Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wedding Style: Part 3, Interview with AriaDress Designer Tak Hau

I have loved design since age 13, and when I was wedding dress hunting, AriaDress provided me with great inspiration.  I really thought these sorts of companies did not exist anymore.  AriaDress operates based on a love of beauty, and the understanding that it should be attainable (price-wise and style-wise).  When AriaDress PR specialist Gayle asked if I wanted to interview Tak Hau, the designer and president of AriaDress, I was so eager I called him even when I was miles away from either good cell phone range or internet, while I was near the Dells in Wisconsin.  Tak is not only Aria's creative mastermind, he is infectiously enthusiastic-- reminding me of the times I had the good fortune to work with inspiring artists.  During our conversation, Tak’s affection for his Aria Brides is as evident as his enthusiasm for his craft.  

AriaDress was originally conceived as salvation from the Ugly Bridesmaid Dress.  After years of experience as a retail designer, Tak noticed a growing trend: "I started getting calls from buyers and store owners saying that, because of the variety of colors and all sizes in the same style, women are actually buyng your dresses for bridesmaid dresses.  I thought, why not just design bridemaid dresses and sell them right to the consumer, and not have a middleman, like a bridal salon or boutiques, so I can keep the retail cost much lower.  I am all about quality and I didn’t want to use anything other than pure silk for my dresses, and the only way to get these dresses right to the consumer was to avoid the middleman.

The AriaDress bridal collection is still in its infancy; it first began in 2009 just months before my own wedding, much like the original emergence of AriaDress from his retail designs, out of the preferences of his own customers: "Our brides should take a lot of credit for the bridal collection because a lot of people just started ordering our bridesmaid dresses in full length and white, saying they liked the simplicity and elegance of the dresses, and it is something they could accessorize themselves.  And we said well, fine, let’s try to see what they look like.  And they looked great and more people were responding, so we just made it more formal and decided to offer is as a collection."  Though the company is expanding with three shop locations currently (Los Angeles, Boston, and D.C.) and the option to shop via internet, a great deal of their business results from classic word-of-mouth.  In response to the understandable apprehension of buying a wedding dress sight unseen over the internet, AriaDress developed the Try on Program: "people anywhere in the country or even out of the country can request to have an actual dress sent right to their home so they can touch it, feel it, try it on, and check out the quality so they can understand the product before committing to buying the dresses.  The bottom line is we try to get these out to the consumers; I just want to make it simplified."  Likewise, AriaDress feels strongly about maintaining relationships with local artists and textile companies both for the practicality of a direct relationship and for the loyalty to local, U.S. businesses.  

Style 121
When asked about his style inspiration, Tak told me that he often looks to Vogue magazine of the 50s and 60s.  Also, preferring the linear, architectural lines of the Asian culture he also seeks inspiration in interior design magazines, "just to get ideas on how to put lines and seams together to make it look modern.  I don’t like fluffy dresses.  I believe that when you put on the dress, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether the pleat is falling right or if it’s gathering correctly.  You should just be in the dress and have fun, right?  So my dresses tend to be very simple, just elegant and classic and you don’t have to worry about looking at the picture 20 years from now and go 'what was I thinking?'  My priority is that the design looks timeless.  I know there are a lot of trendy designers out there that make dresses that are very “now”, but I love the clean lines of the Classic look.  And new Classics are being designed every day.  50s and 60s costume dresses have an element of architectural design to them.  You can’t beat it. "

The creative flexibility that is instinctively understood at AriaDress allows brides to mix and match dresses.  I do not refer to a David's Bridal mix and match of color schemes.  I mean, you can select the dress silhouette and choose your preferred skirt style.  You can talk to them about adjusting sleeves to suit your preference.  I think what really makes AriaDress tick is that the designer/president has the design practicality to know what works and the style understanding that women need variety because one size does not fit all.  "Choices, it’s all about choices," Tak says.  "With Aria you can pretty much customize any of our designs to get close to what your fantasy dress would look like.  I also encourage brides to be creative.  We might actually start a contest where brides can take a photograph of what they embellished about their dress to make it their own.  For instance, it’s not that hard to send a dress to have part of it custom beaded by a local designer, or add a sash and a splash of color to the dress.  I even had one bride who is going to buy a halter dress with the trumpet skirt and have it hand painted by a local artist.  The simple silhouette of an Aria dress is like a canvas, you can make it fun and unique."  The rules of customization available through AriaDress is simple: "the patterns have been made, and we stick with our designs but if people want spaghetti straps added or want a bow on the shoulder, want to add a costume sash, or make the available sash longer, things like that we can definitely add.  A train is not quite long enough, and a bride wants to add two more feet: yeah, things like that we can do.  It is on a case-by-case basis."
And Tak's final advice for brides is pure gold: "Know your body very well.  Listen to your friends and to yourself and not to a salesperson.  Just know yourself very well, know your positives, as well as what you don’t necessarily want to show.  Bring a friend, but, and this is very important: don’t ever go to a bridal appointment with the whole bridal party and all your family.  Too many opinions, you don’t know where to go, and what to listen to since everyone likes something different.  Go with maybe two friends maximum to your appointments.  And go with the friend who will tell you the truth, not the friend who tells you everything looks good on you all the time.  I think it is very important that a bride knows what looks good on her.  Go into your closet and pick out your favorite dress, the dress you love to wear all the time, and when you have to dress up, that is the first dress that you think of.  That’s your best dress, use that as the base, and figure out what about that dress you love most.  And use that as the ingredients for finding your wedding dress."

AriaDress's 2011 Collection will debut sometime in the Fall and you can be sure to see it featured here on 5MoreMinutes.  

For Parts I & II on AriaDress go here and here

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