Fashion Week Quick-Fire: Natalie Chan

She's the queen of all things pretty, pink and perfumed. Ahead of her New Zealand Weddings Collection debut, Natalie Chan gives us a sneak peek into her new-season looks.

  • Story by Photo Carolyn Haslett

She's the queen of all things pretty, pink and perfumed. Ahead of her New Zealand Weddings Collection debut, Natalie Chan gives us a sneak peek into her new-season looks. 

Why do you love designing?
I love having a creative outlet and being able to challenge myself and my team to constantly learn new techniques to apply to new and beautiful designs. It gives me great pleasure, designing for clients who appreciate my work and connect with my vision. The thought of a bride wearing my design on her special day is such a compliment!

What makes your designs unique?
I have an eye for precious details and finishing touches, which I apply to all of my designs. I also love the balance of creating elegant and timeless dresses while making sure they still make a statement.

What are some of your personal creative interests? 
Floristry, crafting, painting – in particular, watercolour painting − are just a few of my current interests.    

What’s one tradition of the wedding gown that you think should never fade?
The use of traditional fabrics such as silk, lace and tulle.

What will we see from you in the New Zealand Weddings Collection show at Fashion Week that celebrates tradition?
I’ve utilised all the above fabrics in my designs, but in some cases have also put my own romantic spin on the collection to try to buck tradition. 

What are three words to describe your runway collection?
Bold, feminine and showstopping.

What was your inspiration?
I’ve long had a love affair with flowers, so blooms and botanical gardens were my main point of inspiration. An ongoing inspiration is my research into fabric manipulation and textures, and experimenting with new and unique silhouettes. This led me and my team to find out more about different types of floral motifs on lace and other fabrics and create our own by painting large flowers onto silk before hand-appliqéuing them onto gowns in different forms. Each piece in the collection will feature a fabric flower, from petite and scattered to bold clusters of blooms.

Are you championing a certain fabric, cut or colour?
I’ve incorporated quality fabrics such as silk dupion and lace into the gowns, as well as fine tulle and silk organza, which give a wonderful transparent depth to my designs. The bodices are contoured close to the body and most of the skirts are floor-length and sweeping as I love the drama that creates. Ivory is an expected base but you can also expect to see pops of beautiful pinks, in soft hues and brighter tones of coral and water-lily pink.

How is it different from past years? 
Art is an integral theme in this collection, and painting my fabrics has given me greater control over fabric design and the colour palette. 

What about styling − what’s the icing on the cake?
I’m lucky to have also trained in millinery and have long been making headwear alongside gowns − in my view no outfit is complete without the addition of a stunning headpiece. So in the show, whether headwear adorned with feather flowers, jewel-embellished headbands or floral-appliquéd veils, there’s a piece for every bride.

How do you think the bridal gown fits into the context of a wedding? 
I’d liken the guests’ first view of the bride’s gown to an opening act of a show. It has to be captivating and speak volumes of who the bride is as a person. 

What bridal trend do you love right now?
There’s been a huge revival in the popularity of lace, which I’m relishing. We’re quite spoilt for choice with lace selection in our local textile industry, from classic to modern to dainty and bold designs.

What’s the biggest mistake brides make when they start to search for their wedding gown?
It can be quite overwhelming for a bride in this digital age, as there are endless options and inspirations − and who wouldn’t want it all?! But its best to be realistic and set a budget, and it’s my job to help the bride refine her ideas to come up with the design that’s best suited to them and their special day.

How early should a bride start looking for her gown?
I think one year ahead is soon enough.

How late can she order her gown from you? 
Four to five months at a push is the shortest time. Any later than that and the gown would need to be purchased from the ready-to-wear range in the boutique. 

How does a bride know when she’s found “the one”?
The perfect gown is different for all brides. My advice is to keep a tightly edited scrapbook of different designs you’re drawn to − there will usually be a recurring theme regarding a silhouette or style. Try on different dress styles if you can. When you come across “the one”, you’ll just know – there’ll be a sparkle in your eye. It’ll be the one that’s truest to who you are as a person and the one you feel most comfortable in.

What’s the first and last thing a bride should concern herself with when it comes to her ensemble?
On a practical note, I believe comfort is the most important concern. Many brides forget they’re going to be wearing their gown for an average of seven hours − and that’s a long time to be uncomfortable!

What should a gown do to make a bride look her most gorgeous?
The dream gown should accentuate and highlight the best of the bride’s personality and be an extension of her beautiful self. 

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