Viola Chan has been in the wedding gown industry for more than 25 years and is the first Chinese female creative director for the late fashion designer, Oleg Cassini. Cassini, who famously dressed half of Hollywood, helped create Jacqueline Kennedy’s “Jackie Look”. Below, Chan tells us about how she became introduced to bridal design and how she goes about designing a perfect bridal gown.
Ever since I was a girl, I’ve been interested in fashion design. My grandfather was in show business and I’d accompany him to the show previews. Many actors and actresses would be present and I admired how they dressed so glamorously, even if they were just going to watch a preview. Seeing so many different gowns sparked my fascination with fashion.
I have dressed Hong Kong celebrities Carol “Do Do” Cheng, Kay Tse, Gillian Chung, Astrid Chan, Joey Wong and Sisley Choi, as well as international names such as Taylor Swift.
Previously I have worked with Vera Wang, Jenny Packham, Marchesa, Zac Posen and Melissa Sweet, among others. We are still working with some of these brands.
Trends come and go so my style is more considerate – I consider it to be modern contemporary. As we go through different stages of our lives, our style changes, which is why I like to invest in timeless pieces so that the things I wear today can also be effortlessly worn in five to 10 years depending on how I style them. What I like isn’t necessarily what someone else might like because everyone has their own taste and uniqueness about them.
Our company has more than a couple of brands – these are Viola Chan wedding dress collection, Viola Chan Premium collection, Viola Chan collection and VC by Viola Chan collection. My wedding dress collection is more classic, whereas my premium collection features more high-end design for the more avant-garde bride. Viola Chan collection is more modern and edgy, and VC by Viola Chan combines urban fashion with bohemian style. My goal is to be able to accommodate every single bride which means having a wide variety so that when a bride walks into my showroom, she will be able to find her perfect wedding dress.
The perfect wedding dress is the one where the bride has the happiest smile on her face as soon as she puts it on. It doesn’t have to be a gown that I personally like but it’s a gown that the bride feels special in.
My style is most heavily influenced by my grandparents. It was my grandfather who led me to my path of discovery in the fashion industry and my grandmother, a fashionable lady who had a new wardrobe every season, also influenced the way I dress. Oleg Cassini also influenced my style a lot because I worked with him for quite some time and he was the one who truly got me into bridal design.
Mainly the colour aspect of it. Originally, I was an occasion designer and I did pageant wear, which is all about colour. Switching from that to a white gown was quite challenging for me. Another obstacle was realising that there are specific needs for different countries based on their cultures. Being an international bridal designer, I design for clients from different countries and need to be considerate towards the type of look they require.
I have a very talented team working with me. Our process begins with an initial concept, and then we do trend forecasts and research on embellishments, silhouettes and necklaces of the moment. This is usually done when we travel to Europe or other parts of the world, depending on where we launch. Next, we talk about what fabric texture we want for the season and also discuss the colour of fabric based on our lab dip. We are a global company so our standards are very strict — our lab dips are based on three light sources. One gown can have different fabric combinations so all these fabrics need to go through the lab dip in order to make sure that, for example, the satin matches the organza or the mesh matches the lining. After that, we design the dresses and then we have a sketch review to go through our drawings. Lastly, we develop the embellishments and then execute the samples with models.