The Sustainable Bride and the future of weddings

09 Mar 2021

We chat to Madeline Castagnéra-Bond of The Sustainable Bride about the impact of fast fashion and the future of weddings

Image gallery

Image gallery

Inspired by her love of vintage fashion and pre-loved clothing, Madeline Castagnéra-Bond created The Sustainable Bride to offer a new lease of life to pre-owned wedding dresses.

"The reworked dress process is the heart of what I do", Madeline explains. "Brides come to me with a dress that’s been previously worn by a family member or something they’ve found but doesn’t quite work for them. We discuss ideas together and conceive the concept for their new dress. 

"One of my most inspiring projects was bride, Fran, who came to me with a sari her mum had worn in 1968 which was ivory silk with real gold embroidery. Fran wanted to keep the essence of the sari but in a more traditional wedding dress shape. We used every inch of the sari to create a dress with a hand pleated empire line bodice, skirt and train which was edged in the beautiful gold embroidery band from the sari."

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Fran on her wedding day wearing her dress by Madeline at The Sustainable Bride 

Famously, Princess Beatrice wore the Queen’s Norman Hartnell dress for her wedding to Count Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi on July 17 2020 sparking lots of interest in sustainable wedding dresses - inspiring many brides-to-be to buy second-hand or sustainable dresses for their big day. This secondhand and sustainable choice caused a surge in searches for the term “vintage wedding dress” which were up 297% in the 48 hours following the royal wedding.

As a result,  “vintage fashion” generated an average of more than 35K monthly searches last year, while online fashion searches for secondhand-related keywords increased 104% (according to Lyst). 

"I think brides are choosing more sustainable and eco-friendly dresses as we are much more aware of our impact on the climate", says Madeline. "During the pandemic we’ve slowed down and I think we’ve all had time to reflect on what’s important. Brides are making conscious decisions whether to choose a garment which has been responsibly made, a vintage, preloved piece or something they could wear again.

"I always encourage my brides to pass on their dresses afterwards. One of my bespoke brides recently donated her dress back to me and the dress has already been incorporated into another two dresses so far."

However, another impact to the coronavirus pandemic has been the rise in high-street retailers releasing fast-fashion bridal collections to meet brides budgets after experiencing financial impacts from extended furlough or job losses while trying to plan their wedding. 

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Madeline's passion for trawling through rails to find beautiful, preloved pieces inspired her to create a place to repurpose wedding dresses

"Fast-fashion brands making wedding dress collections is a real worry from an environmental point of view", says Madeline. "The dresses are likely to have been made with a high rate of production for low profit and are unlikely to have been made with either sustainable fabrics or ethical work practices.  With brides needing to feel individual on their wedding day, there is always going to be overstock of these pieces. This contributes to the huge stockpile of unworn garments produced by these companies and the culture of throw-away fashion that many fast-fashion brands perpetuate."

With around 200,000 weddings postponed since March 2020, there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown back on Feburay 22 -  with wedding ceremonies and receptions for up to 15 people once again resuming from April 12, with that number rising to 30 hopefully from May 17 and then restrictions on numbers finally lifted from June 21. 

However, with these dates not set in stone, and no mention of the wedding industry in the budget announcement on March 3, Madeline says: "I think that for most companies in the bridal sector, the Government’s roadmap announcement for the future of weddings this season is not what we wanted to hear. Wedding companies cannot be considered to be ‘open’ if they are catering for 6-30 people, as this is such a small proportion of the number they are usually catering for. After what will be 16 months of closure, I think a lot of businesses may not survive. 

"The second blow for the wedding industry was being ignored in the budget. As a predominantly female led business sector, many people are working from home or small studios and flex their time with childcare. More help should have been offered aside from the basic self employment grants.  

"All that being said, I really do hope that from the 21st of June people can celebrate one of the most important days of their lives, free from restriction and that the industry can truly restart again."

For more information, visit The Sustainable Bride website

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