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What Would They Know? Cathleen Tan of Cathleen Jia Bridal

by | Fashion Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

Cathleen Jia What Would They Know? Cathleen Tan of Cathleen Jia Bridal

Handcrafted bridal gowns with a vintage glam style is what characterizes Cathleen Jia gowns. Designed and made in Melbourne, each gown reflects a love of the elegant screen goddesses of the1920′s to the 1950′s, and feature beading and intricate layers of lace to enhance the female figure. With accessories and veils to match your dress, her studio really is a one stop shop for the bride. Cathleen’s excitement and passion for her chosen career is infectious. Here’s her story…..

How long have you been in the bridal business?

I have been in the bridal industry on and off for about 7 years now. I started off managing and re-branding a small business in Brunswick 7 years ago. The exposure to happy brides and the intimacy and personal approach to design and business has made me fall in love with the field.

What inspired you to set up your bridal business?

To be honest, when I graduated from RMIT I didn’t think I would have my own label. I was more interested in fashion business side of things and wanted to be a buyer.

But with a rare opportunity, I was introduced to the industry and managed a small bridal business. Before working for this bridal boutique I was always working for a large cooperation, whether it is in management, retail or visual merchandising. Unfortunately the owner of the bridal business did not want to pursue the store. I guess in a way it was meant to be, as the introduction have made me fall in love with a more intimate side of small business and bridal. I then got offered a job to be the first bridal store manager for a then small bridal designer. About 4 months into the job, I realized I can actually do this for myself and started my own brand. I did not jump straight into bridal though, I think coming from my background, I was very careful in testing the waters and figuring out what I am capable of. The first 3 collections of Cathleen Jia was cocktail/ evening wear. By the time I launched my 3rd cocktail collection in September 2012, I was already working on rebranding my label into a bridal brand. I knew that is where my heart lay. So in March 2013, Cathleen Jia bridal was born.

Cahtleen jia Kierra1 What Would They Know? Cathleen Tan of Cathleen Jia Bridal

What is the best piece of advice (business or otherwise) you’ve ever received?

I was fortunate enough to meet one of Australia’s most celebrated designers at an event. She has always been my idol. We spoke for about 10mins and all her advice has stuck with me. To this day I still remember her telling me “Keep it small, don’t try to take over the world in a day. Wear your label; you are the face of your brand. This is how you connect with people these days.”

How does the design of a gown start? What is the inspiration behind a gown collection?

We normally have a particular month planned to launch a new collection. The designing process starts with fabrics, a silhouette we love, a theme or a combination of them all. For example, the last collection we launched “Roman Holiday” was inspired by the impeccable styles of Audrey Hepburn and classic necklines. The shape of a gown is very important to us. To create our signature vintage shape with soft structuring, it takes most of our time in the designing and sampling process. Even the simplest bias cut gown requires hours patterning to make it drape correctly on the female form.

Cahtleen Jia Lillian front What Would They Know? Cathleen Tan of Cathleen Jia Bridal

Is it exciting/fulfilling to design a bespoke gown for a bride, helping to bring out her personality and enhancing her looks?

Absolutely! We love designing bespoke gowns with brides. It is such an intimate process and lots of fun! We really get to know our brides well and I love hearing everyone’s wedding planning stories, styling ideas. It is an honor the bride has chosen to wear a Cathleen Jia gown on her special day.

How often do you design a new collection?

Once a year for our ready to wear and custom made collections.

Cathleen Jia Holly frt What Would They Know? Cathleen Tan of Cathleen Jia Bridal

Do you feel more brides are wanting a gown that is custom made, or are as many brides happy with an off the rack gown?

For me, it is more custom made and bespoke. I think it really depends on the brand or boutique. For our brand, it is very personal and intimate, so the brides feel comfortable talking about her ideas and trust our opinions to help her make her vision come alive. Plus we make everything in house and I see most of the brides, so they do feel more at ease having spoken with the designer.

What should a bride wear, and bring with her when wedding gown shopping?

Have some nude seamless undergarments. And just an open mind to try! On many occasions, the perfect dress was tried on as a “just give it a go”.

