Once it had to be a Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier wedding gown. Now, a new generation of Hong Kong brides are opting for designer alternatives as new brands enter the market.
“People are getting increasingly inspired with their weddings, and want to showcase their individuality,” saysSarah Fung, publisher of My Hong Kong Wedding magazine. “Of course, this extends to the dress, hence the desire to seek out new designers, who offer craftsmanship and a creative use of embellishments and textures.
“There are new wedding gown boutiques opening up to serve this need – The Wedding Gown and Le Ceremonie Atelier have both opened to bring unique dresses to the market.”
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In the past Hong Kong brides erred on the side of caution when it came to choosing their wedding gowns. Conservative silhouettes such as the strapless or Cinderella-style dress became increasingly popular because of their ability to flatter most shapes, and transcend time and trends.
Tastes have changed, however, as brides have moved away from the more traditional wedding venues such as hotel ballrooms, in favour of exotic locales such as beach resorts. Along with a change of scenery has come a demand for a new look that is less formal and stuffy.
“Hong Kong girls are especially stylish and get inspiration from runway trends and Instagram feeds,” says Dana Trang of Hitched Bridal, a luxury wedding boutique. “New designers are offering a different look for the wedding day, as not every girl suits a traditional bridal gown. While traditional designers have more structured shapes that include corsets and lace-ups, the new designers have created more of a happy medium with looks that are lightweight and romantic.”
“We are also beginning to see more architectural shapes in the new designers’ work,” says Lelian Chew of The Wedding Atelier. “These new-age wedding gowns are no longer just clothes but many times also structural statements. The designer is not a seamstress but a sculptor of the woman’s body; they experiment with new volumes and shapes, which is very exciting to see.”
Israeli brands in particular are filling this new demand, with names including Berta, Inbal Dror, Limor Rosen, Galia Lahav, Alon Livne White, Lee Petra Grebenau and Liz Martinez resonating with Hong Kong customers.
While each brand has its unique aesthetic, they all tend to experiment with more fashion-forward silhouettes and figure-hugging gowns. Traditional boundaries are pushed to the limits as plunging necklines, low backs, sheer bodices and exposed corsetry and cups – once considered taboo – are now acceptable and seen as super stylish.
They also experiment with new cuts and fabrics that flatter the female body in a natural and whimsical way, making them a breath of fresh air for the modern bride.
They also offer variety when it comes to colour, with an assortment of nude, blush, gold and even powder blue shades which are accented with details such as sheer panelling. What also makes them stand out is the workmanship they use, including elaborate beadings and embellishments. The result is a collection of gowns that border on haute couture.
“I chose a dress by Israeli designer called Limor Rosen because I wanted something romantic, ethereal and light,” says bride-to-be Angela Hastings. “Whilst the Vera Wangs of the world are incredibly talented, their dresses aren’t for everyone, and if you’re looking for something unique and perhaps less conventional, choosing a lesser known designer that suits your personal style is a great way to do this. It also makes for a much more interesting story when people ask where your dress is from.”
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Another big advantage of choosing a lesser known designer is the option for customisation and the opportunity to work more closely with the designer themselves. Ready-to-wear designer Sofia Borromeo, for example, was unexpectedly thrown into the world of bridal wear when she was approached to create custom bridal gowns for several women. She works with her clients to develop a look that suits their needs.
“I think Sofie.B has a positive positioning as a new player in the bridal wear industry as we make our services flexible,” says Borromeo. “We work around the client’s budget and we start from there. We do not have a permanent set of price ranges, we want to be able to cater to all brides with different budgets, yet focus closely on the high quality of execution.
“We don’t work with the usual classic designs; however, we always make sure to think outside the box and offer something very unique each time to all our different brides-to-be.”
Naturally, there are drawbacks when it comes to working with a new or less established name. Many of the new brands charge just as much as, if not more than bigger players like Wang. Sizing options can also be more limited, while a gown’s resale value can be on the lower end of the scale. And although many of the designs are currently fashionable, there is a chance that they will appear dated in a few years’ time.
At the end of the day, your choice of a designer comes down to personal preference.
“Brides need not compromise; it’s not one or the other,’ ,” says wedding store Trinity Bridal’s Cecile Chen. “Traditional designers also provide designs that speak to the current sensual trend; however, they will have their signature looks. We have clients who are fans of specific designer aesthetics.
“For example, Oscar de la Renta is known for craftsmanship in embroidery and appliqué, Carolina Herrera is known for her elegant city chic designs. If brides do not wish to completely embody a specific trend on their big day, then a traditional designer will still offer them the trend as well as their signature style.”
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