Top local designers are unfazed by the rise of ready-to-wear designer bridal shops in Manila.
“I’m not affected, not at all,” says Albert Andrada, who was reached to comment on the opening of Vera Wang Bride in Manila. “Cary (Santiago) and I have talked about it, and he would tell you, too, no. What we offer is different.”
Andrada and Santiago are two of the country’s most in-demand bridal couturiers, whose skills and elaborate couture techniques were honed through years of working in Dubai, designing for the wealthy women of the Gulf states.
“Filipinos are used to custom-made,” says Andrada. “They require you to be there for all meetings, from start to finish. That’s what they pay for, your personal attention. In an RTW shop, you just meet with the salesperson. It’s different.”
And he’s not referring to the price point. At Vera Wang in Manila, bridal dresses go from P200,000 to a high of P700,000. Andrada’s custom-designed bridalwear starts at P250,000.
“Clients demand your hands-on attention here,” he adds. “I send my girls to dress up the bride, but when they’re done, I’m there. I even go to the church, to make sure everything is perfect before she walks down the aisle. It’s very personal. I get emotional when I see the bride in a dress I made.”
James Reyes, one of the edgier young designers, says the bridal dress is usually the client’s first couture dress, so that is factored in when they decide on a dress.
“They want something special, one that’s made just for them,” says Reyes. Since most clients come with pegs, usually by foreign designers, he says the bigger challenge for him is to make a design that’s original, but would still appeal to the client.
“When you go to one of the senior designers, for instance, you can really see the advantage. You realize why you pay that much,” Reyes adds. “If you’re an Inno Sotto bride, you will see the difference. He changes the scenario.”
Bridal RTW is a concept that works well in countries where there’s no easy access to designers, like the United States, notes Andrada.
But even then, he still has bridal clients from the United States who want a dress that’s not from a catalog.
Andrada has had brides come to him unhappy with what they bought off-the-rack.
Brides, he adds, have this mistaken notion that if a certain dress looked great on a celebrity, it will look the same on them.
“I have women who come to me and say they want to look like Miss Universe,” says Andrada, who famously made the blue dress Pia Wurtzbach wore when she won the title.
“I try to humor them. ‘Feel’ lang ha?” he adds with a laugh.
“I’m happy that a Vera Wang has opened here,” Andrada says. “It’s good for the country, but it’s just a different market.”