In January 2002, Mark Ingram Atelier opened on New York’s Upper East Side. Over the past 10 years, the intimate and elegant bridal salon has become the go-to shop for brides. With an eye for talented designers and the knowledge of how to create an exciting and unique experience, Mark Ingram and his Atelier have been praised as one of the city’s top salons by brides and members of the fashion and bridal press alike.
In honour of the Atelier’s 10th anniversary, Mark shared with us his advice for wedding dress shopping, styling tips and what has changed in bridal fashion over the past decade. Here’s what he had to say:
Over the past 10 years, is there and advice that you’ve been consistently giving to brides?
I have always advised my brides to be true to themselves and their own personal style. A woman’s wedding day is not the time to re-invent herself. A bride should strive to look her personal best, not create someone new. Remember, you want the groom to recognise the woman he fell in love with.
Have there been any styles that you see selling every year?
We have a few classic Monique Lhuillier lace sheath gowns that we have kept in our inventory. Monique was the first—and the best—to create the body hugging, low-back lace gown. Given Monique’s construction, this style works on so many figure types and can be appropriate for many different venues. With the introduction of satin, beaded and now horsehair sashes and belts, it is easy to update this style for today’s brides.
How has the collection of gowns the salon carries varied over the years?
Our gown selection has slowly evolved over the years. I would never have imagined selling a $20,000 gown in our early years, but now we do it quite frequently! While this is by no means our average price point, I am much more comfortable carrying gowns in that price point now. I believe it is not so much the bride’s economic status that has changed in the last 10 years, but rather the importance placed on the wedding gown. These days, brides are willing to spend more on their gown at the sacrifice of other elements of the wedding, such as size. My brides are very sophisticated and it is important for them to have a gown that truly defines their style. As for styles, we certainly have more ball gowns and bling dresses than we used to!
What can a bride expect when visiting the Mark Ingram Atelier?
One of the most important elements of the bride’s experience at my Atelier is for them to feel comfortable and relaxed from their first try-on to their final fitting. This has been the primary goal for my staff since day one. A bride should never feel pressured or intimidated when selecting her gown. My consultants are trained to help a bride find a gown that works best for her at her budget. We are a full-service, luxury atelier, and that requires that we be supportive of the bride through every step of her gown purchase so that she will look back happily on her experience with us. My brides often stay in touch with their consultants, and sometimes even invite them to their wedding.
How much should a bride take trends into consideration when shopping for her wedding dress? And what are some of the biggest trends in bridal right now?
It really depends on how much trends influence them in their day-to-day style. Are you a girl who wouldn’t be caught dead in last year’s shoes, or someone who opts for high-end classics you can wear for years? Your wedding day style is a reflection of your true everyday style. There will be brides who opt for the colour trend with an all-black Vera Wang gown, and some others who will be attracted to the subtle black-and-white trend from more classic designers like Carolina Herrera. Many current trends are retro looks that have been brought back, such as the peplum trend we are seeing now. So really, they are all classic looks without being too trendy. Except puffy sleeves—I don’t see them coming back!
In addition to bridal you’ve expanded into evening wear. What can a mother of the bride expect when shopping at your Atelier?
Our evening wear has really taken off. We are carrying more designers and styles than ever before. We have also found that many mother’s need the same type of service and personalised attention that our bride’s need—without taking anything away from the bride, of course. This is a big day for our mothers, too! Many are nervous about being the second most noticeable woman in the room. We want them to feel as comfortable and confident as possible so they can relax and enjoy the day. I advise our moms to trust our consultants; they know what shapes and styles can flatter different figures and complexions. They are truly working in their best interest.
Can you share some tips on how to shop for and accessorise a reception dress?
The reception dress, or second dress, is a trend we first noticed about eight years ago. It went away briefly early during the recession, but now it’s back in a big way. Many times, a bride wants to transform her look from a more traditional, formal style during the ceremony to a sexier, bolder look for the reception. Sometimes this is accomplished with a second gown, sometimes with a change of accessories. A change of jewellery, adding a beaded belt or sash, and removing a bolero can truly transform a gown from one look to another. Many designers now offer “transformation” gowns that can have a long removable skit over a shorter one. We also see many brides who simply fall in love with two gowns and can’t decide; so they get them both! With receptions getting longer and after parties now a regular part of the evening, the second gown is a trend that is here to stay.