Engage! 09 Something Blue was a fascinating conference held earlier this year at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, dedicated to promoting interaction between wedding industry professionals. The event is a regularly held luxury wedding seminar that is quickly becoming a must-attend in the diaries of those in the know. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull was in attendance and reports.
Three professionals currently making their name in the US wedding business are Abby Larson, author of wedding blog site ‘Style me Pretty’, Randy Fenoli, wedding stylist at New York’s Kleinfeld Bride and Michelle Rago, stylish wedding planner and designer to the rich and famous.
Each expert was on hand at this year’s Engage 09 Something Blue conference to share with an eager audience their path to the top of their profession and how they have remained there, in a specially held session entitled: Innovation with style.
As an owner of a restaurant catering business before becoming a wedding planner, Michelle Rago said she had to wear so many hats and be interested in so many different aspects of the business that it stood her in good stead for her current business.
Her style as a wedding planner is relaxed and more restrained than some of the more flamboyant designers at the moment. “I’ve stayed true to myself,” she states. “In fact, I would say that I’m the tomboy of wedding design!”
In particular, Michelle favours low centre pieces, a casual sense of style and simple yet elegant designs.
“Simple is actually quite hard to do,” she confirms. “Sometimes simple can end up stark. It’s not that easy to translate a single point of view and pull it off every time.”
Kleinfelds Bride, based in New York, is, according to chief stylist Randy Fenoli, the biggest wedding salon in the world, housing 76 designers, 17,000 samples, hosting 15,000 brides per year in a 35,000 square foot property.
Randy details when his interest in design was first sparked: “I lived on a farm in Illinois and when I was nine years old when I first took up sewing on my mother’s sewing machine. I ended up making her a dress which she then wore to work! It ignited a passion in me. You have to be that passionate about everything you do in this business.” Randy says that the wedding gown, along with the bride’s make-up and hair allow her to step out onto the stage with confidence.
“We truly innovate with style,” he states. “Kleinfelds offers brides a truly personal experience and every single one of them is beautiful, no matter what their size or shape!”
Abby Larson used to work at a hedge fund and then begun designing wedding stationary which took off hugely. After selling the stationary business she began blogging about beautiful weddings on her website called Style Me Pretty, a chic blog for the style obsessed bride. Her initial audience was just around 100 people strong, but after three to four months a major television network took notice, a pivotal point in her career, and now she is able to attract the biggest names in the industry who partner with her to sell ads on her site.
“I’ve stuck to my mantra of only showing beautiful, stylish weddings on the website,” she confirms “and I write daily to keep everything fresh and new. Vendors who advertise on my site love the beauty of the site because it entices viewers to read constantly.”
Although there is now a plethora of like-minded bloggers out there in cyberland, Abby says she was fortunate to get a foothold in the industry before it really took off.
“You really have to be at the top of your game to continually succeed,” Abby says. “I have a little black book of vendors and I keep up with industry changes so that I am always aware of what is fresh and new. This means I can get the message out there instantly. Blogs are a really important tool for the wedding industry.”