Two weeks ago, I was invited to speak on the consumer affairs programme ‘You & Yours’ on BBC Radio 4.

I’m presuming you missed it, so I’m going to discuss the topic here, because I think it’s important and relevant for the modern bride.

The programme wanted my thoughts on ASOS announcing it was launching a bridal collection. This was the first I had heard of it. I raised my eyebrow when they told me, and I felt as if I’d prematurely slipped into the older generation bracket when I muttered to myself ‘what is this world coming to?’

My knowledge of ASOS is cheap.fast.fashion. Not exactly the words I associate with a wedding dress. To me, they look exactly that, and scream fad trend. Now, I’m no Mystic Meg, but I do have visions of brides looking back on their wedding photos and cringing. A crop top, seriously?
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GETTING THE RIGHT SHAPE: going to a bridal shop allows you to try on shapes you wouldn’t have even considered. Many brides end up wearing a gown that looks nothing like what they originally thought they wanted.

SETTING THE SCENE: lots of lighting, big full length mirrors and space to practice walking, boutiques are equipped to help a bride see herself fully. Unless you’re rich and have a big house, getting your dress through the post and trying it in your bedroom won’t give you an honest reflection of how you will look and move on the day.
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THE EXPERTISE: for any big first time purchase, expert guidance is definitely required to get the best product of you. I brought my first proper kitchen a couple of years ago, and it was only because of the adive from the consultant that we ended up with the perfectly designed and fucntioning ‘triangle’ for us. (Kitchen lingo I didnt know before, highlighting my case and point!) Bridal stylists have the expertise to guide you to the perfect dress that is right for YOU.

ADAPTING AND ALTERING A DRESS. A few points for this that only a boutique can offer:
1. Expert pinning; showing how a dress can be contoured to your body, and what a big difference altering it will make.

2. Design changes; because your dress is made to order, the consultant can advise you what can be done to the dress to make it even more special for you.

3. Alterations from a seamstress familiar with the dresses make all the difference to the final look.
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ACCESSORISING: trying on veils, jewellery, headpieces, gloves, boleros, wraps ect can really transform the mood of a gown, help you realise its potential, and how a gown can work for you. Look at my gown Neptune, completely different looks with accessories!

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This launch is big news in the bridal industry, as it could be potentially very damaging to us all. I couldn’t help but have a gossip with some of our boutiques, and get their thoughts on it…

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“A bridal gown is likely to be the most important dress a woman will own  nd choosing the perfect one is a unique and special experience. We love sharing the ‘it’s my dress’ moment with our brides and celebrating with a glass of fizz and lots of excitement and talk about their big day. Buying from a boutique is much more than a purchase, it’s a service and an experience that brides won’t forget. Bridal stylists are trained to offer you advice on the best shapes for your body, the best fabrics for the look you want to achieve and the perfect complimenting accessories. Buying online you simply don’t get the special one to one advice you can expect from an experienced boutique. ” The Bridal Collection, Harrogate.

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“This type of experience, knowledge and care simply does not exist when buying on-line and is not the type of journey one dreams about as a little girl becoming a bride!  The experience of choosing your gown is about so much more than buying a dress and is something that should be treasured and remembered fondly long after the wedding has taken place.” Anne Prisilla, Glasgowlimelight

“Why would anyone risk buying the most important dress they will ever wear from complete strangers over the internet, knowing they could end up with a fake and no chance of getting their money back, when they can buy from specialist stockists approved by the designer himself?” Limelight occasions, Huddersfield
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“I think buying from a boutique gives the bride the real experience of being treated as special and making the whole experience a memorable and amazing time. You cannot buy that online !!” Truly Madly Deeply, Surrey

QUOTE ME: And if the day comes when you can pick up a wedding dress in Primark… I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t think I could see the wedding dress bastardised in such a way.


Being a well-known designer within the wedding world, (not quite a household name yet like those designers at Debenhams), I’ve been regularly approached to make an array of TV appearances.

Most are ridiculous and I turn them down straight away. As much as I fancy myself as the Gok Wan of bridal, I’m not prepared to commit career suicide for my 15 minutes of fame.

OH NO… MY DRESS IS ON MY BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDING!!!

I learned the negative impact of TV when on of my dresses appeared on My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. Imagine my horror when I was indulging in every wedding dress designer’s guilty pleasure, secretly watching Britain’s latest reality TV craze, bitchily critiquing each gown as if I were a judge on ‘Project Runway Bridal Special’, only to be faced with my beloved Dauphine ready for roasting.

And whilst she was probably one of the most reserved brides on the show (ever!), due to the stigma of the show, we had brides calling our stockists the next day cancelling their beautiful dresses!