Is there a style of gown that is gaining in popularity?

Definitely vintage inspired gowns! While the traditional silhouettes are still popular, a softer approach to wedding gown construction is definitely becoming very popular! I believe to create the vintage look, it really needs to reflect the silhouette also, not just a little detail. And to make the style our own, and modernize it to suit today’s brides.

Cathellen Jia Bella What Would They Know? Cathleen Tan of Cathleen Jia Bridal

Do you have a favourite fabric and lace, that is a signature of your designs, or do you love to see new materials coming through to add inspiration and excitement to your designs?

I do love seeing new materials. A lot of my design process is exploring different materials. But currently I am loving chunky beaded lace. I think there is something so beautiful about the juxtaposition between delicate laces adorned with heavy beads.

If you could design a gown for anyone, who would it be? And what would it look like?

Grace Kelly. A classic boat neck gown with a lace cape in soft shades, perhaps blush, pastel blue or rose gold.

You offer accessories such as veils and beaded hair pieces. Was this a natural extension of your wedding gown design – to complement your gowns?

Yes, we love styling our brides from head to toe! Just like our gowns they are unique vintage inspired for the modern day bride.

Where can we find your design studio? 

We have some exciting news to share, you are the first one to know! We are moving to a bigger and better location mid August. This our first flagship store, where as previously we have been working from a first floor studio.

The new location will be on 27 Horne Street Elsternwick, VIC. And yes it is by appointment only to try on Monday to Saturday. With Fridays and Saturdays open to the public for unassisted browsing. Contact us at for an appointment.

We would love to show you our new space once we finish renovating.

Cathleen Jia Diana frt What Would They Know? Cathleen Tan of Cathleen Jia Bridal

What do you like to do when you have time off from your business?

Spend time with my partner and my friends. I love exploring the amazing cafes in Melbourne.

Thank you Cathleen for sharing your story with us. To find out more about Cathleen Jia visit the website.

Photographer: Leslie Truong of TRUphotography
Make up: babydolls make up
Hair: Tan Tran (Cathleen’s partner)
Flowers: lulu bird
Set styling: Ruffles and Bells

Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

by | Event Reviews, Wisdom


Kendrie Coonan

IMG 7652 550x804 Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

The Love Desire and Riches exhibition is a sensationally decadent and delightfully ornate wedding exhibition, showcasing a glorious array of wedding fashion from Haute Couture, film,television, and pop culture through the ages. This beautiful exhibition is held at the divine Rippon Lea House and Gardens, a hugely popular wedding venue in itself. What results is a sincerely lovely marriage of stunning gowns and romantically perfect surroundings.

IMG 7658 550x631 Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

Love, Desire and Riches weaves its way through the vintage halls and grand rooms of the Rippon Lea Estate. Historic fashion of yesteryear, adorned in fine laces and exquisite silks are the dreamy gowns that begin our journey through the exhibit. Bridal wear, photography, curious and quirky wedding related items from various time periods, all have their moment in the spotlight. The exhibit’s period installations offer us a window to the past and also inspire the modern bride to steal an element or two of their design and beauty for the future.

IMG 7653 550x1164 Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

The Modern Haute Couture gowns on display create a wondrous juxtaposition in this period setting. The drama of Alex Perry, the structure and silhouette of Collette Dinnigan, the whimsy and ease of Akira Isogawa, all seduce and allure. The contemporary gowns are enough to make any girl drool, and for those of us who have had their wedding day already, you will battle with the desire to do it all again- only better!

IMG 7734 550x770 Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

IMG 7683 550x844 Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

One of my favourite moments in Love, Desire and Riches is the couture workroom installation- The Anatomy of the Dress. Being invited to see the bare bones and starting structure of bespoke gowns is a real treat. Mariana Hardwick gives us a sneak peek into the world of the seamstress and embroiderer, allowing us an understanding of the artistry and workmanship that must combine to create a couture piece. The pattern paper Akira Isogawa prototype for me was a highlight- paper never looked so good!

