In an industry that is centered around love, we find inspiration all around us. From seeing the upcoming season’s design sketches, just as the pen has been lifted from the paper and the final sequin imagined into place to unzipping the garment bags and being enchanted by the glitter, lace, and magic of a new season of gowns. From the heart-warming stories we hear from our retailers of brides saying yes to the dress to all of the beautiful images and #JAbride love stories we get every day from all of you. It’s what motivates us and keeps us alive and in love with what we do each day.
Here we take a look back at 2016 with appreciation and gratitude for the lessons we learned, the beauty we created, and the love we made happen. And we know that with open hearts we’ll start the new year starry-eyed and hopeful for the beautiful adventure 2017 will bring.
What we saw…
We’re lucky enough that our work demands that we are always on the move. We outfit brides in over 60 countries, and so our inspiration and ideas must be as diverse. Our design team traveled across the world, from the UK to Taiwan, paying visits to our offices in the Netherlands and Hong Kong and London to bring inspiration and diversity to each one of our designs. The love and care they put into every gown has been felt and appreciated by so many brides and has made so many steps down the aisle over the years.
This year at Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week, we saw our Spring 2017 collection promenade down the runway for the first time that season and were moved by the sway of new fabrications, enchanted by the sparkle in every delicately-placed crystal, and inspired by the smile on guests faces as we watched them fall in love with our creations. We saw our team, tired but proud, sharing glasses of rioja and tapas at Quimet y Quimet while we celebrated the launch of another beautiful season of designing, learning, and supporting each other. At market in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Las Vegas, we saw retailers interacting with our product for the first time and writing orders in confident hope that you will say “yes” and fall in love, all over again, in one of our gowns.
What we listened to…
Music is an integral part of our personal and professional lives. Most days you can hear our office walls filled with anything from Miles Davis’s thoughtful jazz to Gareth Emery’s energizing beats, the classic and timeless tunes from Tom Petty to the Jack Garratt’s progressive musings. We’ve pulled together each of our top 5 most listened to songs from Spotify this year and compiled it into this motley playlist to give you a peek into what’s been in our ears –listen now. This playlist inevitably reflects the diversity within our office walls that helps keep the energy alive and our creative energy flowing. (The office coffee pot helps a bit too.)
What we learned…
We learned that there is no limit to our own capabilities, as we are surrounded by inspiring women each day. From female CEOs to the stay-at-home moms that raised us. From the caretakers with hearts that are always open to the thinktankers who keep our minds moving forward. We learned that in today’s self-starting and entrepreneurial atmosphere, so many women are paving their own way and redefining success, especially in our industry, from the inspiring bloggers, photographers, wedding planners and innovators we work with. We learned that the glass ceiling is only a starting point as our dreams and abilities are truly limitless. We learned that while a wedding dress walks a bride down the aisle, a pantsuit helps her climb the proverbial ladder. We learned trends are fleeting, but true beauty and confidence are eternal. We learned, again and again and again, that the designs we create are only the catalyst that leads to a lifetime of love and learning and that a dress of course is just a dress without the women who make it come alive. And we learned that making a change, being part of a movement, and believing in ourselves, our dreams, and our love starts with saying “I do.”
What we cared about…
Having an office in NYC, it’s easy to get lost and caught up in the busyness of it all. Charitable works too often turns into giving spare change to buskers and beggars and subway break dancers alike. But in a city this big, the need is exponentially bigger, and never too far out of our reach.
This year, we wanted to prioritize giving back right here in New York and far beyond the concrete jungle. Through the volunteer app Deed, we joined forces, put on hairnets, and spent a day feeding the homeless in the East Village. Having the opportunity to serve even a fraction of the over 60,000 homeless people in our city reminded us of how fortunate we are, and helped open our eyes to the people we pass every day who need our help.
Just as the temperatures began to drop, we held an in-office coat drive- remembering that shivering from the frigid weather and fierce wind that cuts through our coats from the subway to the office door doesn’t compare to spending a night, or every night, on these often unforgiving streets.
