You opened your atelier in 2001, what led you to this?
I’ve had a life-long love affair for creating beautiful designs for myself and others to enjoy, so when the chance arose to have my own atelier – above a florist’s boutique no less – it was the perfect opportunity.
How do you think the wedding industry has changed in that time? And how did you adapt to continue with your success?
For the longest time, weddings followed a very set tradition, whereas in recent years we’ve seen wedding styles and trends become a lot more relaxed, and brides are really creating new and less conventional traditions of their own. I myself got married in 2012 which was on the cusp of this new market and found that I had a unique take on modern wedding designs, which prompted me and my team and to launch our first capsule range. When I first started my label I offered special occasion wear with a small millinery range and would take on a few bespoke brides. My business has since evolved to focusing mainly on bridal and millinery, and occasionally taking on a few bespoke special occasion clients.
What sets the Natalie Chan brand apart, and what do your clients come to you for?
I love referencing couture through my use of luxurious fabrics and intricate design features. The type of bride I have in mind when I design is someone who is fashion forward with an eye for detail, but who still likes to adhere to a few classic wedding traditions.
How would you describe the Natalie Chan aesthetic and experience?
I would describe my aesthetic as feminine and romantic, which are evident in my designs. My team and I strive to create a really wonderful and personal experience for our brides, from hosting intimate tea party consultations to holding dress fittings in our boutique with their close family and friends, and then finishing off with tea party photo viewings!
Tell us about a few of the most spectacular dresses you’ve made over the years?
Our dresses are all so spectacular in their own unique ways… We once created a beautiful lilac-coloured lace tea length dress for a bride who wed in Hawaii. For one dress we utilised about five different laces for our bride’s bodice, in essence creating our own lace. Another memorable gown saw us hand dye hundreds of petite sized fabric flowers to be placed on a stunning couture gown. Last season we created a look for a bride who first wed on a beach in New Zealand – where her gown featured a lace bodice and a slim cut chiffon skirt – then wed again back home in a church in the UK, so we created a tiered tulle skirt to simply wear over the top of her existing skirt for a really great transitional look. Our most recent bride had a gorgeous two piece lace number, with a full circle pleated skirt that made for the most stunning twirling photos – as seen in issue three of Together Journal…
And some of the most memorable?
We once had a bride based in New York, whose consultations and fittings were all actioned over Skype and email and the postal service. Needless to say there were a little less tea parties through her process, although she was able to visit us in New Zealand for her final fitting and we managed to squeeze one in then! For her, we created a gorgeous rose pink tulle gown featuring gold Italian guipure lace that had been entirely hand-appliqued on.
What are some of the most popular styles/details/colours/fabrics clients are coming to you for right now?
I’ve always been a huge advocate of coloured wedding dresses, and just love working with a palette of butterscotch, blush pink and dove grey. Floor-skimming is an enduringly popular length in bridal wear, but more recently I love high-low and waltz hems where brides can make a statement with their footwear. Silhouettes with brides don’t vary too much, I’m seeing a lot of fitted bodices with flowing and voluminous skirts. And fabric wise there’s been a huge revival in the popularity of lace at the moment, which I’m relishing.
What are your favourite fabrics to work with?
Silk, lace and tulle are always classic staples in my bridal collections as they’re so luxurious to handle, and can be manipulated in so many different ways.
You’re also famous for your incredible millinery, how did you get into this field, and what do you love about it? What makes a beautiful hat/headpiece?
I’ve long been making millinery alongside gowns, so of course it’s my view that no outfit is complete without the added addition of a stunning headpiece. What makes a beautiful headpiece is much the same as what makes a beautiful gown – that the wearer is happy and confident in her chosen design, and that her headpiece complements her and is a reflection of her personality. From headwear adorned with feather flowers to jewel embellished headbands and floral appliqued veils, there can be a design for all types of brides.
Do you have a favourite style from your millinery collection?
Currently I’m in love with the boater/canotier trend, the bigger the brim, the better! We’ve been seeing these designs a lot in fashion, and I would absolutely love to see a bold bride pull off this look on her wedding day.