Photo: Courtesy of Kleinfeld
When little girls dream of their wedding day, they imagine “The One.”
No, we’re not talking about their future husbands, we’re talking about the perfect wedding dress.
New Yorkers, Nigerian princesses, and stars of TLC’s reality show “Say Yes To The Dress” all flock to Kleinfeld, the sprawling Chelsea boutique that’s become the go-to place for brides-to-be to pick out their wedding dresses.
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Mara Urshel, who has more than 30 years experience in the luxury business, and partner Ronald Rothstein purchased and revamped Kleinfeld bridal boutique in 2005, transforming it into the centrepiece of “Say Yes To The Dress,” which is currently filming its ninth season.
Kleinfeld itself is now a recognisable luxury brand—it claims to have the largest selection of designer dresses in the world, it collaborates exclusively with designers, and even sells its own line of dresses. The bridal gowns range in price from about $900 to $30,000.
“It’s not about the price of the dress,” Urshel said. “It’s about the workmanship, embroidering, crystals, the fineness of the silk, and beading.”
Urshel and Rothstein moved the struggling company from Brooklyn to Manhattan in 2005. The location is a massive 35,000-square-foot space with a lobby that resembles a hotel. It has 28 dressing rooms—all with special mirrors and lights so that customers can see the “true” colour of the dress as it will look outside the store.
The rest of the space is dedicated to a men’s bridal department, costume jewelry, storage, alterations, beading, and sewing stations.
In 2006 TLC pitched its reality TV series idea. Business has been booming since.
Women who want to be featured on the show must apply through TLC, and then TLC schedules the appointments for the bride and her family, Urshel said.
“When a bride who is going to be on the show comes in, it’s not that different for us,” Urshel said. “It’s just them filming our bridal consultants doing their job.”
The store boasts about its customer service policy, and says that it’s with the bride “until she walks down the aisle.”
Both Urshel and Rothstein list their home phone numbers on their business cards, to let brides know that if there is a disaster, someone from Kleinfeld will be there to help.
Customers have only taken advantage of the personal number a handful of times, but it has made a difference.
Once, when a bride was getting married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and her fascinator blew away while exiting the limo, the bride’s mother called Urshel. Urshel called her old contacts from Sak’s Fifth Avenue and they ran a new one across the street wit in 15 minutes.
“Something new happens every day in retail,” Urshel said. “There’s always a challenge. Always something happening. And always a new dress.”
The boutique has a three-window store front. You'd never imagine 35,000 square feet of space is inside.
Two women wait in the lobby before their appointment. Urshel said the mothers are worse than the brides when it comes to being high maintenance.
All visits are appointment-only. You have to reserve your spot by credit card, and if you cancel there's a $50 charge. The store is currently booking weekend appointments three months in advance.
But here's a view of the show room. Urshel said it is not designed to be like a retail space; but to best aid the brides and the consultants.
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