OMG…MY DRESS IS ON THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS!!!

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Across the pond was a different story. I received a call from our American office to tell me that Pandora, daughter of ‘Beverly Hills Housewife’ Lisa Vanderpump, was getting married in one of my dresses, it would be broadcast on American TV, and that it was Dauphine, yes, the very same dress! She looked jaw droppingly sensational, and thanks to several mentions of my name, brides went mad for that gown, and it became our US best seller and also ended up being very popular in the UK!

These parallel instances taught me the ‘make or break’ power of TV. Understandingly, I’ve been very wary ever since.

‘IAN STUART…WOULD YOU LIKE TO APPEAR ON THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF…’

The Vanderpump wedding spawned my obsession with the whole ‘Housewives’ franchise. So when I was asked by the TV company making the UK version of The Real Housewives of Cheshire, if they could bring Magali in to my shop to look for a wedding dress, I almost burst.
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I know Cheshire isn’t exactly the UK’s answer to Beverly Hills. McArthur Glen Cheshire Oaks is hardly Rodeo Drive but I do love a glamorous, sassy, diva no matter where she resides! I think you can tell that I don’t get inspired by the latest boho barefoot folk singer…NO! I’m Dolly Parton, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Beyonce… MEGA DIVA GLAM all the way!

I didn’t hesitate to say yes! I couldn’t wait to welcome some housewives into my shop.
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But I must say, I was surprised (and slightly disappointed) at the lace of Diva Tantrums. I was quite looking forward to witnessing some behind the scenes  dramas, and having something to gossip about. I was quite hopeful at first as walking in they all looked like super sex Glamazons who could go all Naomi in a flash!
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INSECURITIES… LOOKING LIKE THAT… SERIOUSLY??

Magali was wonderfully down to earth, we hit it off straight away. Sharing Dutch heritage, we bonded over a love of the salty liquorice from our homeland! And, despite her gorgeous body, face, nails, skin, hair, boobs, once in the changing room, like any other bride, she had her own insecurities that she wanted to hide on her wedding day.

I couldn’t get over how someone so fabulously diva glam could be insecure about anything. I learned that no matter who the bride is, or what she looks like, the story is always the same.
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DON’T WORRY, A WEDDING DRESS WILL FIX THAT!

And so… the beauty of the wedding dress… it is designed to remove those insecurities for one day and make you feel as beautiful on the inside as you look through the eyes of others.

I think Magali looked so incredibly beautiful when she renewed her vows, and I’m guessing by the look on her face she felt it too.
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We want to know your story, how did you meet?

We met at a ‘disco animals’ fancy dress party. Tom was wearing a monkey suit minus the head and feet and I was in leopard print and an afro wig. We spent most of the evening talking about our favourite Bob Dylan songs. The next day was his birthday so I took him out for a birthday breakfast and the rest is history.

How did he propose?

Tom proposed on a Tuesday morning in February. We were both getting ready for work, I was pulling my boots on when I turned around to find him on one knee! He proposed, I cried, and said yes and then we had to get the train for work! It was a complete surprise even though we’d been together for 6 years!3
How did you know that your Ian Stuart Dress was the right choice for your big day?

I had already tried on 30 dresses before I found my dress. They had all been quite floaty, unstructured dresses so this was my wild card dress and I tired it because I was really attracted to the layers on the bodice. When I tired it on, it all suddenly made sense!

It was just such an amazing fit, so surprisingly comfortable and looked so much better than anything else – I didn’t ever want to take it off. I felt really upright and self-contained in the dress and that felt amazing, and just what I needed on a nerve wrecking day. I still wish I could wear it everyday it’s so beautiful!

Was there a theme/colour theme at your wedding?

I did my doctorate in evolution and Tom is a keen gardener so we had a naturalistic/botanical theme, with things under bell jars as table centre pieces (shells, lotus flower heads, microscopes, phrenology heads to name a few). There were ivy trails everywhere and succulents for favours. It was just as we pictured and everyone was so curious about the bell jars!2

Did you incorporate any specific traditions in your wedding, as as ‘something old, something new, borrowed and blue’?

I’m Jewish, so we were able to incorporate some traditional Jewish customs, such as the breaking of the glass and our fathers recited a lovely blessing in Hebrew and English. The prayer is usually said to children on the Sabbath and wishes them wellness and happiness. It was a really special moment for us.

Do you have any advice to share with women who are about to embark on this incredible journey of planning their wedding and selecting their wedding dress?

