In the wake of Covid-19, the no-expenses-spared, fairytale wedding bubble has burst. Today’s micro-wedding or ‘mini-mony’ calls for more pared-back bridal options, balancing finesse with frou frou and pragmatism with pizzazz. Overwhelmed by ostentation, the pressure of matrimonial tradition, or the risk of investing in something not quite you? Here we present our alternative bridal wear designers, creating pieces with both ease, elegance and just the right amount of ritz, to wear when saying ‘I do.’

Bon Bridé

“wrap dress by bon bride”

Photography: Joanna Brown

‘What’s in my wardrobe? Round necks, roll necks, I love a long sleeve,’ says Pippa Cooke of the founding design elements which inspired the silhouettes she creates at Bon Bridé. Cooke - who cut her teeth buying for Topshop, and developing House of Hackney’s fashion line - saw a gap in the bridal market when she herself was getting married in 2013. ‘The whole system seemed so backwards. Especially the idea of paying thousands of pounds for a wedding gown with barely any time to try it on.’ West London-based Bon Bridé launched in 2019 and specialises in pared back, refined designs, with subtle details, like raw hems, pearl embroidery and zips. Silhouettes are unrestricted and unlined, swapping ‘shiny silk’ and lace, for soft wool and delicate crepe. Think fluid gowns which drape sensually across the back, or long dresses with relaxed button-down details. 

‘A lot of our brides have been buying a wrap style as a second option, in case their larger wedding becomes a smaller civil ceremony, due to Covid-19 restrictions,’ Cooke says, of an elegant silhouette which ties at the waist, and can be worn as a dress or layered as a lightweight coat. She emphasises that a wedding dress shouldn’t be a one-wear-only investment. Post nuptials, her clients can return with their gowns and have them dyed black or even transformed into jumpsuits. ‘A wedding dress shouldn’t just be put in a box,’ she says. ‘This service ensures our brides will wear them year on year.’

Christopher Kane

“feathered lace dress by christopher kane”

There’s always been a soupçon of subversion behind the embellishments that London-based designer Christopher Kane uses in his designs, from smatterings of diamanté to fronds of marabou trim, tactile gel inserts to transparent lace. For brides eager to balance adornment with edge and sophistication with seduction, the brand’s bridal wear capsule collection is a style match made in heaven. Drawing on the daring and sensual facets of the brand’s design DNA and range of archive silhouettes, the offering includes body skimming lace gowns with feathered necklines and mini dresses in silver chainmail, or with pouf skirts sparkling with chunky gems. 

‘A Christopher Kane bride is someone who has the strength of character to do whatever they like on their wedding day. They don’t feel the pressure to conform to the traditional sartorial rules,’ says the brand’s co-founder Tammy Kane. The capsule collection also offers a selection of convention-defying pieces that can rouse a rehearsal dinner or bring va va voom to a video ceremony, from feathered shirts to crystal embellished t-shirts.

In Grid Bride

“kaftan dress by in grid bride”

Photography and set design: Adam Barclay

Scroll through In Grid Bride’s Instagram feed, and you won’t find homogeneous shots of bouquets, wedding cakes or ring-adorned fingers, but images of artworks by Brancusi, Tracey Emin, Cy Twombly and Anthony Gormley. ‘It’s about things that are romantic to me,’ says Katie E Timothy, co-founder of cult shirting label In Grid Studio, that launched its bridal wear line earlier this year. ‘I’d been creating more art-focused couture pieces,’ she adds. ‘So bridal seemed like a natural extension.’

‘It’s about shaking off that Princess vibe of the wedding dress,’ Timothy says of her designs, which include floor skimming A-line kaftans, balloon sleeve shirts and off the shoulder tiered gowns, all crafted in luxurious duchess satin. Pieces are pared-back, with a couture-level of cut, and are utterly striking in their simplicity. Timothy hopes to create a welcoming and immersive bespoke fitting setting, describing her own experience of wedding dress shopping as ‘claustrophobic’. Brides-to-be can visit the brand’s Sheffield studio, try on In Grid Bride’s designs and customise styles according to a classic or more fashion focused range of fabrics, in tones including pink and blue. ‘It’s about wearing something special that feels like a second skin,’ Timothy adds of the ease-fuelled impetus behind the offering. ‘A piece that is an extension of you, not a design that you feel like you should be wearing.’

