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17 OCTOBER 2016 | FASHION
A Designer's Guide to Wedding Gown Selection
The best tips for choosing your dream bridal gown, straight from co-designer Roderick Ng of Australian wedding gown brand Helen Constance.
By Natasha Meah
Designer Roderick Ng, 38, may have started out as a makeup/hair artist and fashion stylist, but his passion for fashion design soon took over. He dropped his job in Kuala Lumpur as a stylist to celebrities, and flew to Sydney to study fashion design in 2003.
In 2004, he started Master/Slave, his fashion couture label with business partner Helen Constance, in Australia.
While they styled stars and socialites - including the likes of Delta Goodrem and Danni Minogue - and dominated the Australian entertainment industry’s red carpet events, a chance encounter led him in the direction of bridal wear.
“We started working with Guy Sebastian and his wife, Jules. Jules started coming in and ordering dresses for red carpet events and when Guy proposed, she gave us six weeks' notice (to produce a gown for her),” he said.
Jules Sebastian in her wedding gown. Photography By GM Photographics.
Guy and Jules Sebastian on their wedding day. Photography By GM Photographics.
He added, “The gown we designed generated great interest. The publicity surrounding the wedding generated positive reviews and we went on to pick up more orders for our bridal gown designs."
And now, Roderick, is hooked on creating couture bridal gowns so much so that he launched a strictly bridalwear brand, Helen Constance, with his business partner (of the same name) at the beginning of the year. He co-owns both Master/Slave and Helen Constance.
“I find designing bridal gowns and working with brides to be exciting and most fulfilling. The journey and process of conceptualising, designing, marketing and selling wedding gowns offers my business partner and I a great deal of job satisfaction,” he said.
So Roderick, what's the process of coming up with a gown design? Is the bride heavily involved?
The bride-to-be comes in for an appointment and we take the time to get to know them and listen to their needs and interests. They often show us some reference photos and describe to us their likes and dislikes. We then show the brides fabric swatches, draw a sketch for them and help them articulate the details of the gown. These might be trims and buttons, lace appliqué placement and fasteners.
This iterative process helps the bride visualise the finished product even before it's made. For couture bridal gowns, it may take up to six fittings from beginning to end. There are plenty of opportunities for participation, feedback and alterations. This will guarantee the bride's satisfaction.
Where do you form inspiration for your gowns?
Helen and I have design days every week and we just sit there, draw and brainstorm. We work through new-season lace and fabric swatches as a source of inspiration and develop ideas and designs from there. Our regular exposure to real brides makes us able to learn and understand their needs better. We work with brides and develop the designs with them in mind.
We also travel around Australia for wholesale purposes and do trunk shows with our samples. At these trunk shows, we understand which styles are well-received, which are not and why they are not working. We feel that the time spent with brides and retailers are extremely valuable in understanding trend changes and how brides’ needs change from season to season.
What are some tips you have for brides when it comes to their gowns?
A simple yet chic lace Helen Constance wedding gown.
When choosing your gown, choose no more than two design elements to focus on. Whether it’s a low back, low v-neckline front, buttons or lace-up, you have to decide. Trying to force multiple design elements into one gown will result in a gown that is visually complicated and impractical. Work out a trade-off system and be decisive about it.
To ensure your bridal gown search remain a fruitful and smooth journey, try the following tips from Roderick Ng;
Do Your Research: Be prepared - read blogs and trend platforms like styleXstyle, and look through Instagram for new trends and ideas. This way when you try on bridal gowns, you'll know where to begin and which styles you prefer.
Keep An Open Mind: Be open to recommendations from an expert at your bridal dress appointments. Explore styles that may better suit your body shape, even if you've never worn them before.
Be Realistic About Your Budget: Having done your research, you now know realistically what you would have to pay for your dream gown. This will reduce the element of surprise when you are informed of how much your gown costs. This also helps you set a financial plan for your dream gown.
And in case you were wondering what sort of gown trends are popular right now, it's an illusion neckline and 3D flowers!
A Helen Constance wedding Gown with an illusion neckline
A Helen Constance wedding gown with 3D flowers.