The thought of having your wedding dress made can trigger fantasy, aspiration, hope, anxiety, and frustration all at once. The weight of a singular decision, compounded by years and years of secret Pinterest boards and Disney movies, rests on the shoulder of but one person to make all of this a reality—the wedding dress designer and her atelier.
Meet Zandra Lim, a licensed pharmacist-turned-bridal fashion designer with over 16 years of industry experience under her belt. She has trained at Istituto di Moda Burgo in Milan and Central Saint Martins–University of the Arts London, and she describes her style as "unapologetically feminine." Don't think that she's a one-trick pony, though, because her aesthetic can swing from ornately beaded to dramatically minimal, depending on the bride's vision.
Read Preview's exclusive interview with Zandra below to know more about her aesthetic, how she shifted from pharmacy to fashion, and how she turns her clients' dream wedding dresses into reality.
How did you get your start in fashion?
"I had a sewer back then who would sew my Sunday clothes and what I wore on special occasions. When I put up a community pharmacy, friends would come to me and I would design for them. Then, all of a sudden, people I didn't know would also come to me to have their dresses made, even wedding dresses. So my sales people in the pharmacy would be beading and doing creative stuff while tending to the store. After much pondering, I decided to sell my pharmacy and start my fashion business."
What's your process like when a bride-to-be approaches you?
"The bride and I are strangers to begin with, so I listen to her wants and desires and how she envisions herself to look on her wedding day. Getting to know the bride is a necessity as I want the design to stand out. As I design, the process begins to relate to editing. The design I would instantaneously envision for her would now evolve into something else as more potential ideas pop out during the 'interview' process. In the end, I'm confident that I've made a strong and refined design that is aligned to my aesthetic and to hers."
What do you do when you feel that her aesthetic doesn't match yours?
"I look for common ground with the bride. That’s why it’s important to listen. I go through the design process of until we reach this [common ground]. To note, listening should be a two-way affair."
What is the most important thing you bear in mind when creating a wedding dress?
"I always take into consideration not just the aesthetic, but also the elements [to be incorporated] that would speak of the bride’s personality and strength."
What's your price range for a custom gown?
"The starting rate for a wedding dress is P80,000. Intricacy, choice of materials, and the amount of time it will take to finish a dress—these are major factors that affect the cost of the wedding dress."
How long does it usually take from first meeting to final output?
"Ideal production lead time for me is eight months. While regular lead time is six months, I can still accommodate a shorter time frame."
Tell us about your RTW line. What made you start one?
"In 2015, I started the Ready to Wed line as my RTW arm. At that time, I had gone three continuous years—starting from 2012—wherein I would have fully-booked weddings in an 11-month calendar. Meaning, I couldn’t take more load as production was fully booked. But still, lots of brides would come up and ask for RTW if they can’t have a custom-made done.
"This year, though, I have rebranded the RTW line to Hello Love. The principle behind Hello Love is quite different from when I started the Ready to Wed. This time, I focus on simplicity and elegance."
What prompted the rebrand of your RTW line?
"I want to offer more than just an RTW line. I want to offer some more that is essential in creating a great ensemble for the bride and that includes fashion accessories, bags, hair accessories. Slowly, I’m also building this line to include RTW pieces for the entourage, evening wear, shoes, and other wedding accessories."
You have very intricately detailed gowns, yet you also have minimalist ones. How do you straddle these two design sensibilities?
"It’s like balancing my emotions, my perspectives, and my sanity. Most of the time, I create intricate wedding dresses that I have sleepless nights and restless days thinking of new ideas to make them more beautiful than they already are. The minimalist gowns balance that. I find inner calmness in creating something very simple yet reverberates character."
*This interview has been condensed and edited.