Say Yes to the (Bulgarian) Dress

The question was popped, and the answer is yes. Now what? For many Bulgarian brides-to-be, this question has an easy answer, at least when it comes to finding a bridal gown. It involves a road trip to Asenovgrad, a town in the south of Bulgaria.

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Asenovgrad has been famous for its traditions in the bridal gowns business for four decades now. Zoonar / Alamy Stock Photo / Be&W

For four decades now, Asenovgrad has been famous for its traditions in the bridal gowns business. “In Asenovgrad, there are already about 100 workshops dedicated to making bridal dresses,” estimates Stoyan Radichev, one of the local craftsmen. The beginning was laid during the years of socialism. At first, one state-owned company in town had the task of dressing brides on their big day. As demand outstripped supply, smaller entities set up nearby to support the parent company with the influx of orders. And just like that, over time, making bridal gowns became the town’s pride. Today, the (mostly) white dresses are sought after by Bulgarian customers and brides from countries across Europe, especially from neighboring Turkey.
Stoyan Radichev started his business in 2010, focusing on denim garments before switching to bridal and prom dresses. “I insist on quality and clean lines in every model. And, of course, to justify the client’s expectations of what a boutique wedding dress should feel and look like,” says Radichev, who designs and makes the dresses himself. He adds that orders are tailored to the personal charm and figure of the bride-to-be, making them look more like a real dress and less like just another garment clipped out of a fashion magazine.

Unique, accessible dresses

The COVID-19 crisis had a detrimental effect on the business. Companies like Radichev’s employ some 20 people who had little to do at times when all large gatherings were curtailed. “But thank God we survived,” says the designer. Recognizing the importance of the bridal dress industry for the local economy, authorities in Asenovgrad came up with solutions to support businesses like Radichev’s. While his formula for success is simple – “Work, work, work.” – local workshops have one major advantage over any fancy bridal dress salon in Sofia, Plovdiv, or Varna. Affordable prices in the EUR 200 to 1000 range. However, for those who can afford to pay more, a trip to Asenovgrad may not be in the cards.

“My daughter Detelina, well, she has very high expectations. She was adamant that she would not wear a dress from Asenovgrad. Her motive was that the outfits offered there lacked points for uniqueness. She was looking for something more refined, as a wedding is an event in a person’s life you most definitely want to be properly dressed for,” says Diana Zhelyazkova, mother of the bride. Instead, from their city of Shumen just south of Asenovgrad, the two women headed west to Sofia, looking for that one perfect dress. They found it in the atelier of designer Sofia Borisova. Though the dress came with a EUR 2,500 price tag.

Back in Asenovgrad, designer Hristo Chuchev offers a tip for all prospective brides-to-be who might be looking for a dress one day. “For me, a beautiful dress is like a woman. It requires special treatment, attention, tenderness. The dress should complement the woman, not vice versa.”

Galina Ganeva

a journalist with experience working for some of the most influential Bulgarian publications. She mostly writes about the intersection of society and culture

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