|Here Comes the Bridal Boutiques
By Joshua Greene
New York- For a bride, there can never be too many gowns and accessories from which to choose, especially if choosing them means visiting boutiques where sales consultants are doting and little goodies are made-to-order.
For the most demanding -the New York Bride-jewel box shops continue to open in Manhattan, despite the uncertain economy and recent guilt associated with frivolity here.
As final details fall into place and the everything-must-be-perfect mind of a bride-to-be kicks into overdrive, these new boutiques are offering women some fresh venues to shop.
Well known in the bridal community, Fenaroli for Regalia touts an unofficial slogan: "Everything for the bride but the dress." While the company had a showroom in New York for the past 10 years, a strong demand for Fenaroli's footwear, accessories and tiaras sparked the idea to turn the company's seventh Avenue space into a private retail boutique.
The decision was finalized last year and the space reopened in January as a store. Karen Fenaroli, chief executive officer and designer, said she expects the new store to make up 5 to 10 percent of her business, with initial sales projections for the boutique at $1 million.
The Boston-based company opened it's first store on Chicago's Oak Street six months ago, near neighbors Barneys New York and PRADA. But desire for a presence in New York was a major factor in opening the by-appointment atelier, according to Fenaroli, who said the store is four times as busy as Chicago's.
"The New York bride is unbelievable," Fenaroli said. "She searches and finds what she wants."
Fenaroli said the 1,400-square-foot Chicago store is a blueprint for things to come and currently looking for a permanent retail site in New York, most likely uptown off Madison Avenue. She said the decision will be made within the year. "If they find us off Seventh Avenue, then they'll find us off Madison," Fenaroli said. "But brides really like the private atelier environment. They feel like I'm bringing them into my world."
In addition to expanding business and visibility, Fenaroli said the stores offer a footprint for her wholesale clients to follow. Shop-in-shops in stores like Neiman Marcus, one of Fenaroli's largest customers, are an ideal environment, she said.
"We want to look at stores that are our best and help them shop-in-shops," Fenaroli said "I want the ability to [display] my product in an unabridged version and have our assortment the way we want it presented to the public." Wholesale prices for Fenaroli for Regalia footwear runs $85 to $300; jewelry $60 to $300; tiaras $85 to $300; children's wear $120 to $200, and veils between $100 and $200.
Mark Ingram opened his own bridal atelier after the design team at Wearkstatt, where Ingram was a former general manager and buyer, closed its SoHo boutique to focus on wholesale business.
The Bridal Atelier by Mark Ingram opened in January in midtown and offers a wide range of gowns, including styles from Anne Barge, Peter Langner, Amy Michelson and Manolo Collection. Ingram said he wanted a location that would be easily accessible midday and on the weekends, since multiple visits are required for most brides. Typically, an initial visit lasts an hour and includes a consultation with one of the Atelier's four sales consultants.
At that point, Ingram said, the consultant will pull from the back room and the bride can display her options to family and friends seated in the front of the space on comfy sofas. The entire space was remodeled before Ingram moved in and features travertine floors, cool green and beige walls and plenty of mirrors to catch every angle of a dress. Since Ingram said he had aims to breed a strong relationship between the salespeople and the brides-to-be, the space is limited to only three brides at a time.
"We have brides that range in age from 21 to 40.