Over the years, shopping for elegantly-stitched wedding dresses in Kenya has changed. With new talented designers aiming to shake up the wedding market, buying is gradually shifting to Nairobi stores.
Independent designers such as Peggy Onyango, who owns PeggyO fashion brand, Nkatha Karauri, a designer at Ihsani Culture, and Ogake Mosomi of Ogake Bridal, are competing with bridal boutiques that sometimes stock a limited number of styles and sizes.
But as the coronavirus takes its toll on the luxury industry, it has changed the game for the designers.
For brides, shopping for a wedding dress is normally very much an in-person experience. It starts with multiple visits to boutiques or seamstresses to try on gowns, often with the best maid, mum, close confidant—or all of them. Then there are the fittings and alterations, as well as appointments to choose the dainty shoes and accessories.
With most brides not able to make multiple visits to stores, the gown makers are reaching them online.
Last week, Peggy, Ogake, and Nkatha held a ‘weddings hangout’ hosted on Pendo Village’s Facebook, a live chat where they got to answer questions from brides-to-be. The designers say they have been having virtual meetings with new/potential brides. But for brides whose gowns were already in progress, they have to come in for physical meetings.
“The pandemic has affected clients, especially those who had set their wedding dates for April and May. However, we keep working on their gowns, leaving room for any adjustments if needed,” Ogake said. According to Nkatha, the beauty with bespoke wedding gowns, despite the uncertainties of Covid-19, is that it can easily be adjusted.
“We leave allowances, even up to two inches, just in case the bride needs adjustments made. On the other hand, made-to-wear dresses mean complete alterations, that’s not cheap,” she said.
“Ordinarily, I charge a client who comes back for adjustments to their gowns after they had picked and fitted. However, in these uncertain times, we’re making changes at no cost at all,” Ogake adds.
The live video allows brides-to-be to ask questions that are promptly replied. Globally, bridal wear designers are going online to offer styling suggestions and professional advice to potential buyers, be it how to take measurements at home to what undergarments to wear with a particular dress.
Efua Muthoni asked, “Any advice on choosing between skin tone tulle and another coloured tulle when going for a translucent/illusion neckline/sleeves?”
“Skin tone serves the purpose of appearing sheer on the parts you want it to. It is, in the end, a matter of preference when you see it next to your skin, in combination with the fabric to be used. A consultation would help clear this for you,” replied Ihsani Culture.
Carol Ndung’u commented, “It is good that Ogake, Nkatha, and Peggy have chosen to accommodate brides. It is the next best thing at a wedding after the husband. The most expensive dress any woman will ever own? I will say bespoke all the way.”