One of the most pleasurable yet difficult processes of working in a bridal boutique is when the time comes to choose the next seasons dresses from your designers. Alongside from ensuring we are able to offer our brides a diverse collection which hopefully offers a selection for a variety of ages, body shapes, style and fit, it is also a time for the designers to thank us for being their customer. These events are the designers ‘showcases’ and we have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel a little for this and to be, well let’s say a little ‘spoiled’. A perk of an already very rewarding job. But then Covid-19 happened and like so many of you, the way we work has had to change, including the process of buying our collection.

On Tuesday this week, we set off down the M1 to Milton Keynes to visit Justin Alexander, the designer of our ‘Lillian West’ collection. This is the first of this kind of event since March and we thought we would share how buying has changed.

Pre Covid-19 times these showcases would be part of a huge event featuring many different designers, there are two a year, one in Harrogate and one in London. Each designer has an area for their range and you arrive and browse at your leisure. Refreshments are on tap, the rooms are styled to perfection and the dresses are being modelled by real woman so you have the opportunity to ask to see certain dresses on, see how they move, fit, catch the light (all the things that give a dress it’s magic). We would each make a shortlist of the ones we loved and then sit with a coffee (and a cake) and go through our lists, discussing the individual elements we loved for each design and how it would be a good addition to our current collection. Some we agree on and some we don’t but eventually we arrive at a final list (this takes some work). We sit down with our account manager and place our order, maybe enjoying a drink and a few sweets at the same time. We get a little goody bag to take home and we are done – it is a stressful but very enjoyable process.

This time was a little different. Numbers are monitored so we must arrive at our allocated time, we put on our face coverings and use the hand gel and make our way to the exhibition room. Under the new guidelines the dresses sadly cannot be modelled by real people but are beautifully presented with all the details we need, images are available on iPads however the Wi-Fi is less than perfect, so this takes time. As usual we have a list ready of the dresses, we think are potential, this is made beforehand from a presentation online (a bit like homework) so we have an idea of what we want to look at. We spend time together going over the dresses, feeling the fabric, checking how it will feel against the brides skin, notice the fine design details which make the dress unique and how ‘wearable’ it is in reality – there is a lot to consider.


After a good time focusing on the dresses, we take a break – but instead of refreshments laid on we have coffee vouchers so we head to the bar and order, we sit down, remove our face coverings and talk. We get together a shortlist and return to check we’re happy with our selection, minds are often changed at this point so when were are happy we place our order – at this point we are already excited to take delivery of our dresses and see them on our brides, our job is done.

Covid-19 HAS changed the way we buy, no doubt about it, it is different. But one thing we did find on this visit was the support and passion felt for the Wedding Industry. From talking to designers who were on hand to offer advice, to other boutique owners facing the same challenges we are, to the team working at Justin Alexander who’s roles have changed since the pandemic, everyone is feeling the same, which somehow gives comfort. One thing stands out, we are all looking forward to picking up where we left off in March. Maybe with a few lessons learned but with more passion and excitement than before. After all, as we all keep being reminded, LOVE ISN’T CANCELLED.