For many, June was a month that promised flowers. It offered visions of vows being exchanged, of couples cutting cakes. Ed Sheeran would have soundtracked so many ceremonies.
But for now, these dream weddings have remained exactly that: a dream. Couples have had to concede to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marriage will have to wait; it’s hard to say “’til death do us part” while standing a metre apart. It’s even harder for brides-to-be, burdened with the Herculean task of finding the perfect gown.
Thankfully, they’re not alone. In these turbulent times, bridal boutiques in Singapore have found a new role: “To be a friend,” says Ang Jin Yuan, owner of The Ivory. Her sentiments are echoed by Linda Chan, who, together with her sister Michelle, founded Truly Enamoured.
“Our purpose at such times is to be a helping hand and cheerleader [for brides], bringing even greater joy and support to their wedding planning journey,” says Linda.
Being a friend is a full-time job, and both The Ivory and Truly Enamoured are fully committed. While their boutiques are temporarily closed, the two remain always accessible. “Communicating with our brides have become one of our main focuses,” shares Linda. “As a team, we are even tighter than ever. We wear multiple hats at once, making sure to come up with solutions to every problem.”
When Jin Yuan launched her bridal businesses in January, little did she know that she would be running so much of it online. “Whenever there are new enquiries or concerns from our brides, we continue to attend to them — these days mostly via DMs, emails, WhatsApp messages and Zoom sessions,” she says. “In fact, I found that we have forged deeper connections as we exchange tips and advice.”
But what about the gowns themselves? Enter the virtual fitting appointment, the bridal industry’s solution to social distancing measures. Instead of a boutique, brides now try on their wedding dresses in the comfort of their homes.
“They get to choose three of their favourite designs, which we’ll deliver to their doorstep,” explains Neo Li Rong, who helms the bridal gown rental studio White Trousseau. “During a virtual fitting session, our stylist discusses measurements, alterations and recommendations. Once fittings are done, we’ll pick up the dresses.”
Truly Enamoured follows a similar modus operandi, hosting its “Home Boutique” virtual styling sessions over video conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Meets. “They are especially helpful for brides who are currently based overseas,” says Linda. “Our stylists shortlist a set of gowns, which will be worn by a model of similar size and height as the bride. Over the session, brides get to view the movement, flow, texture and colours of our gowns.”
“We want to have the virtual experience as close to our in-boutique experience as we can have,” she adds.
That may be a little tricky for The Ivory, which prides itself on its “experiential” styling service. “That’s one reason why we don’t wish to fully transit online,” says Jin Yuan. “I think the onsite ‘magic moment’ [of a bride discovering her dream dress] is irreplaceable.”
Still, Jin Yuan understands the allure of technology. The Ivory is now exploring an online Augmented Reality feature, which will allow brides to visualise how different styles of gowns look on them. “The [circuit breaker] has emphasised the need to digitalise,” she says. “This feature will add a fun element, while also saving time and effort — it’s rather tiring to try on so many gowns!”
The circuit breaker has also emphasised another thing: compassion. In recent months, the bridal industry has shown as much care to the community as it has to its clients. Style Lease, The Ivory’s sister label, has sold face masks and donated all proceeds to the Migrant Workers Assistance Fund. White Trousseau distributed 1,000 ear savers to healthcare workers, easing the toll of wearing masks all day long.
Truly Enamoured, likewise, gave back to front-liners with its Healthcare Heroes initiative, gifting three of them with a designer gown to rent for their wedding. “The initiative is a small token of appreciation,” says Linda. “Some of our brides are healthcare workers themselves and were assigned to be in the frontlines. We would like to thank these women for their unwavering strength in caring for those who have been ill.”
“We empathise with our brides and all brides everywhere who have had to make incredibly difficult decisions to postpone or even cancel their wedding plans,” she adds. “We believe love is not cancelled.”
In a month marked by an outpouring of generosity, it’s hard to believe otherwise.
Header photo credit: Antelope Studios, courtesy of The Ivory