Something old, something new, something borrowed, something...red? Yep, red bridal gowns are a thing for the spring 2013 season, if the latest shows are any indication. It's bridal fashion week, and while the traditional white dress is still by far the most popular color, red has come out as a surprising trend for spring 2013. Vera Wang's collection was entirely red with not a speck of white or ivory, running the gamut from scarlet to deep magenta. Oscar de la Renta, whose refreshing collection featured a lot of color (by bridal standards), also showed two red dresses.
What's turning these designers onto a color that in Western countries generally screams "sex!" and not "bride"? It might just have something to do with China's ever-increasing influence in the fashion world.
Vera Wang's collection was titled "Mei Meng" (with accompanying Chinese characters) which means, "Dream." Per the notes in Wang's spring 2013 lookbook:
Beautiful dream. The symbolism of Red. Boldly romantic, charming, protective, grand, seductive, sexy. From dahlia to scarlet, crimson and vermilion. A celebration of love.
Vera Wang's company is expanding in a big way into Asia--the company's expansion plans were just the subject of a lengthy piece in WWD earlier this month. Wang, who's Chinese, plans to introduce bridal into the Asian market first, because that's what she's best known for. A Vera Wang rep told WWD, "The emphasis on weddings is so strong here. So we feel really good about it.”
We spoke to Huang Hung, who writes the ChinaFile column in WWD, for some more insight into how Chinese brides dress and how western designers are navigating the culture.
"[The] Chinese believe that red brings fortune and luck, and the bride is traditionally expected to do exactly that for her husband," Hung said. "However, in most Chinese weddings, the bride changes 2-3 times. So she might start with a red Chinese dress, then a western dress, then [change] again."
And the Chinese are willing to spend a lot on elaborate weddings--it's a billion dollar industry there. "People organize weddings the same way marketing events are organized," Hung told us. "They splurge on the dress, the decor, the [food and beverages], and even pay to have [a] celebrity attend the wedding."
While Vera Wang is just now expanding into Asia, Oscar de la Renta has an established presence with stores in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Back in January he attended Dragon Week, an event held in Manhattan meant to introduce wealthy Chinese to American brands and retailers which they may not currently know. And in China it's all about the branding. Hung told us it wasn't so much the color of the dress that matters, but the name of the designer. "Vera Wang is well known in China, [so] people will buy her wedding dress as a status symbol in any color." But it makes sense that western designers looking for Chinese buyers would produce wedding gowns in the traditional color, especially since Chinese brides' taste is becoming more global and they're increasingly choosing western styles.
Still, these are New York-based designers who obviously feel red holds appeal for their US and European clientele as well. Would you wear a red wedding dress?