Credited with helping to transform the bridal scene, Rosa Clará Pallarès presides over a truly international empire, but says that it is still the real bride who remains her first and most important inspiration
Words by Libby Norman
Rosa Clará Pallarès is Spanish bridal’s first lady. Her eponymous company Grupo Rosa Clará is an international powerhouse that dresses brides from Azerbaijan to Qatar, as well as producing cocktail and occasion gowns that grace many red carpets. The plaudits come thick and fast these days and – in a country that specialises in dressing the world’s brides – her collections regularly get top billing. This April, once again, her gowns opened the show at Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week and were widely covered in the Spanish and international press.
Rosa Clará is clear that – despite the celebrity fans who regularly attend her shows or make a splash in one of her gowns at a film premiere or party – the real star is always the bride. She says: “Real brides were and are my first inspiration; it’s about their tastes, desires and wishes for their wedding day”.
And herein lies the secret of her brand’s stratospheric rise, because she began by rethinking what brides actually wanted in a sector that was – as far as she was concerned – a fashion backwater. Having worked in the bridal industry for over a decade she set out on her own in the mid 1990s. She says: “I started 20 years ago with a multi-brand bridal shop and I realised that what women were looking for just wasn’t available among the brands in existence. That’s why I decided to create my own collection. I thought: ‘I can contribute something new’.”
“Real brides are my first inspiration – it’s about their desires for their wedding day”
She says it was tough creating something from zero, but from the opening of the first shop in Barcelona there has been an eager market for the elegant, luxurious and fashion-forward designs she creates. “When we started, I thought we could add something different, something new, to the bridal sector. I now think we revolutionised it, but when we opened our first shop I never imagined I would achieve so much professionally and personally.”
Recalling the breakthrough collection, she now recognises how different it was: “That first collection was truly innovative, with top quality pieces that enabled the bride to select a gown for her big day that matched her identity; a design that had her name on it.”
Almost from the start the brand gained an international audience; it rapidly found success in Italy and other countries across Europe, particularly those that shared a tradition for knockout glamour at weddings. Over time, more markets opened and the network of bridal stores has now become truly global. Rosa Clará says: “At the moment we count 140 shops around the world, with 3,500 stockists in 81 countries”.
It helps that Spain has a worldwide reputation for fantastic bridalwear: “As a nation, we are the second biggest bridal gown exporter after China, which is a very significant position. There is a long tradition of exceptional textiles in Spain and this is recognised at international level. The label ‘made in Spain’ is seen as a mark of quality”.
Rosa Clará has been widely recognised for her unique contribution to bridal fashion trends and business leadership. The awards are too numerous to detail in full, but include best bridal designer at Miami Fashion Week and EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year – she says she values each and every one of these honours.
But at Rosa Clará’s Barcelona base, there is no time to rest on these laurels. Over time the label has grown to encompass three distinct collections that all carry her signature and with different characteristics to suit different brides and wedding styles. Rosa Clará is for the bride who demands the ultimate in quality and materials – gorgeous lace from the south of France, fine Italian embroidery and exceptional cloth. Rosa Clará Two is focused around high-glamour silhouettes, with volume skirts, soft laces and fantasy tulles, while Rosa Clará Soft is about romance – using soft and floaty fabrics for the elegant and thoroughly modern bride.
Previous profiles have detailed how she personally supervises each and every gown design. She has admitted that this creative control is both her biggest strength and weakness – she is learning to delegate. Seasonal collections begin with what Rosa Clará describes as a massive search for cloth of the right quality. This is combined with a trawl for information about what brides are asking for. The team study bridal and fashion trends and use the ideas they generate to develop prototype gowns. Prototypes are analysed and modified until they match the original vision, utilising fabrics and accessories that work with the brand spirit and Rosa Clará signature.
It is, as she admits, a painstaking process. “It takes a lot of dedication and effort but I am surrounded by a very professional and motivated team. Our aim is always to be clear with objectives for each gown and – most of all – design a distinguished product”.
Over time, Rosa Clará has become an almost equal force to be reckoned with in occasion gowns. The collection for mothers of the bride and event goers is soon to come to the London and Manchester boutiques of Nigel Rayment, but across Europe and Latin America these super-glamorous gowns are already very well known. Brand ambassadors such as Mexican actress and entrepreneur Paulina Rubio and America’s Eva Longoria have been among the many distinguished wearers on the red carpet. “As with our bridal collection,” says Rosa Clará, “we aim to create designs to meet the needs of real women. We offer a huge variety of designs and silhouettes and dress women of all ages. I would say we have had the good fortune to dress women with a lot of style – the kind of women who set trends and understand the value of a good gown.”
For the coming season and beyond, Spanish bridal fashion’s first lady is predicting a very creative take on the bridal silhouette – from billowing skirts to highly structured lines to romantic details such as bows and organza petals. New introductions to her collections include a textured cloqué – a fabulous ‘bubbled’ fabric redolent of the most glamorous 1950s couture designs. There are also ethereal crystal and silver thread embroidery back details and a new Chantilly lace with a luminous metallic finish.
“We have had the good fortune to dress women who set trends and understand the value of a good gown.”
Internationalism continues apace – meaning more UK brides will be introduced to Rosa Clará’s distinctive combination of timeless quality and fashion-forward silhouettes. The designer has absolutely no doubts that her magic formula works for our brides: “I believe UK brides understand us perfectly – they recognise the quality of our cloth, the couture details and the fashion concepts in our bridal collections. These elements mark out a Rosa Clará original and appeal to the brides who choose us.”
Rosa Clará; for UK and international stockists, visit rosaclara.es/en-gb/