Mark your cals and take notes: Atlanta Apparel is back from April 13-17. While the all-encompassing event is the first word in discovering everything from ready to wear to lifestyle brands, did you know it’s also a hot ticket destination for bridal? Ahead of VOW | New World of Bridal (April 13-15), The Daily caught up with Justin Warshaw, CEO and creative director at globally-recognized brand, Justin Alexander. Warshaw, who is Atlanta Apparel’s Industry Achievement Award Winner for 2021, to get the lowdown on the trends to know.
Tell us what it’s like showing at VOW | The new World of Bridal.
I think it’s been about four or five years now that we’ve had a permanent space in Atlanta. We love it, because it’s immensely convenient. It’s such a great visit for buyers who want to get business done. When there’s not restrictions, there are great options for entertainment too. The team at IMC are also great collaborators. They bring in education for our buyers and help incentivize people to travel—that’s tremendous. Between previews and markets themselves, we’re using the space all the time. It’s become our number one place to write business seasonally!
Can you fill us in on the Justin Alexander backstory and your role?
The company was originally TMG Bridal. I joined the third generation business in 2008, with the goal of developing U.S. business. It was traditionally more of a European company, but now it’s 50/50. I always knew I was joining the family business. I gravitated towards the creative and commercial side after graduation—I knew diving into both would make me the optimal leader.
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You’ve won many awards and you’re Atlanta Apparel’s 2021 Industry Achievement Award Winner. What did this recognition mean to you?
That’s the ultimate honor: to win an industry achievement award when your back is against the wall and you’re just doing your best. We were challenged by restrictions and the changing market, so it was a huge honor to win this year, specifically.
It means a lot. We worked extremely hard: trying to be the best partner to our stores, providing them with more value and convenience, being flexible, being understanding and compassionate, helping them and being great business partners.
How did you continue to connect with customers during the pandemic?
We were hosting webinars, connecting with them and bringing multiple customers together. We were highlighting their success stories and learning from them, while sharing knowledge and information. We’ve also been doing virtual trunk shoes which has allowed us still introduce brides to the brand.
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What do you envision is ahead for the bridal fashion industry in 2021?
We’re in a unique position, because we’ve got low price to high price and everything from traditional to contemporary. Our dresses span from $600 to $12,000, which makes our demographic very broad and that’s something we’ve really been working on. There’s trends across every category, and there’s nothing that’s a surprise—I’ve been in the data so much! The wedding industry is always evolving and trends change, but I strongly believe that couples will want to celebrate coming out of this pandemic. There have been so many COVID engagements and couples that developed close bonds during the year, and as restrictions are lifted weddings will be quickly scheduled with families and friends coming together in big numbers.
Are you seeing any dress-related trends that have surprised you?
The assumption of everyone has been that brides are making sacrifices or that they’re wearing something informal or reducing their budgets. We’re actually not seeing that; we’re seeing no real shift in budget. We’re still selling dramatic ball gowns as it seems like no one is sacrificing the dress. Brides are still looking for a ‘wow moment’ and a dress that will look beautiful in any location, because it lives on forever. In 2021 we are seeing a swell of Sunday and weekday weddings as the demand is so high for venues. Additionally, I see destination wedding bookings increasing in 2022 as couples see it as a way to get back to travel, celebrate, and see family all at once! We are also seeing brides purchase for wear dates within eight weeks (they got a venue date and want to make their long-awaited wedding happen!) and others that are a year or more out. We are lucky to have planned for this and have deep inventory and quick service styles to help these brides that have wear dates right around the corner.
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What can people expect from Justin Alexander at this April market?
We’ll have our Spring Summer ‘22 collection and signature collection. This season, we wanted to do something to inspire our wholesale and our brides, and bring hope with something unique and special so we launched virtually with a very special piece that tells the story of COVID brides and engagements. We created it with Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia of the New York City Ballet. She acted it out through dance in an eight-minute film and it’s breathtaking. It came out better than I could ever have imagined! It’s about the gowns, but it’s more about the stories. Every time we launch from now on, I would like to have something attached to it—instead of shows, we’re thinking of how we can do a fulfilling project and connect to our core values. We’re no longer doing shows in New York for safety reasons, and we’ve found the industry isn’t really congregating there anymore. It’s easier and safer to be spread out [in Atlanta] with this space.
Watch ‘Dancing into Forever’ below:
Read more about Atlanta Apparel and what to expect from the April market here.