We recently interviewed Cathleen Tan, designer and director at Cathleen Jia Bridal Couture in Melbourne. Cathleen Jia embraces a vintage glam style which appeals to the romantic in all of us. The vintage wedding dresses are all gracefully hand crafted with exquisite fabrics, and intricately adorned with delicate laces and hand-beaded embellishments.
Here is a sneak peak into Cathleen’s story.
What inspired you to work in bridal?
I have been in Bridal for about 7 years now. Having worked with large fashion chains previously, everything was very structured and stiff. I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity by a small bridal business to redevelop their business 7 years ago. As soon as I was exposed to the intimacy side custom made dresses, I fell in love. The relationships you develop with your client, the chance to work so closely with exquisite fabrics, and being part of such a special moment in a bride’s life makes me love working in the bridal industry.
When did you start your own label and what has been the most challenging part of starting up?
I started my label in late 2011. It all started as an evening wear label. I think the business fashion experience I’ve had made me a bit more cautious of starting up my own brand. So I tested it out with a couple of seasons of ready to wear. Unfortunately, it did not work very well. I think part of it was because I didn’t love it. The most challenging time was the initial stage, getting to know your brand, and working with very limited resources. For me, finally understanding I had all the skills and knowledge required to do bridal gowns and ignore all the what ifs and just think about yourself and the brand was a big step and turning point in my label. At the end of the day, you can not please everyone, but you need to be happy and satisfied with what you are doing.
What did you study? How did you learn the trade?
I studied fashion at RMIT, Brunswick. It was a more hands on course and we learned quite a bit from design to production. My practical skills and a lot of basic knowledge came from the course. My mum was a machinist for many years, so I was always exposed to sewing. I’m pretty sure the first time I used a sewing machine I was in year 7, and I have never stopped since. I did also try a lot of different techniques and self taught based on what I learned. We construct and cut dresses in a non conventional way. I think that is why our dresses are so popular with modern day brides, because of our fresh approach.
What do you love most about your job?
Our brides! The friendships we have formed doing what we love is priceless.
What do you recommend to brides when choosing their perfect wedding dress?
Have an open mind with styles. Generally your stylist can see what suits your body shape, so no harm in trying. Also start trying on early. I know most brides wants to be in their best shape for the dress, but if you love it knowing you are not at your best shape then you will love it even more at your ideal weight.
With your own wedding coming up. Do you have a dress in mind and do you plan on making it? Can we have any hints of what it might involve?
I will absolutely make my own dress! But as to what style, I have no idea yet. The problem here is I can change my mind as often as I want, given its not the day before the wedding. But regardless, I would wear a dress what suits my personality, so expect an element of surprise.