Beyond New York, the US charities we give our hearts to each year include the American Cancer Society, Children’s Research Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, Starlight Children’s Foundation, and The Smile Train. We know that the best way to give love is to share love, from the city we live in to the lives we are honored to be a part of.
What inspired us…
We’ve been in the business of love for a long time, yet not a day goes by that we aren’t reminded of just how much we love what we do. What inspires us is all of you and the way you love. We read love stories from marriages between high school sweethearts to those love-at-first-sight sometimes-you-just-know romances, from lost loves that were rekindled, and from a lucky right-swipe that swept you off your feet. Two of our favorite stories from this year are below.
From #JAbride Aimee in Northern Ireland
Matthew and I are childhood sweethearts. I was with him since I was 14 (I’m now 27) Matthew was 15. We parted at university for a year or two then got back together. I was and always have been part of his family and vice versa, even when we split up. We are both very lucky to have such amazingly close families.
I always wanted something different for my wedding, living in Northern Ireland it’s hard to find somewhere that you haven’t been before. My parents have been going to South Africa for years and each year I was amazed by their stories and photos, it was always somewhere Matthew and I wanted to go. It was a big decision to have our wedding there as we knew that a lot of people who we wanted to be there wouldn’t be able to go. But we certainly don’t regret it! Plus I got to wear my amazing JA dress twice when we had a home party We also had a little surprise after we booked our wedding that I was pregnant with my daughter Lily, of course that didn’t stop us! I thankfully still managed to squeeze into my JA dress.. Determination at its best! At 7 months old she had been to one of the greatest places on earth!
We got married in Knysna Elephant Park. Married in a straw ‘lapa’ as they call it over there and It was absolutely breathtaking. The reception took place right beside the lapa, outside under a tent above the forest.. Words can’t describe! There were rangers who helped out with the pics for the elephants but they were so friendly it was unreal. As a surprise for our guests, we got on the elephants for the entrance to the reception. I had to pull my dress right up over my hips to get on; thankfully my JA dress is elephant proof!
It wasn’t just my wedding, it was one big indescribable holiday of a lifetime that I got to spend with 55 of my family and friends. Not to mention an unbelievably talented photographer who travelled the whole way with me from Northern Ireland! I can’t explain how breathtaking South Africa is and I would encourage everyone to visit!
And our favorite story from “Inside The Bridal Boutique” comes from Ella Park Bridal in Newburgh, Indiana
Hannah is a dear friend of mine. She contacted me and told me that she was going to get married in a month. As a bridal consultant, you want to ask, “Are you crazy?!” Her fiancé, Owen was in the Navy and found out he was being deployed, and they wanted to be married when he did. Not only was the wedding date fast approaching, but she lived in Hawaii and needed to find a dress when she came back home for a week. Okay, now we were talking about really crazy, but I told her that I would do anything to make it happen.
When Hannah came to visit, she talked about how she wanted to find the perfect destination gown for the beach—something simple and lightweight. I had another thing in mind. I asked her to slip on the Justin Alexander  silk ball gown. She and everyone in her party now thought I was the crazy one. A silk ball gown on the beach? As soon as she put it on though, we all knew it was “the one.” There is something so special about how this gown drapes, its long train, and how the light hits the silk… it is magical. And you could see that in her photos; they take your breath away. If she would have worn anything else, it would not have been the same.
The best part? The dress was luckily in stock in her size, purchased on Saturday, and by Wednesday, it was delivered to the store. In normal circumstances, brides would also not start their alterations until two to three months prior to the wedding, but Hannah was our exception. Sharon, our Alterations Specialist, is a veteran and was compelled to help expedite the process. She had her first fitting on Thursday, second fitting on Friday and was back on the plane to Hawaii on Saturday.
It is moments like these… that makes mine… and all of our jobs in the bridal industry worthwhile.
From our family to yours, here’s to another year in love.