Don’t rest until you find the dress that is going to be with you on that day of transition from single women to married women. Even if you’ve been together for years, it really does feel different being married, so that day is so special.5

Bride: Tanya Carpenter
Groom: Tom Carpenter
Bridal Gown: Monet, Killer Queen Collections
Boutique: Fairytale Weddings, Towcester
Wedding Date: 24/05/2015
Location: Burloes Hall, Hertfordshire
Photographer: Michelle Lindsell Photography


Coloured silks, taffetas and laces are to me what his oils were to Monet. I’m not suggesting that I’m making masterpieces, (although… I think a few dresses have come close if I do say so myself!) simply that there is an essential elements to creating your greatest work, and for me, that is colour.
blogLooking back, it was seeing this very picture as a design student that sparked my love affair with soft colours and ball gowns. There is something very MGM, very Dior and very Princess about the combination. When I started by own label, it was this unashamedly romantic mood that mystified me as a teen that I wanted to re-create with my dresses. Colour became my trademark.

Make it Pink! Make is Blue!
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Can you remember that fabulous scene from Sleeping Beauty when Flora and Merryweather are fighting over the colour of Aurora’s dress? I will confess, I can relate to those fairies much more than a man in his mid-forties should be able to.

I use my signature colours and fabrics in each collection, and offer a designer in around 4 colour-ways, so when it comes to deciding what two colour ways to make the sample dress in, those damn plump little fairies take residence on my shoulders. For days I toy between pale lilac, rose, powder blue, gold, taupe, honey, porcelain, the list goes on.

I’ve illustrated some examples for you below, to better understand my pain! You can see how dramatically different, and distinctively beautiful the same dress in a different colour can be.
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Pracatan-doubleThe moral of the story: if you find a great style but aren’t keen on the colour in the shop, don’t disregrd it yet! Ask the boutique if they can loan an alternative colour option, it could be your dream dress. Learn from Flora and Merryweather here, they both adored and despised the same gown due to their penchant for pink and blue!

Dramatic Colour 

A strong colour is a fabulous way to express your unique sense of style, and really go again the traditional grain. Do you think Gwen Stefani and Dita Von Teese would’ve been able to stay true to their alternative looks in an ivory dress? Me neither.

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And I come baring good news if you don’t happen to have Galliano of Westwood in your contact book. I have a big repertoire of diverse fabric colours, so you are not limited to a bridal spectrum of colour with me!

If you find a style you love, it can be made in an alternative colour than the listed options. This gorgeous bride for example had Vanderbilt made in black!
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Think Bigger Picture

As a crusader for colour, I love a well thought out colour story.

A coloured dress takes centre stage for building your colour story, but it does require you to think a little more about your wedding party photographs. Here is my advice for avoiding a colour clash that will haunt you forever.

Match men’s ties/cravats/waistcoats with your gown, consider having them made in the same fabric as your dress. Your boutique can help you with this. Unless your future hubby has frequent “Llewelyn-Bown-isms”, giving him a colour swatch and asking him to ‘tone it’, is a risk I wouldn’t take. May ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ serve as your warning.

Tone in the matriarchs. God forbid your gorgeous pastel blue gown is stood next to Debenham’s latest hot new shade of sludge brown for the rest of your life. She will understand why a subtle silver was gently suggested!

Invite your guest to carry the colour story through, give them several suggestions that will enhance your vision. They don’t have to adhere to it, they just need not complain when the wedding photos come out and they don’t seem to be in many, or ask how on earth their fabulous coral dress is now slate grey!

Don’t let your bridesmaid overpower you, bright colours don’t tend to go well with coloured wedding dresses.
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If you are already familiar with my designs, you’ll know how much I love big wedding dresses! It is my passion and my forte. The theatrical nature of them is what got me into bridal in the first place, and why I’ve stayed designing them for over 25 years!

What is it about a big dress that I love? The DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA, and did I mention the drama!? And I don’t mean ‘Drama Queen’, I mean ‘so jaw droppingly beautiful, powerful and iconic that you almost choke on your own gasp’ kind of drama. And I truly believe you can only get that with a big wedding dress.

Princess Feeling 

I’ve still not come to terms with the fact that I will never get to walk down the aisle in a big, ‘F’ off wedding dress, and feel that magical feeling that so many of my brides have felt. I’m sure my secret envy is palpable whenever I go to a wedding and the bride rocks up in a big dress!

What is that “Princess feeling” anyway? I do wonder what chemical reaction is going on in the brain and what emotion is flooding the body that makes someone embody a feeling of being royal. And God I’d love to know what it feels like!

