Chic and casual: Anthropologie’s bridal line BHLDN gets a brick-and-mortar presence in Westport
Earlier this year, devotees to the Anthropologie brand were given a gift in the form of a three-story, 35,000-square-foot location in Westport, which transformed a local landmark into a chic shopping experience. Packed with exclusive apparel, custom furniture and cosmetics, there is plenty of eye candy, from the décor to the merchandise.
Since its opening in March, Anthropologie & Co., only the sixth such location in the nation, has become a destination for the brand’s legion of fans, including the many who shopped for decades in the store’s first site in Westport. For future brides, it is a boon. The brand’s bridal line, BHLDN (pronounced “beholden”), has a corner all to itself in this elegant 1920s Tudor-style building. Since 2011, BHLDN has provided brides-to-be with multiple styles, reflecting a growing trend of personalization and do-it-yourself spirit that has transcended the most traditional of rituals.
“We became known for our vintage (look),” says Lindsey Robers, divisional merchandise manager of BHLDN. “But we have transitioned to a balanced assortment for brides of many different aesthetics. There are those rooted in romance, with the airy tulle and ethereal lace … and we also sell a more laid-back bohemian style.
“The most emerging aesthetic is the modern … something simple that (our customer) can accessorize,” Robers says, during a telephone interview. “Our customers take a cohesive mix of styles that we sell, and customize and accessorize and add to it as they see fit. It’s a blank canvas.”
With the opening of Anthropologie & Co. in Westport, the BHLDN brand got a third brick-and-mortar location in the tri-state area. Brides and their parties need no longer schlep to two locations in New York City. Westport is one of only 16 such locations in the country (as of August) — all from a brand that began as a digital-only offering, with a largely boho- and vintage-inspired aesthetic.
BHLDN was a hit from the start, a strong presence on online photo-sharing sites, driven by a near fanatical following of nontraditional brides whose idea of getting that perfect dress did not necessarily include dragging a caravan of friends and family to multiple bridal shops and retailers to try on dozens of dresses. Customers did want to try on BHLDN dresses, however, which led to the first BHLDN boutique in Houston in 2011.
BHLDN was one of several brands that ushered in a new approach to what can be a time-consuming and wallet-shrinking experience. One of the earliest was David’s Bridal, which catered to the budget conscious, and then there was J. Crew, which launched its fashion-forward bridal line in 2004 (and has since been shuttered). It represented a more DIY, casual and independent approach to not only dressing the bride, but outfitting the bridesmaids, mother of the bride (and bridegroom) and flower girls. With price points from the relatively inexpensive (several hundred dollars), to more typical boutique prices (upward of $1,000), as well as color and style options, it encouraged brides to mix it up a bit. “The key connector is the value,” Robers says.
At a traditional bridal salon, dresses are made to order, but with a brand such as BHLDN, a bride, with a few clicks or a visit to a store, can secure a ready-to-wear dress from a well-known designer in a shorter amount of time. A personal tailor provides final alterations. BHLDN caters to traditional, too, so at the Westport site, there are samples for brides to try. Stylists take measurements and place orders. Not all dresses can be found in a store, so make sure to check if it is web only.
The Knot discovered, as part of its 2016 Real Wedding Survey, on average, brides spend $1,564 for the dress. A quick spin around the BHLDN website reveals the ends of that spectrum. One can grab a dress from Jill Stuart (her Jill Jill Stuart line) for under $400 or a streamlined vintage look from Catherine Deane for nearly $2,000.
“We work in tandem with a designer,” says Robers, noting that some looks are bought outright, while others are an BHLDN exclusive collaboration. “We have a look, cut and price point that we want to hit.”
The company works with top designers, including Jessica Brown of Ivy & Aster, Jenny Yoo, Eddy K, Needle & Thread, Nicole Miller, Yoana Baraschi, Vatana Watters, Tadashi Shoji, Theia and Ranna Gill.
“We try to create a unique product … that you can’t get anywhere else,” Robers says. There is frill and fluff, but a common thread among BHLDN dresses is a certain understated quality attained from the cut, construction, material and details. The bride is not lost in a froufrou style. “We don’t want the gown to wear our bride; we want our bride to wear our gown.”
Among its many exclusive designs, one can find a ’70s vibe with a romantic gown of floral lace or a deco-inspired sheath that evokes snazzy 1920s glamour. There are modern off-the shoulder looks, and even jumpsuits. Want to design your own? Pick an ultra-glam skirt and fancy top and, voila.
For those who think the BHLDN collection is largely the province of tech-savvy, younger brides, Robers says they have an active customer base of older brides, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride (or groom). The brand launched offerings for the extended family four years ago.
“We run the gamut from brides in their 20s to second weddings,” Robers says. “All of the brides … are a bit unique if they are coming to us in the first place.”