Bridal and occasionwear designer Kate Halfpenny tells Drapers about how her business is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, and supporting legions of brides in the process.
Being a client-facing business, the impact of lockdown has been the main issue. We’ve had to close all three of our London buildings – the boutique, atelier and head office – and my team have started working remotely from home.
We’ve had to cancel all face-to-face appointments, and have therefore closed off our revenue stream. We’ve also seen the devastation it’s caused to our brides as their weddings have been postponed and rescheduled for much later in the year or next year. We’re fortunate that we manufacture in the UK, so we haven’t had to worry about importing any of our products or dealing with the inevitable delays there.
My team have been incredible, and we’ve been in touch with our brides on a daily basis, offering support and working with them as they navigate moving their wedding date.
We’re also on hand to offer advice and inspiration to women who haven’t found their dress yet, and are using their time at home to do research into suppliers they like. Virtual or phone consultations are proving popular and we’re nurturing those relationships for the future.
We’re working with all of our customers and taking each case on an individual basis. We’re simply doing everything we can to support people during this traumatic time when they have to change the date of the wedding that they may have been planning for years.
We haven’t come across anyone who’s completely cancelled their wedding yet, but many are taking shape in a completely different way than was imagined.
For example, some of our brides are now getting married in a different season than they originally planned, so we’re working with them and giving styling advice and support where needed. My staff have been amazing at holding their hand through this and giving brides the confidence and reassurance that they’re still going to look and feel incredible.
The seamstresses have been working from home so that production can continue, and we plan to draft in more staff when we reopen so we can accommodate all the last-minute requests for those new clients who may find themselves in a rush through no fault of their own.
We’re doing everything we can to make sure we have the processes in place to expedite these orders and make sure brides have the dress of their dreams.
I don’t feel that bridal is more exposed that other industries, and I think the high street is struggling more. Because we are a made-to-order business, we’re not left with surplus stock without an outlet to sell it, so I think we’re in a very fortunate position. We run our business very nimbly and considerately, which I believe is really helping us in this time of crisis.
We’ve lost one of our biggest-selling quarters, so we’re obviously going to feel that financially. I feel that now is the time for us to show what we’re made of, and an authentic outlook will be welcome and remembered for years to come. As always, we’re taking a very personal approach with our clients, and this will remain a huge positive when we are able to get back to business as usual. Operationally, we’re going to look at how we can facilitate shorter lead orders in the future.