In an exclusive interview with Justin Warshaw, CEO and Creative Director of the Justin Alexander brand, Justin reflects on this past year, how the brand has remained in the forefront of bridal fashion amidst a pandemic, and even spills some details on his own upcoming wedding.
Justin, our last interview was back in 2020 when New York was still in lockdown. Looking back, how do you feel the JA brand has endured and evolved throughout the pandemic?
It has been a challenging year, this is not deniable. The environment started to change dramatically, and we had to find ways to adapt to this environment. Together with the team, we came up with original ideas to serve our beloved partners and support them where needed. Trade shows were canceled which was the biggest challenge of all time as it was quite limiting us in terms of sales and face-to-face contact with our retailers. However, I have to say that this pandemic has also brought some change for the good of the company and the team. The bridal industry is and has always been a traditional and less dynamic market which is quite in contrast with the needs of the new generation we are serving right now. Millennials’ consumer behavior is more dynamic and easily adaptable to change meaning that the thinkings, feelings, and actions of the brides-to-be and society at large are constantly changing.
The pandemic has pushed me and my team to think outside the box. From supply chain to marketing, we have all been brainstorming about opportunities to keep existing relationships strong but also find new ways to hold impeccable customer appeal. We found ourselves in a position where we are adapting to the environmental changes yet also in continuous strategic renewal which was more aligned with the needs and wishes of the end consumer.
We are an international company and serve on a global level. The differences in regulations from country to country made us think of different solutions. On one hand, we were trying to target brides who were willing to show off their adventures side on their big day after being locked inside. While Europe was still in lockdown. So, on the other hand, we were executing micro wedding shoots to inspire and encourage brides to celebrate their love in a more modest and toned-down look.
The same holds for the trade shows, we have delivered every single service we usually provide in a virtual way. From virtual trunk shows to virtual consultations and only collection presentations for our dearest retailers.
In short, to serve the two key groups of individuals driving our industry we kept their best interests at heart with every decision we made. I honestly believe that together we can find purpose through everything that is and will be happening.
You also have told us, “After a great period of crises, there comes a time of celebration”. Do you feel this way for the bridal industry in 2022?
Yes! As clique it sounds, love is certainly not canceled. Couples that have set their mind on getting married are not changing their mind about marriage because of a pandemic. Indeed, hopefully, the pandemic has given everyone an eye-opener that certain events in life are very unpredictable, and being locked inside has given everyone the time to reflect on the stuff they have been avoiding or ignoring. I hope we will remember this path of life as a moment where we had time to bond more with the people we love. We have all gone through a transformation and 2022 will be our rebirth. This is for the industry as a whole.
As a hands-on designer, how does your team keep the JA collections so modern, yet with unique touches at the same time?
Like it is stated in the question, the in-house design team and I are very hands-on and involved in many processes. We spent time understanding the bride, what she wants, and envisions herself in. Our diverse portfolio allows us to be appealing to many modern brides from all over the world.
As a team, we are constantly focusing on exploration, meaning that we focus on innovation and discovering the latest trends, basically bringing information from outside in. Our source of information is brides and the stylist working in the stores that are constantly in contact with brides.
The biggest challenge is what we do with the information and how we implement it into our design process. I am very lucky that the team and I are showing great teamwork and effort to keep every feedback and information at heart during the design process.
From showcasing Justin Alexander gowns through a unique ballet performance or collection launches dedicated to women icons, how does your team decide on impactful ways to present JA gowns?
This is thanks to the strong marketing team and especially the brand managers. Each person in the marketing department is responsible for bringing in ideas across all brands. We do not have an individual team that is only focusing on these concepts, but together with the team, we are simultaneously brainstorming about new concepts and how we can improve and make sure our current products are reaching the audience we want.
The marketing team mainly consists of women who are passionate about marriage, with all having different characters. We certainly exploit our in-house resources and get inspired by each other. This results in different campaigns focusing on different angels of women empowerment.
This year’s JA digital collection launches have been exciting and a true highlight for brides and bridal retailers, especially during the pandemic. Can we still expect to see more digital collection launches from JA in the future?
We are hoping to meet all our retailers face-to-face throughout the year. Those launches will not be a replacement but rather compliment the physical moments we will certainly have again. So we will keep launching the collection digitally together with physical moments.
The JA brand has also been quite involved in special causes for girls and women. How important is it for you and the brand to raise a voice against such issues?
At Justin Alexander, we believe in enabling access to better opportunities and lives for women and girls. We are honored to be a part of a couple’s best day of their life but unfortunately, marriage does not mean the for many girls around the world. We made it our duty to raise our voice against everything that contrasts with women’s empowerment. From International Women’s day campaign to partnering up with VOW.
Lastly, congratulations on your engagement! Can you share any details about the bridal industry’s “Wedding of the Year”?
Thank you! Kelsey and I have always wanted a destination wedding and Italy has always been special to me and Kelsey. We love the wine, the different landscapes you get, the people, the food. We had a different vision at first, Kelsey wanted to have a coastal wedding venue but mine was more like Tuscan hills. We had a little conflict, but we have decided on a venue in Tuscany in the end and I promise this was a mutual decision! We were both amazed by the location the moment we got there.
We can’t help but ask, can you spill any details or hints on Kelsey’s wedding dress?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much but Kelsey wants me to be involved in the design process but it still needs to be a surprise for me. I may draw some sketches of dresses I envision Kelsey in and together with the team they can go iterate upon these dresses. The last thing I can tell you is that she might choose more than one dress for the big day!
We would like to thank Justin Warshaw for this interview.
For further information on the brand and collections, visit Justin Alexander