As a child, Anne Barge Clegg regularly spent her weekends sitting beside her mother, a concert pianist, through wedding ceremonies and special occasions. Enchanted by these weddings and real brides, Anne started sketching gowns for her family and friends before pursuing a degree in costume design at Syracuse University and completing her art degree at the University of Georgia. Ultimately, these early experiences laid the perfect foundation for a household bridal fashion label that is now celebrating 20 years of gorgeous gowns and timeless design.

Early Anne Barge
Towards the beginning of her bridal fashion career, Anne’s talents grew while working at Pricilla of Boston, leading to the opening of her own store – Anne Barge for Brides – in Atlanta. After 13 years of business, she decided to sell her bridal salon to Kleinfeld’s and uprooted to London, where she opened Virgin Bride at the request of Sir Richard Branson. Then, in 1999, Anne Barge launched her eponymous label that quickly became known for its Southern charm and grace. Twenty years later, Anne Barge wedding dresses remain a staple in the bridal industry, and the upcoming New York Bridal Fashion Week in October will be a celebration of 20 years and a successful five-year transition of brand ownership under husband and wife duo, Steven and Shawne Jacobs.

Anne Barge Through the Years

1999: Anne Barge was founded
March 1999: Anne Barge debuts at New York Bridal Fashion Week with the Fall ’99 Collection
2000: First Anne Barge showroom opens at Four Seasons Atlanta
2002: Shawne Jacobs begins working at Anne Barge in the shipping and receiving department
2007: “Today Show Throws a Wedding” – America selects Anne Barge, winning by the most votes in the history of the network according to Katie Couric
2007: First storefront retail showroom opens in Buckhead, Atlanta
2007: Chosen to be the Badgley Mischka bridal licensee
2008: Becomes one of four U.S. designers invited by Swarovski to create and produce a unique, one-off design using Swarovski crystals; the custom Anne Barge gown is published in the book, Unbridled: The Marriage of Tradition and Avant Garde
October 2012: Blue Willow Bride debuts to provide the Anne Barge signature look at a modified price point
2014: Shawne and her husband Steven purchase the company from Anne
2016: The Black Label evening wear collection debuts
2016: Meghan Markle wears the Versailles wedding gown on Suits
2017: Mother of the Bride collection debuts
2017: Kerry Washington wears the Berkley wedding gown on Scandal
2018: Anne Barge Clegg receives a Lifetime Achievement Award by Modern Luxury Weddings
2018: Meghan Markle wears the Versailles wedding gown for a second time on Suits
October 2020: 20th Anniversary celebration of the Anne Barge brand

Bridal Fashion Inspiration
The first few Anne Barge collections are an example of the designer’s love of fashion, art, and history – especially from the 1950s and 1960s. “It was the only thing I ever dreamed of doing,” says Anne. “I never ran out of enthusiasm or ideas. I was also inspired by the brides I met, particularly the ones who had issues or thought they had issues with their figure, height, or disability. It was such a joy to make each one feel their most beautiful in their wedding gown.”

Today, that same aesthetic remains present, so the Anne Barge brand stays true to its heritage and customers. Of course, silhouettes and garment construction is altered to suit the modern bride; but timelessness and quality craftsmanship are always at the forefront.

Passing the Torch
Shawne Jacobs couldn’t be a more fitting person to receive the Anne Barge “torch,” as Anne Barge is the only company she has worked for since graduating from American Intercontinental University with a degree in Fashion Design and Marketing. “I have learned so much from Anne herself, who was a wonderful mentor to me,” Shawne remarks. “The company became a part of my DNA which made for such a smooth transition when my husband Steven and I bought the business from Anne in 2014. Anne was contracted to consult for the first three years, which ended in 2017. I guess you could say we have been flying completely solo for the last two years.”

So, what is Shawne’s vision as she takes Anne Barge into the company’s next era of bridal fashion? “I would like to see our brand have the same cachet within the bridal industry as Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera. In addition, I would like to see the brand have a bigger presence internationally and domestically in the next five years. In 2020, we will be launching a line of fun and chic little white frocks, perfect for a bride’s wedding weekend, rehearsal dinner, and bridal showers. The collection will be available online and in bridal retail stores.”

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