Lovestills™ Behind the Scenes: A Q&A with Caramel & Co’s “Anti-Princess” Wedding Gown Designer
Updated: Jun 20, 2018
Lovestills sits down with Mel Chen, designer & co-founder of local bespoke wedding gown boutique Caramel & Co to learn more about her inspirations for her unique brand of non-cookie cutter, yet hopelessly romantic and stunningly gorgeous gowns.
Q: Hi Mel, tell us a little about how you got started in this industry?
I was a fashion student and like every fashion student, my dream was to start a label. After graduation, instead of going into the fashion industry, I decided to venture into the bridal industry because it does not seem to be as intimidating or bitchy as the fashion industry, and it seemed like a happy place to be.
I first started at a bridal boutique as a designer where my ex-boss, Patrick, mentored me, giving me the freedom to design whatever I wanted. However, as an employee, we had to clinch as many deals possible, causing me to eventually burnout. I then left the industry, joined Singapore Airlines for a short stint, but very quickly realized how much I love designing, and the work satisfaction when I see my brides in the dresses I design and make. So I made a decision to leave the airline and start my own studio.
Elisa | Photography by Fotograficamente
Q: What inspires you to create these gorgeous one of a kind gowns?
What inspires me are my brides. Because I am my own boss, I get to pick my brides and get to turn down brides whose styles are not in line with mine, therefore this keeps me going and inspired. I do not get inspired from things, but more by people's lives and personality especially from their happiness and excitement on being engaged.
I do not start designing for the bride in the beginning of the session when i do not know them yet, so usually I will have a chat with them to find out about the lifestyles and by chatting with them, it allows me to understand their persona, and grasp their preferences and style. Some brides might have a very girly or feminine appearance but when i get to know them, they are actually very bold and adventurous, it’s like they are packaged in the wrong body, and for instances like this, I know I could push my designs to the edgier side, perhaps including a playful element instead of designing something too sweet.
Eryn & Seng | Photography by Bloc Memoire Photography
Q: What do you love most about your job?
I love being surrounded by happy people all the time, seeing my brides in my designs and becoming friends. We keep in touch even after the weddings and I am able to witness more milestones with them, like seeing them pregnant and having little ones. It's a beautiful journey for me and I believe also for my brides, that it is not just a business transaction.
James & Dyah | Photography by Pyara Photo
Q: In your mind, who would be the ideal Caramel & Co bride? And why?
My ideal bride is someone who is fun and spontaneous, not those who would go for cookie cutter princessy wedding gowns (e.g. ball gowns, I absolutely hate that style) nor a standard wedding in hotel ballrooms. They prefer to have a cosy wedding with people important to them, they pay attention to little details, and most importantly they appreciate good quality over quantity. In short, brides who understand that having one really good gown beats having many poorly made gowns.
Eleanor & Alvin | Photography by Blackbird Tale
Q: We absolutely love that Caramel & Co does not only created gorgeous dresses for the big occasion, but also offer a service to convert them into wearable pieces. Tell us more about what inspired this service?
I believe that one should keep her wedding gown, after all, you only get married once and that wedding gown should be a keepsake. But of course being a Singaporean, we tend to be more practical over being sentimental, so I thought maybe if brides could wear their dresses even after their wedding, that would make it more acceptable for them to keep their dresses. I believe that wearing their wedding dresses again will definitely spark off good memories of their wedding day - and that is definitely more purposeful than just keeping the dress in cold storage.
All Caramel & Co’s dresses are made of dyeable materials, so it is easy for me to re-dye them for a more wearable look. Other ways that we redesign the dresses to convert them into more wearable pieces include shortening them and detaching the top and bottom pieces.
Samantha & Hosan | Photography by Bloc Memoire Photography
Q: Do you have any tips for brides embarking on their search for a dream wedding dress?
Be open minded, embrace your body. Most brides would have an idea of the dress they want from looking at Pinterest, but because most dresses featured are worn on models or Caucasians, they might not be suitable for our Asian frames. So be open to try other cuts before you make your decision. Do not say "no" before trying. Love your body and shape, everyone has a unique shape and that makes it you. I have many brides who are conscious about their body parts especially the arms and hips. I always assure my brides that the dresses are supposed to be made to fit them and not the other way round, so just be comfortable with yourself.
As for styling, less is always more, no tiaras or hair extensions please. Always have something fun, perhaps like shoes in a different colour? I love having a surprise elements, so for my wedding, I wore fuschia shoes, and I love it!
Lastly, most importantly just go with your instincts, wear what you really want to wear and not what others (like your mom, your friends or your fiance) want you to wear, they will think you look awesome because they love you.
Suling & Chin Feng | Photography by Androids in Boots
If you are a strong, confident and stylish bride, looking to celebrate your unique style on your big day, Caramel & Co is the perfect match for you. Check out their website to see more of their designs, or simply get in touch to know them better at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images in this article has been kindly provided by Caramel & Co.