Up the Motorway to Harrogate!
I’ll be honest, I’m not great first thing in the morning so a 5am alarm call on Sunday wasn’t the best start to my day. Once I’d hit snooze (twice) and remembered why I was waking up this early I can’t say that I bounded out of bed (being 40something means you don’t “bound” anywhere especially not first thing in the morning!) but I did move with more vigour than normal.
Myself and Sarah were heading to the Bridal Mecca that is Harrogate. Twice a year designers flock
from all over the world to this beautiful spa town to showcase their forthcoming collections and
designs. We are really proud of the relationships that we have with our UK based designers and it’s a
great opportunity to catch up both professionally and personally with them whilst saying hello to
fellow bridal boutique owners from all over the country.
My trusty Fiat 500 (complete with tyre, oil and water check done) pootled up the M1 with ease and,
as it appears not being great in the morning runs in the family, conversation didn’t start flowing with
my sister until about an hour later at our coffee break half way up the motorway. We made it to
Harrogate in good time (I think the only other people on the road at this time of the morning were
fellow bridal boutique owners and caravans), headed to the hotel to drop of the car and take the
short 10 minute walk to the Convention Centre. Thankfully, it was a glorious morning and we could
still see the morning dew on the grassy downs. I could still see the morning dew 20 minutes later as
the walk from the hotel had obviously been timed by someone who had much longer legs than me
but I was wearing comfortable shoes in anticipation of a busy day so, in the words of the late great
Terry Wogan, mustn’t grumble….
We had a slightly different focus this year as we were supporting one of our designers, Tian from
Phoenix Gowns. As a fellow small business owner Tian runs a tight ship so when big exhibitions
occur she will draft in support from stockists. Who better to promote your business than satisfied
I’ve not been on “this side of the fence” before so felt excited yet nervous in equal measure. I was
looking forward to meeting and putting faces to the names of other British Bridal Retailer Association
members and also meeting and connecting with new retailers. Being part of a small business can
sometimes be isolating so it’s great to have wider connections to discuss business challenges with
and share ideas. Also working with Tian were her two gorgeous models, Alana and Emily, along with
fellow stockist Julie and Elena from Yorkshire. Not forgetting husband, Geoff, who was on hand for
geography checks and refreshment support! Quick team brief later and we were ready to go.
The day passed in something of a whirl, Emily and Alana were kept incredibly busy modelling the
dresses and proving that, once again if it doesn’t look good on the hanger it will look amazing when
filled with womanly curves! I had fantastic opportunities to meet, help and give advice to new
business owners (shout out to Tanya who is opening her boutique soon!) and chat with existing
stockists about how our businesses are developing and growing. We may be choosing from the same
collection but what is popular in one area of the UK may not do so well in other areas and it was
fascinating to compare notes on what brides are looking for.
We finished our day with a front row table and complimentary bottle of Prosecco as Tian was
showcasing her gowns in the Fashion Show (we are normally in the cheap seats at the back so this
was a real treat). I always love the Fashion Shows as it gives a glimpse into the new collections from
a variety of designers and the dramatic staging and models professionalism never disappoints.
After a full day on my feet the “10 minute” walk back to the hotel became a 40 minute hobble when I
fell over after leaving the restaurant. Trying valiantly to save myself I flayed around (I wouldn’t have
looked out of place at a 1990’s Acid House Rave) but to no avail and ended up face down on the
pavement with my handbag a couple of feet away. Sarah hurried to my handbags rescue, after all it
did have her iPad in it and once she had confirmed said device wasn’t broken attempted to assist me.
I say attempted as she was laughing so much that she could barely stand up straight. Thankfully,
there was only a young man in the bus stop opposite, who was fully immersed in his iPhone, to
notice my embarrassment and as I was wearing tights and Bridget Jones pants this was minimised
I wouldn’t mind but I was wearing Clark’s sandals.
A number of our contemporaries were off to the Bridal Buyer Award Ceremony, parties and soirees
thrown by the designers or just catching up with friends but, flagging somewhat after our early start,
we made it back to the hotel for about 10.30pm and sat in bed with a hot chocolate and ginger
biscuit each reflecting on the day. Bridal doesn’t get much more rock n roll than this….
After a hearty hotel breakfast we started our “10 minute walk” arriving in plenty of time to catch up
with a few of our designers, Twilight, Justin and Ashley along with House of Nicholas, before the
doors officially opened. Once again, the day flashed by in a whirl of satin, tulle and hand beaded
delights and before I knew it 6pm had come and gone and we were headed back down the M1.
I always enjoy my time in Harrogate and it was great to experience it from a different perspective. I
met small business owners from all over the UK whose bride demographic varied considerably but
the overriding constant factor was the underlying passion to provide exceptional customer service
for all our brides. I was introduced to boutique owners who pour their heart and soul into creating
memorable experiences and who can instantly recall brides names and the dresses they wore.
Boutique bridal is one of the only high street retail experiences where personal one to one service
still exists. Where your Bridal Consultant will have full knowledge of fabrics and dress construction
along with a personal relationship with the designer. They can offer an end to end service from
choosing your dress to potentially making changes to reflect your theme and ensuring a truly
bespoke dress to dressing the bridal party on the big day itself. They truly love their jobs and this
passion shines through.
It was definitely worth the “10 minute” walk and I still maintain that, despite being over 40, I fell
rather than “had a fall” despite what Sarah says!