Acknowledged as the largest and most established buying event in the bridal industry, The Harrogate Bridal Show has been running for over 35 years and has a very interesting history.
The Harrogate Fashion Fair organised by Brintex was a hugely successful exhibition held in Harrogate in March and September. Exhibitors from all over the world showed their collections from the main halls, the hotels, various marquees and even restaurants. Very few bridal company names that we know today exhibited.
In 1983 six companies including Margaret Lee and Hilary Morgan broke away from the main halls and set up a small show in the basement of the St George Hotel, before moving uphill to the Old Swan Hotel.
In the meantime, The Harrogate Fashion Fair was going through a demise and gradually companies moved to the larger facility of the NEC. The bridal industry called an open meeting in London to decide on the best course of action, where they elected to stay in Harrogate and form their own event in the surrounding hotels, then known as The Harrogate Bridal Exhibition.
A key moment in the show’s history was when the decision was made to move the event from the hotels into the convention centre. It was proving difficult for buyers to get around the five hotels and additionally it was an unpleasant experience when the weather was bad.
This was a huge decision, as the show had grown over the years from just the one hotel (The Old Swan) where it all started, to five hotels incorporating The Majestic, St George, The Cairn, The Crown and The Old Swan.
It proved to be a great success and set the tone for a more professional event for both exhibitors and buyers. Furthermore, it offered suppliers an equal opportunity when it came to the location of their stalls.
Wendy Adams, Event Director said, “As an organiser, this was a massive step and gave us a lot of sleepless nights deciding on floor plans and exhibitor locations –it was hard to give everyone what they wanted! However, it was also easier to organise and no longer did we have to liaise with five hotels, but instead just one venue.”
The Harrogate Bridal Show has come a long way from a cottage industry of 30 exhibitors in The Old Swan Hotel to an annual, highly-anticipated bridal event that showcases over 350 brands.
The event, along with the rest of the industry, has had to adapt with the new millennial age with the popularity of social media, however, it has still managed to stay the most important buying event in the bridal calendar.
“The great advantage Harrogate has over any worldwide bridal show is the town of Harrogate itself – the industry just loves it. The show is right in the heart of the town with a great selection of hotels, restaurants and bars, not to mention the beautiful parks and gardens. You don’t need taxis, there’s no need to drive, once you’re here everything is easily accessible on foot.”said Wendy.
David Morton, Managing Director at DOM Bridals added, “The Harrogate Bridal Show has always been a great show for Mon Cheri Bridals, with regards to our customers attending, meeting new customers and showcasing our new collections. We have supported the show from our first year, 23 years ago, and see it as the major UK show. It always has a great atmosphere.
Every year I love our stand being full of customers and the buzz everyone has from seeing the new collections! Over the years we have won at the Bridal Buyer Awards for the best dress for bridal, best collection for prom and shortlisted for many more – they are all great memories!”
Romantica of Devon is another bridal brand that has exhibited at The Harrogate Bridal Show from the start. James Waddington, Sales Director said, “With over 30 years attending the show, in March as well as September, there have been so many things that have stayed in my memory.
My happiest memories are being with my local customers and putting the world to rights, having a good time, getting their positive reactions to the new collections and just chilling with them and my wonderful staff.
Every show brings its own memories to savour and share, with Romantica’s heritage and place in the market I’m sure it will continue for many years to come.”
The Harrogate Bridal Show 2019 is set to be a highly anticipated event following the success of last year’s show, which saw 4800 attendees across the three days.
Wendy Adams adds, “This year’s event is proving to be as popular as ever with only a few stands left available. All the key brands are showcasing again this year including Mori Lee, Ronald Joyce, Mon Cheri, Mark Lesley, Maggie Sottero, Essense and Justin Alexander, alongside some new labels such as Madi Lane, Randy Fenoli, Freed of London, Galitzia Spose and Kitty Chen.”
For the first time ever The Harrogate Bridal Show will also offer a number of educational programmes that will include advice from various consultants in the ‘Ask the Expert’ area
As usual, the fashion show catwalks will take place in the splendid Royal Hall Theatre, where you can watch all your favourite designs come to life. The prestigious Bridal Buyer Awards will also be taking place, so make sure you book your tickets now even if you are not involved as it is a great party and fantastic opportunity to network within the industry.
The Harrogate Bridal Show 2019 will be taking place during 8 – 10th September. If you haven’t already, register for the event here so you don’t miss out.