Jenny Packham joins The Outnet, advises brides-to-be to be bold and experimental

A master of designing perfect dresses for perfect weddings, Jenny Packham is bringing her contemporary vision to a new collaboration with luxury online retailer The Outnet. She talks to Yana Fung about the evolution of bridalwear amidst our rapidly changing world

The Jasmine dress

It’s the day most little girls are taught to dream about their entire lives. An event so important that it’s planned for months, sometimes years, in advance. An occasion so emblematic that an entire film and television subgenre was created in honour of it – a wedding. For many blushing brides, the most important thing at their wedding, after the groom, is the dress they’ll wear down the aisle. And when looking for the perfect dress, a name that’s sure to come up more than once is Jenny Packham.

A model wears Jenny Packham x The Outnet’s tiered mini dress. Photo: Handout

The British fashion designer launched her eponymous label in 1988, and was soon dressing the likes of Taylor Swift, Uma Thurman and the Duchess of Cambridge in her signature bridal and evening gowns. As to what she wants from the women who wear her dresses, Packham says, “I want them to feel amazing!”

Packham isn’t ignorant of the significance that a wedding dress can hold for the wearer and how difficult it can be to find that perfect dress. However, she reminds brides-to-be that looks aren’t everything: “My advice is always to be open-minded and experimental and notice the way a dress feels as well as how it looks. I think it’s important to feel that you can’t wait to wear it and don’t want to ever take it off!”

“Wedding dresses will now become more reflective of the current fashion trends rather than looking to the past for inspiration as the need to live in the moment has never felt so desirable”

– Jenny Packham

It’s this feeling that she, alongside the team at The Outnet, are hoping to bring to more people than ever with their new crossover collection. As times change, the idea of the perfect dress isn’t as singular as it used to be. “The silhouettes are some of the most contemporary styles I’ve ever designed,” Packham says of the 12 pieces that cover everything from classic silhouettes to contemporary styles, and dainty lace to feathery hems.

“Wedding dresses will now become more reflective of the current fashion trends rather than looking to the past for inspiration as the need to live in the moment has never felt so desirable,” she says. When trends can change at the drop of a hat and today’s fashionista moment easily turns into tomorrow’s faux pas, designers either learn to predict trends, find a way to be above it all or both.

“As a designer, I wanted to change bridal fashions and bring modernity and lightness to each dress that I designed whilst maintaining the ‘other-worldly’ nature of the wedding gown. Bridalwear is now aligned with current trends rather than steeped in historic references and is more reflective of today’s ideas of romance,” says Packham.

For wedding dresses, the pressure seems to be especially intense as it will likely be the most photographed outfit in a woman’s life.

A trend that few could’ve predicted is that brides are choosing to buy their wedding dress online, forsaking physical stores and lengthy try-on sessions. But considering the tumultuous year and a half that’s seen weddings postponed, moved online or even cancelled, bringing even more of the wedding process online seems like a natural step. And why not? When every face-to-face meeting brings the risk of catching a deadly disease, the industry must adapt.

Also see: Say yes to these Disney princess-inspired couture wedding dresses

“Bridal fashions are evolving, and brides are changing the way in which they shop given the nature of wedding planning over the last year. This collaborative edit of our bridal dresses is an exciting response to a new era of bridal fashions,” says Packham. And it’s the perfect response at that. With the affordable price range of the collection, The Outnet and Packham are hoping to give more brides the chance to experience luxury on their wedding day, purchased from the comfort and safety of their own home.

The logistics of a wedding aren’t the only thing that’s evolved. For a tradition as ancient as marriage, it’s sometimes necessary to re-evaluate the concept as a whole. Once deeply rooted in traditional gender roles and heteronormativity, marriage doesn’t stand for the same things it used to (thankfully).

With this in mind, modern brides might look to their wedding dress to make a statement, but Packham warns of putting too much pressure on a single dress. “I don’t think a dress alone can revolutionise the inequities of society. The nature of marriage has shifted dramatically throughout history and today most couples will arrange and pick traditions to incorporate in their wedding day that reflects their values,” she says.

The Amaryllis dress. Photo: Handout

It’s true – the superstitions and myths that once threatened to curse the happy couple if not obeyed have been tossed aside in our modern age. Good-luck charms like keeping the bride and groom apart before the wedding and not marrying on a Saturday have been replaced by tear-jerking “first look” videos and a five-day workweek. More importantly, the idea of what a perfect bride should be is changing.

Whereas women were once expected to be a vision of virginal purity in white, the old approach has given way to a more realistic notion. Packham fully embraces this in her designs. “[A wedding dress] is no longer a sign of ‘virginity’ and purity but a colour that reveals the abnormality of the day. Therefore, its meaning has transgressed across time whilst it is a historical acknowledgement of the perpetual power of love,” she says.

For all its revolutions, a wedding gives us something that’s become even more precious in the wake of the disastrous past 18 months: an opportunity to see one another. “Now, after the year we’ve all experienced – being able to gather with friends and family seems more of a privilege than ever. The concept of sharing a moment will make weddings now so much more exciting and valued,” Packham says.

She’s undeniably right. In a world overrun by problems, the childhood dream of a perfect wedding becomes more precious than ever. As Packham so aptly puts it, “To dream is to be human. Whatever our circumstances there is always a place for dreams and love. Otherwise, what would life be?”

Also see: Award-winning milliner Awon Golding on bridal masks and the future of weddings

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