I can only assume that it borders on a special kind of Disney ecstasy, if it is capable of making one both cry in joy and radiate with magical energy at the same time!
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Myth of the Meringue

OK, we all saw and loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I doubt anyone has a picture of Toula on their Pinterest board. I actually think films and shows depicting ‘meringue horror’ scenarios have put a lot of brides off wearing a big dress. The fear of looking like a 80’s throwback, cheap Diana knock off is very real, but darlings, don’t fear big dresses today are much more stylish than you think. w

I’m on a misson to bring back the #BigDress love. I want to see your big dress inspiration, whether it’s from bridal, the red carpet, costume from film or theatre!

Take a look at some of my favourites from my archive, I hope they inspire you: ianstuart-bride.com

Top tips for wearing a big dress:

1. Make sure the bodice fits like a glove, the last thing you want is to be constantly pulling the dress up because of the weight of the skirt.

2. Get a bustle put in for the evening so you can dance within 3 feet of your guests!

3. Wear shoes you are super confident to walk in, no one will see them anyway, you are having to contend with a mammoth gown.

4. Then practice walking in it, you should NOT have to touch or pick up your dress when you walk. (Biggest bugbear on a bride)

5. Bigger is always better!

 


We want to know your story, how did you meet?

James and I met in high school when we were set up on a blind date for our Senior Prom. The dance was held at Villa Siena that year. So it was very special for us to get married at the same place we had our first date.

Danielle wearing Everdina

How did he propose?

Well it is a very long story…. James had a very elaborate plan to propose during the Fireworks in San Diego on 4th of July, however when all the fireworks went off at once and the show went from 20 minutes to 10 seconds, he had to change his plan.  Knowing I suspected a proposal, he tried to throw me off by proposing on the beach the next morning with a pair of shoes, asking me to be his Cinderella, and marry him. I was very confused but accepted. Once in the car on our way from San Diego to Newport, I wanted to call and tell my family but was confused since he had gone ring shopping with her sister. I was worried they would ask to see the ring then James would feel bad about not having it. James asked me what was wrong, she started crying and felt bad and was just really confused. James pulled out the ring while driving down the freeway and proposed right then and there. He had planned on asking her at dinner that night, he just wanted to throw her off, but couldn’t take her being sad or crying.

Like I said it’s a very long complicated story. You can just say he proposed on the beach in San Diego it that is less confusing.

Danielle wearing Everdina

How did you know that your Ian Stuart Dress was the right choice for your big day?

Part of it was the name. I always wanted my dress to look like my grandmother’s gown from the 50’s. Her name is Evenjelina, I loved how similar Everdina’s name was to hers. It was also a similar shape to my grandmother’s dress. I knew I wanted to add the long sleeves to match hers, but I also wanted to make the dress my own make the dress my own. I felt Everdina was the perfect canvas for me to do that.

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Was there a theme/colour theme at your wedding?

We got married around Christmas, we wanted the wedding to feel festive and inviting without being too literal. We used a mix of metallics and rich greens, reds, and taupes.

Danielle wearing Everdina

Did you incorporate any specific traditions in your wedding, such as ‘something old, something new, borrowed and blue’?

I would say our wedding was very traditional. We both come from large families and wanted to incorporate them as much as possible. In the weeks preceding the wedding, I was having a very hard time missing my grandfather, who was more like a father to me.  On my wedding day I hadn’t yet picked my something borrowed. The whole morning of the wedding we were searching for a something for me to borrow, then I went in my grandmother’s room to see if she had a bracelet or something, and on her dresser was a pin of angel wings and a feather with a poem saying someone special is looking down on you on your wedding day.  It was just what I need to know he was there.

Danielle wearing Everdina

 Do you have any advice to share with women who are about to embark on this incredible journey of planning their wedding and selecting their wedding dress?

Don’t worry about the little things. Remember what the day is truly about, the love between you and your partner. As long as you are happy and feel good about your dress that is all that matters.

Danielle wearing Everdina

Ian Stuart Bride: Danielle Ashworth
Groom: James Ashworth
Bridal Gown: Everdina, Frill Me Collection
Boutique:  Mariee Bridal, Scottsdale
Wedding Date: December 6th, 2014
Location:  Villa Siena, Gilbert, Arizona


MY SHOP IS IN QUITE A FAB LOCATION
A little off the beaten track, hidden away beneath modern skyscrapers and surrounded by some quite impressive Victoria architecture, you walk through London’s past and future simultaneously.

