge, has a trump card that even the prettiest bridesmaid doesn’t.
“The Kate, the Kate for sure,” Mr. Moradi said. “She’s the princess!”