Toronto’s newest bespoke wedding-dress maker, Aurélia Hoang, originally rejected the idea of designing wedding dresses (and weddings altogether), but had a change of heart after she realized she didn’t hate weddings—she hated the cookie-cutter bridal gowns and conventional celebrations that involved little creativity and didn’t properly reflect the love that inspired the one-in-a-lifetime event. We chatted with the France native about her design philosophy and about her fresh start in Canada. —Noa Nichol
Hello Aurélia! How did you get into fashion design and, specifically, bridal design?
Drawing was already one of my passions at an early age. And I have wanted to be a fashion designer since I’m 10 with more interest in clothes, styling people and sewing. Then I fell in love with the work of Alexander McQueen for Givenchy. His 1998 FW Couture show was outstanding and epic. It was it. I wanted to make my way in fashion and I studied first in Lyon before going to Milan. Bridal design came later. At that time, I worked for Isabel Marant in Paris when a friend asked me to draw and make her wedding dress. The year after, another friend asked me, too, but she wanted an Aurélia Hoang look. So I designed my vision of a bride. It was a pair of bloomer shorts and an open-back top with a bow around the neck. Furthermore, the separates colours were from blush to taupe. No white. This human adventure made me want to found my brand and I started offering bespoke wedding gowns before launching my first collection for the season 2011.
How is bridal design a specialty? What are some of the challenges involved? And the rewards?
Designing bridal dresses is different from drawing an everyday ready-to-wear collection in terms of the uniqueness of the outfit. When a woman chooses one of your designs, you are involved in an emotional, intimate, treasured adventure. Even though I tend for more sustainability, the wedding gown is a one-time dress. She will catch all the attention. She will be the one you’ll show people years later. So it has to be perfect, it must gather some codes that I like to twist. It must be comfortable enough to be worn 12 hours despite the exclusive fabrics, the delicate chiffons and laces, the length, the fitted silhouette. From the “I do” to the dance floor. So yes, it’s a beautiful adventure when a woman says “yes to the dress” because it means I’ll be part of one of the most precious moments in her life. Having tears in my eyes, it’s my routine when the future bride tries on her separates or her gown, looks at herself in the mirror and smiles with her heart, or cries, or puts her hands in front of her mouth. I am grateful for those feelings. And when the bride sends me photos of her day, this is so much satisfaction. I feel like I did a good job. This is why I do what I do.
You offer custom services; what are your top tips for brides who want to design their own gowns?
When a woman comes to me for a bespoke design, we will first discuss what she has in mind, what she likes in my brand, what’s her everyday style and her bridal style. With trying on dresses from the rack, I’ll be able to put in shape her envies. I’ll interpret her ideas according to my style. I completely listen to them and offer them personal support. They can rely on my expertise, my advice. This is essential, especially when sometimes some ideas will not go together, or some are not technically feasible. The choice of fabrics is also crucial for the fall, the volume, the silhouette. Once the bride made her choice, don’t go shopping, don’t look around, don’t listen too much to others’ opinions. It is first and foremost an original design made for you for your special day. Seeing your dress made is a privilege, but it can also be a source of stress because you don’t discover it completely finished until the last minute. But putting her on a few days before your wedding is a very intense moment in the studio, for the bride-to-be as for me. Patience and trust.
With so many brides sadly having to put their weddings on hold at the moment, what advice do you have?
As a couple you should remember why you want to get married. It will help you decide if an intimate wedding suits you or you’ll go for the huge party and/or the family gathering. Communicate with your vendors. Mutual understanding is key. If you hired a planner, you are in good hands. If not, postponement might give you more time to really think of what you want for your big day and to prepare. And then, be resilient, adapt, put the situation into perspective. It won’t be the way you imagined it but at the end, it’s still you and your lover.
You recently relocated to Canada—welcome! Why the move, and what do you love best about living here so far?!
I like the diversity and the wealth seen in differences. Including every culture, every background, every opinion with kindness is very important to me. Opportunities are open for everybody, you must push some doors though, but they are here. I’m a positive yet realistic person so I’m happy with the Canadian mindset. Also, I like snow and maple syrup, especially on pancakes! I can’t wait to discover more of this beautiful country.