Dressed by an angel

Mon, 05/14/2007 - 13:18

We take a look at Alfred Angelo, the world's leading maker of wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses,

IN THE EARLY 1930s, along with many others Europeans during that time, an Italian called Alfred Angelo Piccione and his wife Edythe left Italy to start a new life in America. They started a small wedding dress company and today, some 75 years later, it's possibly the world's most successful wholesale brand. From the time the couple established themselves in Philadelphia, Alfred Angelo has grown to be one of the best established and well-loved bridal companies around with offices in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and Japan.
The design team is headed up by Michele Piccione who, along with her brother Vincent, took over the family business from their parents some years ago. When she started, Michele went to Rome and Paris to learn the secrets of designing the ultimate gown, something that she and her team have been creating for years. Twice a year the company launches new product lines including both the classic styles and those that are more of a fashion statement. The company also does extremely well with its informal and destination dresses - perfect of course for weddings in Italy. "We created these dresses for those not necessarily wanting the hassle of carrying a large dress abroad", says Philip Elson, Managing Director of Alfred Angelo UK: "We also realise that with warmer climates brides need a lighter fabric. These styles are also very popular with older brides and for those getting married a second or third time or someone getting married in a registry office who perhaps don't want lots of "bells and whistles".

Philip has been working at Alfred Angelo for 16 years and must have seen a lot of wedding dresses during that time, so what would he say the best-selling dress is? "Rather than a style, I would say that it's more about the colour. Ivory is always popular, more so than white, because it's kind on skin and looks very sophisticated. The trend recently is to add a touch of colour to the ivory base. We have 46 shades available and by December we'll be offering 55 colour accents." For anyone unsure about what might work for their gown and bridesmaid dresses Alfred Angelo has a wonderfully simple system online where you can alter the colour and style of bridesmaid dresses, if you'd like to make them from two separate pieces. This is guaranteed hours of fun!
"We also supply extra fabric to the bride if she wants the cravats and waistcoats of the groom and ushers to match the dresses. It can also be used for ribbons for the bouquet as well as for the hair and posies of the bridesmaids and flower girls. We even had a bride who ordered reams of additional material and had table cloths made out of it for the reception. I would have loved to have seen those pictures!" says Philip with a laugh. Alfred Angelo is fairly unique in the respect that it can easily offer this "additional material" service and this is because it runs it's own production line rather than subcontracting out as many companies do.


What are the dresses that brides should look out for this season? "New looks come and go", says Philip, "but what's really important is that the girl feels good in her dress. She should find something that works for her shape and size. Let's face it, what suits Kate Moss may not work on Dawn French. The bride-to-be needs to choose a dress that she feels comfortable in, because she'll be the centre of attention for the day. She'll need to find the dress that makes her feel like a million dollars." Doesn't Alfred Angelo have new styles that they would like to see brides wearing? "No. When a designer tells a bride what to wear I think it's wrong. This is the most important day of her life and when she looks in the mirror she'll just know if it's the right dress or not, regardless of what she may be told".
Wedding dresses at Alfred Angelo range between €400 and €1,000 and are available in all sizes. They have a plus size in all of the many styles available and can alter dresses to make them shorter or longer as the bride prefers. The dress fabric that's been very popular over the last twenty years is Duchess satin. "We find it's the best material to work with, is easy to make alterations and also doesn't crumple, which is good for brides taking their dresses abroad of course".
So having been in the industry for so many years, Philip Elson must enjoy his job? "It's a very friendly business to be in. There are some days that are more pressured than others obviously, but it's nice to know that I make thousands of women happy every day and not many men can say that!" www.alfredangelo.com