Counterfeit Wedding Dress Scams - Don't Be Taken In
This is the most important piece of advice that I can offer to any bride: whatever you do, in the planning of your wedding, don't be tempted to order a designer "copy" dress over the internet. There are literally hundreds of websites, at the moment, offering what looks like gorgeous wedding dresses "direct from the factory" at amazing cut prices. At a time when the economy is suffering and couples are looking for ways to save money on their wedding I can see why theses sites would be so appealing, but it is the single biggest pitfall that a bride can experience.
The websites look beautifully professional and show perfect images of the dresses to make brides feel confident enough to order. The information is in English and some sites give the impression they are based in the UK - but don't be fooled; these are sites set up by people who are very experienced in providing this illusion. The reason that the photos look so good is that they are the professional photos lifted illegally from the websites of top bridal manufacturers. These sites are set up in the Far East, with the sole intention of conning brides into parting with their money. The bride thinks they will get the dress in the picture, in exchange for their payment, but what they actually receive is something of such bad quality that it can barely be compared to the original.
When the excited bride receives her parcel the first warning bells ring at the tiny size of the package (I know one bride who thought she had ordered the huge wedding dress of her dreams and it arrived in an A4 jiffy bag!). Usually the dress itself is much smaller (lacking the full layers of tulle petticoats underneath), they also are poorly made in really awful, cheap fabrics. The copies have no structure to them (the ones I have seen have no boning or any corsetry). The pattern which has been made often bears absolutely no relation to the pattern of the dress originally shown on the site and as well as the fabric being different and below the standard of what is offered, the beading details are really terrible (not made in the same pattern or with the same kinds of beads in the pictures).
The websites selling these dresses can sometimes claim that they are the original factory where the top bridal manufacturers produce their designs and that by ordering the dresses "direct" that you are being smart and saving money. The problem is that these are not the factories the manufacturers are using - they would never sell a design, which is copyrighted direct, to brides when these large companies place all their business with them. Instead these are copycat factories whose entire business is to look at a photo of a dress and churn out something vaguely similar but with much cheaper materials and without the more expensive hand finished workmanship.
To be able to see these terrible copies first hand please go to Youtube and search for "Fake Britain" or fake wedding dresses and you will find videos telling the real life stories of brides who unfortunately fell for theses sites. You will be able to see the difference between the original dresses and the ones that arrived. Also the BBSA (British Bridal Suppliers Association) is trying to raise awareness about this worrying issue, this year they had a stand at The National Wedding Shows in London and Birmingham where they had side by side an original dress and the copy version that arrived with one bride. I'm sure they will be doing the same in the future so for anyone interested please contact the National Wedding Show for information about seeing this at their 2014 shows.
As a wedding dress designer I know first hand how many brides are falling for these sites. This last year many brides have come to ourselves and fellow designers with sad tales about dresses which are really too terrible to wear at their weddings and we have needed to make rush order wedding gowns for them, to save the day. Therefore, these poor brides have ended up spending more money than if they had just chosen a dress from a reputable label in the beginning; as they have had to pay for the cheap copy (these websites never return payments) and then have had to buy a wedding dress too (and sometimes pay a rush order charge if time is running out).
For any brides out there still tempted to go this route I would advise that there are other ways to save money, which will not result in the kind of tears we have seen. My best advice would be- if you are on a budget and cannot stretch to a the prices in your local bridal stores you can:
* Consider buying off the peg - department stores and shops such as Monsoon are now producing some really nice, cheaper range wedding dresses. They may not be designer gowns but they are infinitely nicer than the dresses sent from these copy websites.
* Wait for a sample sale - search online for the once a year sample sales held by designers, such as ourselves. Most designers hold a sale and there is nothing wrong with these gowns - they are usually from previous collections, are discontinued or could be prototypes. Either way you could make huge savings and get a designer dress.
* Ask your local bridal boutique if they have any manufactured dresses they would be interested in selling you their sample of. Some stores may not but others may be happy to make space for new styles coming into their stores and would offer savings on the dress as it is their sample. Once dry-cleaned it would look great and have cost you far less than if you had ordered a new one in.
Most importantly just don't be taken in by the sites - if something seems too good to be true it usually is. Instead look at your other options and congratulate yourself that you avoided this pitfall.