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The exhibition also offers some enjoyable gems for the literature and film inclined amongst us. The gowns of some classic female characters such as The Bride of Frankenstein, Miss Havisham, Emma, and Tess grace the Rippon Lea halls, some with an eery melancholy in tow. Even some Australian iconic television wedding moments make an appearance! The exquisite paper couture dress by Christina Re is truly breathtaking, as are her innovative and architectural creations that regularly appear throughout the exhibition.

IMG 7657 1 550x742 Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

The Love, Desire and Riches exhibition is a true romantic feast of lace, organza, beads, crystals and chiffon! From simple chic to gem encrusted grandeur, there is a little something for everyone at this event. A modern bride to be can certainly be sure to leave the magic of Rippon Lea inspired and excited. Get the girls together and make a day of it!!

The exhibition runs from 1 July to 30 September, 10am-4pm and Friday evenings 6pm – 8.30pm (fortnightly from 4 July) at Rippon Lea House and Garden, 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick. Head to their website for more information!

swirl large Love Desire and Riches Exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate

How To Write Your Wedding Vows

by | Ceremony Wisdom, Wisdom


Joshua Withers, Joshua Withers, the world's most rad marriage celebrant

FrenchInspiredBridalShoot 166 550x366 How To Write Your Wedding Vows

Photo by Just For Love Photography

In my profession as a marriage celebrant, my daily struggle is wedding vows. Not my own, thankfully. But in helping people with their vows. Some people want to write their own vows but then they go home and just Google someone else’s and use them, and then some are so scared of the thought of saying vows let alone writing them. So I wanted to tell everyone else what I tell the scared non-wedding-vowers.

First of all, so we’re all on the same page, a vow is a statement you make, not a question you answer. So anything involving ‘I do’ or ‘I will’ is not a vow, it’s an asking or a question.

vow. noun. A solemn promise.

Secondly, your vow is for one person and one person only, the bride or groom standing across from you. It’s ok for everyone else to listen, to laugh, or to cry, but your vow has an audience of one. So writing jokes for everyone’s entertainment isn’t my version of a good vow.

Thirdly, your vow is the most honest, real, and meaningful thing you’re doing on your wedding day. Before then it’s been all preparation, makeup and tying ties. Then your celebrant will encourage you on how awesome marriage is and why you’re making a really good decision to get married. And now, it’s a moment of reality and honesty as we hear from the “accused” (that’s a husband joke). After that it’s all drinks, food and party.

One more point defining what a vow is: there are no standard vows, normal vows, traditional vows or “the vows” that we celebrants have as a backup. There are Catholic vows, or Anglican vows, or the vows from that movie, or that list of vows from that blog post. In Australia there’s also the bare minimum legal vows that are required by the Marriage Act of 1961, if you’re in a civil ceremony at least. But the legal vows are all about you identifying yourself and your bride or bridegroom in front of your witnesses and confessing that you would like her or him to be your wife or husband. There’s nothing in there about death doing you part.

The problem with Googling vows or even using traditional church vows is that they are someone else’s vows for someone else’s wedding that was celebrating someone else’s marriage. Not yours.

So now you’re left with a blank page after I’ve smashed all of your googling and tradition. Sorry.

This is how to write your wedding vows : make them a response to the awe inspiring moment you’ll be taking part in, your marriage ceremony, and in response to the even more inspiring person you are partaking in that ceremony with, your bride or groom.

Respond to that moment, and make a vow. I’m not going to tell you what to vow, but in Australia at the very least you’ll need to vow to take them as your wife or husband. From there on I’ll let you choose what you would like to vow to, after all, I don’t know your fiancé or your relationship.

The final thing I would encourage you to do is to make your partner feel like a million dollars. The rest of the wedding day is an ‘everyone affair’, but for 5 minutes forget about everyone else and make your bride or groom feel like the princess or prince they are. Make sure they know with no doubt how you feel, how they make you feel, and what vow you are making in response to the commitment you’re both entering into.

Swirl divider8 How To Write Your Wedding Vows

Ms Gingham says: Probably the best post on writing your wedding vows that I have read. And I’ve read one or two.

Joshua Withers is a pretty cool marriage celebrant, according to his local barista and wife. If you click this link the wonders of the Internet will magically transfer you to his own website which even has a photo of him on it!

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