10 Minutes with… BHLDN

Anthropologie says ‘I Do’ to more creative bridal fashion with its new BHLDN online concept.

Do you, Anthropologie, take BHLDN to be your official bridal spinoff, allowing you to offer stylish advice and product to women seeking more unique wedding looks?

And will you, BHLDN, allow Anthropologie to provide you with a massive database of loyal customers, ever eager to share their favorite bridal picks with their friends on Facebook?
“We do.”

As more brides are redefining tradition, they’re scouring wedding and style blogs for ideas and using social media to share their finds with friends. To capitalize on this customer, Anthropologie has expanded its famously feminine/retro vibe with BHLDN (as in beholden), an online bridal shop/blog that might just be a match made in cyber-heaven. “Style advice, reassurance and second opinions” included.
Accessories spoke with Kristin Norris, managing director of BHLDN, about today’s bride and how this website—and upcoming BHLDN brick-and-mortar stores—will best serve her.
First, how hard was it to get this ready for the Valentine’s Day launch? Miss it and you’d have to wait till 2012!

What’s a launch without a bit of nail biting?

I wouldn’t call it hard— challenging is a better description—though it did require some serious focus to “go live” on such a specific and noteworthy day. But we were smitten with the connection to a day dedicated to love, and when we commit, we commit.

Is the less traditional bride a growing demographic?

Brides and couples have been seeking a more and more personalized wedding experience; this voice has been growing for some time now. The explosion of social media sites has created a supportive connecting point for brides looking for a bespoke experience—a place to inspire and be inspired—and that visibility has made this particular gap in the market more recognizable.

We created BHLDN in response to our own experiences, as well as those of family and friends. We felt women were looking for a brand to bring amazing, unexpected product, styling advice and inspiration together with a beautiful, soulful experience that encourages sharing and a sense of community. We want to be the trusted friend a woman comes to during her most anticipated occasions, whether she’s a bride, party-goer or party thrower.

Our bride has a vision about her wedding. Whether it’s an intimate gathering under the canopy of trees she played around as a child or a tented fete in a flowery field, there’s a consistent element—it will be hers and hers alone.

Are you advertising the connection with Anthropologie?

Our connection to Anthropologie is deeply rooted; we’re part of the same family, but sisters, not twins. BHLDN is a stand-alone brand with a unique perspective and a differentiated assortment. If Anthropologie is about the everyday special, BHLDN is about the moments beyond.

Is she seeking something not specifically “bridal” in nature?

She’s looking for an ensemble that fits into that very specific vision. Our gowns ($1,000 to $4,000) and dress assortment includes a take on tradition—but our tradition is re-imagined. We’ve gone beyond the gown and focused on party dresses and accessories—head to toe. We want our customer to come to us for all of life’s milestones and opportunities to dress up.

So you don’t even have to be a bride?

This is a brand about parties and celebratory events.

How would you define the accessories?

The accessories assortment is vintage-inspired, but decidedly modern. Artisans, ateliers and milliners including James Coviello, Jennifer Behr and Yestadt Millinery have crafted feathers, tulle and jewels into luxe headpieces (prices range from $55 to $825).  Jewelry designers like Erickson Beamon, Katie Diamond and Petra Domling offer baubles, from delicate to bold (ranging from $60 to $1,000). Included are limited and one-of-a-kind items.

[A quick perusal of the site unveiled an elegant assortment of shoes ($120 to $380); decorative shoe clips ($25 to $80); coverups including a ribboned bolero ($150), a feathered bolero ($350) and a Dutchess Lace Cape ($610); beaded clutches ($180 to $555); gloves ($40 to $100) and belts ($90 to $400)]. We’re working with a variety of different designers across our apparel

Will BHLDN also sell items for the bride creating or partly creating a Do It Yourself wedding?

She could be. We think of her as wanting to add personal touches and expressions of her personality. We’ll launch our decorations collection this month—it has the DIY appeal without the DIY time investment.

How will the site offer inspiration beyond merchandise?

Our EXPLORE section is our opportunity to share our inspirations and house interactive guides. It also has playful editorial pieces that express the brand’s point of view on weddings and events.

How do the MyBHLDN mood boards create a community?

The mood boards are a place to play, plan and share. You can create narratives with our images, your images or those you upload from any and accessories categories, and we imagine we’ll grow our guest designer and designer collaboration base as we learn about our customer’s proclivities. Our buyers seek out talented designers across the globe and our own backyard, and we will continue to bring our discoveries to the customer.

Do you do customized accessories? Say, five necklaces with a specific purple stone to match a purple bridesmaid dress?

We offer less expected options for brides and their maids; “perfectly matched” isn’t our oeuvre. Most women want to look like themselves when they stand by their close friend as she walks down the aisle. We think she’ll achieve this better by wearing a dress (and accessories) that flatter her as an individual, coordinates in a unique way with her fellow maids and still keeps the focus on the bride.

BHLDN suggests accessories pairings with gowns when a woman clicks through the site. How essential is that for a creative bride?

We’ve spent hours creating different looks with each gown and dress, and feel that there are endless mix-and-match options for brides to create. If they’d like styling help, we also have BHLDN stylists at the ready for advice, second opinions and reassurance. resource at all. You can create looks, themes, table top ideas, bridesmaid ideas, etc., and share them with the broader BHLDN group or email them to a friend. We want to give our customers a place to express their vision. You can comment on any public mood board, and you can follow certain creators—they’re really the start of our community. You can also shop our assortments from the mood boards, so in a sense they can operate as unofficial wish lists.

I assume there will be a strong social media component?

We’re endlessly inspired by bloggers, wedding planners, photographers, brides and the like. Social media is an important interaction point we’ll integrate throughout the brand.

And you’re opening a store too?

Our first store will open early fall (end of August) in Houston, Texas. We’re as excited about our physical store as we are about our virtual one. The shop will have a salon for event dresses, one for accessories, a room for lingerie, a room for decorations, and of course, a salon for gowns. We want the shop to feel effervescent. We want our customers to explore and experiment, to have fun dressing up and looking lovely.

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Lauren Parker, Editor, Accessories Magazine

As Editor of Accessories Magazine for the past 12 years, Lauren Parker has covered accessories both from a retail business perspective and a fashion point of view. In previous full-time magazine jobs and freelance gigs, she’s written about practically every angle of fashion lifestyle living, including women's fashion accessories, fine jewelry, Caribbean travel, private jets, Hampton’s real estate, the New York art scene, the bridal industry, men’s lifestyle and being a mom. She loves meeting designers and seeing how their latest offerings capture the current zeitgeist and fit into the entire cultural and social picture.

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