She was 16 when she first walked into a bridal store. She was just a regular high school student, working at a local bridal store in the weekends, making covered buttons for bridal dresses.
“I still remember seeing the bride-to-be trying on wedding gowns. Many brides did not know what they wanted and often got upset. But as soon as they put on the wedding gown of their dreams and veil, their smile lit up the whole room. That smile gave me satisfaction…although my sole input was the covered buttons.” It was then Viola Chan knew she wanted to be a bridal designer.
She then attended the London College of Fashion and was able to work with different design houses through programmes at the school as well as travel throughout Europe. In addition to receiving her Fashion degree, Viola also has an MBA in Innovation Design Management. She has been in the bridal industry for over 30 years. Viola joined David’s Bridal in 2003 and immediately became a valuable contributor to the various bridal collections.
More than 60 years in the business, David’s Bridal has stores in US, Canada, UK and Puerto Rico.
Viola’s classic and meticulous design made her a perfect fit in the Oleg Cassini Collection. Her grandfather was in the entertainment industry in Hong Kong and as a child Viola often tagged along with him to movie premieres.
It was around this time she became fascinated with the style and grace of actresses. This fascination with
movie-star glamour turned out to be beneficial for Viola in her work for the Oleg Cassini Collection.
When asked what it’s like being the Creative Director of Fashion for Oleg Cassini Bridal Collection, Viola says, “Knowing my creation will be a big part of that special moment in someone’s life has always been a motivation.” And today her creations put a smile on over 40 percent of US brides.
Oleg Cassini famously stated that ‘To be well dressed is a little like being in love.’ True to this, Viola says that the bridal gown represents love, trust and faith. “It is one of the most important dresses in a woman’s life,” Viola said. “And I love creating a gown that will put a beautiful smile on her face when she finds ‘the one.’ Her gown is a reflection of her style so it is essential that every last detail is thought through, down to the tiniest bead or button. It is these intricate details that are going to give her a unique wedding day look and make her feel special when wearing the dress.”
Intricate designs and beautiful embellishments are the hallmark of her designs, and Viola humbly claims that she draws inspiration from things that happen around her, “Things that I see while travelling, books I read, movies I watch and museums I visit.”
Working in multiple locations, such as US, Turkey and South Africa, as the Creative Director of Fashion for Oleg Cassini Bridal Collection, Viola also designed Yasara Abeynayake’s wedding dress.
“Yasara was my first Sri Lankan Bride,” said Viola, although she has been visiting Sri Lanka regularly. Viola described Yasara’s wedding dress as “Fashionable,
on trend and understandable. Sexy and yet having
coverage and royal and opulent but not overstated.”
When asked how she envisioned this dress for a foreigner, Viola said that the first thing she considers is who the bride is; what’s her lifestyle and what her dream wedding is. “I am an extremely direct person; I will always give my professional opinion to my brides. I met Yasara once in London. After talking to her, I knew exactly what she was looking for. And I was very happy that she trusted my proposed concept.”
“Most importantly, it was her. She looks exactly like who she is,” said Viola.
When asked how she catered to different cultures, Viola said that no matter which country they are from, their background and religion, every bride wants to look beautiful. “A beautiful gown is a beautiful gown,” period, said Viola.
Speaking on how different cultures inspire her, Viola said, “Love influences my designs more than anything else. My designs represent Trust, Faith, Loyalty and Future,” having said that she confided that she spends more time in the air, travelling, per month than at home. “Every country has its own culture and uniqueness; they all have their impact on my designs.”
Finally, no interview with a bridal designer is complete without a professional tip or two. Viola recommends that brides-to-be should go for coverage with sleeves on a full ball gown if they are looking for timeless elegance; Nude illusion, fitted for Sexy independent; Secret garden, 3D floral, airy A line if they want Romantic and simple, light, lacey, soft for destination wedding.
“But again, what is trendy might not suit you. So don’t just follow the trend, try on as many gowns as possible, and you will know when you put on the prefect one.”