For many brides across the country, it was the worst-case scenario when Alfred Angelo suddenly ceased operations on July 14. The bankruptcy of the popular dress company, officially confirmed days after doors unexpectedly shuttered nationwide, resulted in a void of unfulfilled orders and subsequent panic for affected brides and bridesmaids.
“I’ve been left completely in the dark with my wedding dress,” says Ali Epstein, 30, who will marry in Wisconsin in November. “I consider myself an easygoing bride and have tried to remain super chill during this whole process… I hear there are usually bumps in the road, but this was a very large bump.”
Epstein had fulfilled her bridesmaid dress orders through Brideside, one of the largest online retailers to carry Alfred Angelo. One can only imagine how the company was immediately impacted by the news. “We were informed late one night that Alfred Angelo would be filing for Chapter 7 liquidation,” Nicole Staple, cofounder of Brideside, tells The Knot. “What that meant was 1,500 of our customers who had ordered were not only without dresses, but the rest of the bridal party that hadn’t ordered was obviously unable to move forward.”
Charlie Reed of San Diego, an assistant seamstress and former full-time employee of Alfred Angelo, says brides weren’t the only ones panicking last week. “When the news hit, our group chat blew up,” she says. “Everyone found out they lost their jobs. There were unanswered questions about what would happen to orders that were still in the store. What about paychecks? Will employees get paid for the last few days? What about the brides who just ordered their gowns?”
Alfred Angelo, a private company operating out of Delray Beach, Florida, previously worked directly with 1,400 outside retailers, all of whom were suddenly catapulted into crisis mode under speculation that the company was getting ready to file for Chapter 7. (According to the bankruptcy filing, Alfred claims more than $50 million in financial obligations against $50,000 worth of assets.) Within hours, Staple and her team faced a deluge of unfulfilled orders and calls from brides and bridesmaids who were in hysterics.
In Alfred Angelo stores, seamstresses and employees were instructed to dial customers, who were then told to pick up their gowns that day before doors closed indefinitely. “How do you call that many people in a few hours?” Reed says, flabbergasted. “It just wasn’t possible.”
In the flurry of the unknown, one trend emerged within the bridal community: sympathy, first, followed by solutions. “The first order of business was hearing every single type of customer,” Staple says. “We started negotiating with our designers to get discounts. We set up a system to allow customers to buy our inventory… We’ve probably now given resources to over 3,000 customers.”
Epstein was among those to receive help. “Brideside has been absolutely amazing,” she says. “They showed me alternative dresses that were comparable to my Alfred Angelo dresses—in similar colors for each bridesmaid.”
Larry Warshaw, president of the International Bridal Manufacturers Association, says professional organizations are banding together. “Manufacturers are offering discounts and waiving any applicable rush charges to retailers for replacement dresses,” he says. “Retailers, meanwhile, are forming open Facebook forums to locate existing inventories of Alfred Angelo products. They’re also sourcing additional brands to fill any open orders.”
One viable option is the National Bridal Sale Event, a weeklong annual bridal sale that includes 700-plus retailers. The sale, which started July 15, has now been extended through the end of the month. Sue Maslowski, the chairwoman of the NBSE, says it was the least she could offer having owned a Haddonfield, New Jersey–based bridal boutique of her own for nearly 50 years. “I felt something needed to be done to help these poor girls,” she says. “We have dresses. Lots and lots of dresses… and some stores have offered deeper discounts to Alfred Angelo brides.”
Rental company Vow to Be Chic, meanwhile, has an inventory of 10,000 pieces in stock. “One bride in particular lost 25 dresses in total due to the closures,” says the company’s CEO and founder Kelsey Doorey. “Her story stood out to us, so Vow decided we needed to help: We offered her entire bridal party free rentals.” For other bridesmaids left scrambling, Vow to Be Chic is offering a discount on its site. “Fortunately, we are in a special position to help with this particular incident,” she says.
Popular national retailers David’s Bridal and BHLDN immediately offered steep percentage discounts to Alfred Angelo brides along with expedited shipping. Startups like Floravere, meanwhile, are even giving away free sample gowns to scrambling brides who purchased from the now-defunct company. And that’s not all: Hundreds of local retailers are joining the wave—and we can’t overlook the kindness of strangers.
On Facebook, a closed group called “Alfred Angelo Brides/Bridesmaid Dress Swap” has amassed hundreds of members within a week, and spurred a dialog of support between former and current brides. It’s where Reed initially shared her story. “With quite a few orders left, the tux shop next door to us kindly held the rest of our customers’ orders,” says the former Alfred Angelo employee. “Our seamstress is so amazing. She had over 1,000 dresses in her possession that were undergoing alterations.”
The issue was that brides didn’t have a direct line to the tailor after the company shut down. Reed and two other employees bridged that gap, calling hundreds of people to let them know the whereabouts of their dresses. “We drove 400 miles round-trip to collect 40 gowns from the seamstress and delivered them to brides by Sunday evening,” she continues. “I have a strong moral obligation to get these brides their gowns. One of the girls said, ‘We had a job that wasn’t done and we’re not people to leave things unfinished.’ It’s so true. Sure, people are amazed at what we are doing, but our response is, ‘Wouldn’t you do the same?’”
Like Reed, Staple is seeing the light. “It’s been overwhelming,” she says. “My cofounder and I have both been manning the service lines over the past four days. I’ve had people cry on the phone to me just for giving them some answers… I think this has been a defining moment for our business.”
Future bride Epstein wants her fellow to-be-weds to know there are alternative options. “Work closely with your bridal shops that you bought your dresses from,” she urges. “The bridal shop I got my [Alfred Angelo] wedding dress from has been nothing short of amazing. They’re willing to do everything in their power to turn this negative into a positive.”
Overall, Alfred Angelo may be out of business, but the bridal industry trudges on. “Even though Alfred Angelo put a ‘black eye’ on our industry, it’s nice to see the retailers and manufacturers work together for a common goal to get a bride her dress,” Maslowski concludes. “That doesn’t happen often in this industry.”