10 Questions with Flora Petakas, Partner at Union Square Couture
1. Where did you get your start in Bridal? Who have you worked for in the industry?
Bridesmaids! Erica Arkin hired me for Vera Wang Maids more years ago than I want to admit. She and Chet Hazzard mentored me and challenged me. It was my big career “break.” Badgley Mischka, and then ML Monique Lhuillier, were both licensees with JS Group. I’ve been very lucky. I was trained by the best.
2. What made you decide to start Union Square Couture? How long ago?
A few seasons ago several emerging international designers approached me to consult and advise them on how to pave the way in the US bridal retail market. At the same time, I met my business partner David Gomez Pearlberg. We were both talking to the same designers! We joined forces. It was a perfect storm.
3. What is the focus on who you take on to represent and what do you look for in a designer and their company?
Creativity. Originality. Quality. And the ability to listen. If you are asking for advice you need to be open to it.
4. What are the Millennial Brides shopping habits today from a few years back and why?
That's a 55 billion dollar question. We define ‘Millennial Brides’ as those between the ages of 18-32. That's all I can offer on hard facts. The way they make decisions on bridal gowns is not predictable or quantifiable. We are learning from them. This is a revolutionary change. The digital era is a force. It's not going away. Our normal way of doing business has changed forever. I am constantly educating myself on the new shopping habits. One of the most important things I've learned is that today’s bride was raised on self-expression. It is our job as bridal professionals to embrace that and blend it with our knowledge and experience. Continuing education is paramount to understanding who our end user is. The world is changing at the speed of light.
5. How do you advise your designers regarding showing ONE or TWO collections a year?
2 collections. 2 markets. You need to stay present in the brides and the retailer’s vision. However, one of the collections is the editorial statement with a runway show and the other is the addition of a few styles that are more commercial. Take the most requested customization and create the sample for the commercial market. It's the “aha” dresses that retailers appreciate. And they need some relief from buying 20 dresses per year.
6. You’ve received some flack for having your designers sell to Moda Operandi. Why should stores not feel threatened by this? How does it help them?
We cannot deny that the future of retail is being redefined. Moda Operandi is a leader in a new concept of fashion. We must embrace this emerging new phenomenon and not be fearful of it. The opportunities for worldwide growth and brand recognition are real and the benefits to traditional retailers are clear: A wider audience, potentially driving brides into their store. The online brand exposure is global. It has the potential to be a win-win!
7. What are the biggest trends selling at retail for wedding dresses?
I see two opposing trends. There is a trend towards cleaner dresses. At the same time I see a trend towards fuller, almost ball gown dresses.
8. What universally sells regardless of trends that stores should always carry?
Intimacy and connecting with the bride to form a trusting relationship is key. It's the most important dress she will ever buy. She needs to feel safe in every way.
9. How often are you out visiting the stores and your designers?
We speak to our retailers regularly. They are on the front line. We are always accessible. Between David and myself we try to be present with each retailer in person once a season. We try to keep the same consistency with our designers. It's important to have a constant exchange.
10. What is your favorite part of this job?
Making the bride feel beautiful. Reminding her to look directly into her husband’s eyes when he sees her for the first time. It fills your heart!