However, this is not the reason I think it’s such a fab location. The Blewcoat is quite literally a stone’s throw away from several of the most beautiful 5* hotels in London. (We are neighbours with the queen after all!) To me this means being a stone’s throw away from several of the most fabulous bars to have after work drinks in!
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AFTER WORKS DRINK = TIME WELL INVESTED
In a concerted effort to get to know my neighbours, I have dutifully frequented them, and have built up quite a rapport. (I suspect I’m known as the eccentric designer in the grand old building across the road!)

In these ‘dutiful efforts’, I’ve become well acquainted with Marion at The Taj, who organises special events at the hotel, (we actually used their beautiful courtyard for our most recent occasion wear photo shoot. Sneak peak below – you can see my PA recreating the shoot!) So who do you think she called when she needed to dress the hosts for a Mad Hatters Tea party she was organising? The mad eccentric man across the road of course!
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THE CHALLENGE

I was so excited about it when she asked me, anything to get a little theatrically creative (if you have read a bio on me you probably know that I wanted to be a costume designer). It felt very Project Runway-esque!! With only a two week turnaround and 8 girls to dress, my pattern master stayed tucked firmly away in its draw, the scissors, hot glue and haberdashery came out. We did some serve customising of old samples and on off gowns. I’m not sure Tim Gunn would’ve approved!11951991_1006252602759862_3634883577103270667_n
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But with the addition of some wonderlandy tights, and fab hair by stylist Dar, I think we rose to the challenge! And the girls did indeed look like they had gone down the rabbit hole.
I also think I may have been inspired with a mood for the next collection!
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Why are you an Ian Stuart stockist?

I wanted to become and Ian Stuart stockist because it is such an amazing label. It creative, with a recognisable style that stands out from all the other bridal labels. Ian doesn’t conform to trends and make his own rules. He creates a fairytale fantasy for each bride.

What is your favourite Ian Stuart moment?

Paradis

Paradis – Runway Rebel 2016

My favourite moment is going to London to see the new collection. I get to see Ian and his team, or as I like to call them Ian and the family. They have a genuine passion for what they create as well as being a collective unit. Ian is so modest in relation to his talent, but he is always full of passion and genuine.

What is the ethos of the boutique?

Here at Ti Adora we believe that every bride is special, our bride comes first. I have nearly twenty years of experience within the industry so I feel that I can observe a brides colouring, body shape, personality, but more important listen to her and create a look that is perfect for her. I also love to have fun with my brides and try to create something that is truly unforgettable.

What is your favourite Ian Stuart gown?

Flower_Bomb

Flowerbomb – Revolution Rocks

Hand down, without question or hesitation, Flowerbomb! Its creative, funky, has an amazing upper body shape and is full of drama.

What do you like more about the bridal industry?

I love meeting people and them saying, “The bride was stunning, I knew she got her dress from you”. We are a small shop and we work individually with each bride, we are not about numbers, we are able people.

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Marie Fennelly wearing Coco Rico Ti Adora Bridal Shop

 


Ti Adora
Ti Adora Bridal
26th to 27th of September
E-mail: tiadorabrides@gmail.com


Why are you an Ian Stuart Stockist?

For us, Ian Stuart bridal gowns are like chocolate – irresistible! Our favourite days in the bridal calendar include choosing our new season dresses at Ian’s fashion show, (we have added a further 10 dresses to our collection) and our designer day’s when you can see Ian’s entire collection in our boutique.
Limelight OccasionsWhat is your favourite Ian Stuart Gown? 
Too difficult to choose just one!
We love Flowerbomb and we are thrilled to have Chiquitita in our new collection.
Our best selling dress over time has been Peaches, so I guess this is a favourite among our brides – so pretty and elegant.
Our personal favourite right new is Pracatan – so Ian Stuart!!!

Chiquitita, Runway Rebel Collection

Chiquitita, Runway Rebel Collection

Tell us about your boutique?

When you first step onto the catwalk, under the crystal chandeliers in and Ian Stuart bridal gown you get the sense of how you are going to feel on your wedding day. The Boutique is spacious and, along with our Ian Stuart gowns, we also stock mother of the bride/groom, bridesmaid dresses and formal menswear, so we really do cater for your whole bridal party. As a team we have won national bridal awards for our boutique and website and have been featured on national television.
Limelight Occasions

What is you favourite thing about being in the bridal industry?

The fact that every day is different. We enjoy the creativity of working with our team, our brides and our designers so we never have that Monday morning feeling.
We never get tired of discussing the latest bridal trends and opening boxes when our samples from the new collections arrive, it always feels like Christmas.
The very best bit of our day is hearing from one of our brides telling us about her wedding day and sending us pictures which we always put proudly on display on ‘Our Bride‘ gallery.
Limelight Occasions


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