Molly Goddard

“ruffled dress by molly goddard”

Despite their emphatic silhouettes and their mille-feuille layers of frou, Molly Goddard’s dresses are designed with a sense of ease, catnip for girls who dance all night, and favour a festival as much as a fancy event. The designer has long created custom bridal commissions for friends (cue model Agyness Deyn in a transparent tulle creation), and now she has launched a debut bridal range of 12 dresses, available in white or ivory and lined with silk, that wonderfully toe the line between romance and realism. ‘There are enormous taffeta and tulle gowns but also dresses you could easily hem and wear again and again,’ she says of the offering. This includes pieces perfect for a town hall ceremony or barefoot beachside vows, including the Simona, which boasts a 30 metre tulle petticoat ( ‘it’s surprisingly light!’ says Goddard), The Adiah, a pared back shirt dress with a ruffled skirt and The Heidi, a sensual halterneck style with flamenco ruffles.

Those with upcoming nuptials are able to try on Goddard’s bridal designs at the brand’s London showroom. Styles can be be customised and are offered in a range of fabrics. ‘A few of the dresses have top stitched velvet ribbons which I like the idea of changing to a different colour for different brides, so the dresses feel personal and special,’ Goddard says. ‘Even though weddings have to be scaled back, nothing should stop you from having an amazing dress!’

Lein

“fringed mini dress by lein”

‘The goal was to bridge that gap between bridal wear and womenswear,’ says New York-based Meredith Stoecklein, who cut her teeth at Zac Posen, Narciso Rodriguez and in the world of custom-designed celebrity dressing before launching her wedding brand Lein in 2016. Aimed at making the bridal wear world more approachable – ‘so many women just want to wear a white dress from their favourite designer’ – Stoecklein creates sartorially-minded styles fit for not just a ceremony, but rehearsal dinners, wedding brunches and beyond. For A/W 2020 think strapless dresses in ethereal nude tulle or with delicate French lace skirts, and more daring creations including a confetti-centric fringed mini dress and flocked lace gowns and chiffon halter neck dresses in shades of black. ‘I want to offer ready-to-wear styling in an elevated way that still honours the meaning of the moment you are shopping for,’ she says.

Sustainability-minded brides today are conscious of the excess of wearing a dress simply for just one day. Stoecklein is emphatic that her styles can be worn again and again. ‘I love the idea that clients can incorporate Lein pieces into their daily closet and relive a part of their wedding memory,’ she says. Clothing to me has always been like a perfume; it can trigger a memory of when I wore something, who I was with and what fun we were having.’

Wed

“asymmetric lace dress by Wed”

‘For our second season we used deadstock fabrics from a 300 year old mill, that wove the taffeta for Princess Diana’s wedding dress,’ says Evan Phillips, co-founder of London-based bridal wear brand Wed, which launched its first collection in 2019. The conscious brand incorporates waste fabrics into its draped, transparent and asymmetric designs, that appeal to those searching for something a little off kilter. It’s latest offering features tiered dresses, puffball and handkerchief skirts, ruched blouses and trousers, in white, black, red and pink fabrics, which have been sourced from unwanted wedding dresses found on Ebay. ‘We’re really giving these bridal fabrics like lace, sequins and heavy beading a second life,’ Phillips adds.

Wed was born from co-founder Amy Trinh’s inability to find a wedding dress that hit the sweet spot between something ‘really casual’ or ‘over the top’ for her own big day. ‘I spoke to Evan and we decided to create my dress together as a fun thing to do,’ she says. ‘Then in a more business sense, we wanted to explore this gap in the market.’ The soon-to-be-betrothed can visit Wed’s studio in London, for a piece that’s a variant on their collection designs or an entirely bespoke creation. ‘We’ve had clients who want a top from one style and a skirt from another,’ Phillips says. ‘We’re talking with women who have a really good eye for design.’ 

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