‘FOR most women, a wedding gown represents far more than just a dress. It is also the embodiment of a dream, perhaps one she has nurtured since childhood. In this fantasy of idealized happiness, the groom represents perfection and the face of all human possibility. The instant a woman becomes engaged, however, all that energy and passion gets transferred to her dress. What follows can be something akin to madness,” Vera Wang writes in her book, Vera Wang Weddings, published in 2001.
This sentiment still rings real and true, more so now for Filipinas who have long wanted to wed in a Vera Wang original. Their wish of doing so will now be granted as a Vera Wang store has been opened for business by Valerie Villar Zayco at the swanky 8 Rockwell Center in Makati City.
“As a fashion professional and a former bride, I’m now able to translate all of that knowledge and love of style to the visual and emotional vocabulary of weddings. Having experienced weddings from both a personal and professional perspective, I can truthfully say no one is more dedicated to brides than I am,” Vera Wang continues in her book.
Sharing this dedication, Valerie solidified her venture into the bridal business. “We’ve been in the bridal ready-to-wear [RTW] business for fives years, with the Rosa Clara store. So we felt that after educating the market of the perks of RTW bridal, we feel like there’s definitely an appetite for it, that brides have warmed up to the concept of RTW bridal and that we had to take it to the next level and bring them the most popular, the most renowned bridal brand in the world, which is Vera Wang,” she says.
“It’s such an established bridal brand. Vera Wang is in a league of her own when it comes to bridal. Every young bridal designer aspires to be Vera Wang. We felt as though that sooner or later, the brand will come into the country, so we felt we might as well bite the bullet and do it now,” reveals Valerie, who got married in a gown of her own design.
As Vera Wang writes in her book, whether a bride “is a schoolmarm or siren, flower child or princess, socialite or career girl, or a bit of each rolled into one, the bride should choose a gown that reflects who she is above and before all else. A wedding gown must always embody the individual.” She may be a Traditionalist, Modernist, Sensualist, Individualist, Romanticist, Minimalist or Exhibitionist.
“Did you meet Vera?” I asked Valerie. “No, unfortunately, but I would love to. She’s an inspiration, not just as a designer, but also as an Asian woman who has done so well on the global stage. It’s not a requirement to meet with her first before she grants the franchise. It is a franchise, but we look at it more as a partnership. So we have full support from the headquarters in New York. That’s why someone came here to support our opening. [Before the partnership was sealed] one of the heads of bridal, Erica Arkin, did come over and she took a look at the spaces we were considering for the brand,” Valerie says. “They were very open to bringing the brand to the Philippines, but what was important was that the location said a lot about the brand. Here at 8 Rockwell, there’s a sense of exclusivity, of privacy, because there are only five luxury brands in the building [Ladurée, homme et femme, Balenciaga and Lanvin].”
How will this affect your other store?
“Rosa Clara and Vera Wang complement each other. Rosa Clara caters to the young, modern bride. It’s also just bridal, nothing for the entourage but we also offer cocktail gowns. Looking at the prices, Rosa Clara [gowns] start at P70,000 to P160,000, most of them in the P100,000 to P120,000 range. Vera Wang [gowns] start at P200,000 to P600,000, most of them being in the P300,000 range. So, price points-wise, they’re different. And the Vera Wang bride is quite different.”
Lately, there’s been a trend toward bling-blings and Swarovskis because of the Dubai designers. But Vera Wang isn’t that. “Not at all. Vera has this kind of look, so different and so timeless. As you said, the trends of fully beaded, Swarovski-encrusted gowns—they’re trends. When you look at your gown 10 years from now, you’d actually be able to say the era. Vera Wang has that timeless feel. It’s so classic. People who got married many years ago in a Vera Wang, they can still wear the same dress today,” she assures.
Valerie worked together with headquarters in choosing the gowns that will represent Vera Wang in the Philippines. “It’s very important to work with them because it’s their brand, so they’d also want a representation of the iconic Vera Wang gowns in the store. At the same time, we have the local knowledge and we know which gowns are good for the petite Filipinas, the skin tone, the color of the gowns. Weather in a way is not such a factor because we get married in air-conditioned churches and hotels. But we have those gowns for brides who want to get married in the garden or the beach, the destination weddings.” Would it be possible for a bride to have a custom-made gown made but can’t travel to New York to meet personally with Vera the designer? “I haven’t thought about that, but I think, no. All of the gowns here can be customized in a certain way.”
To what extent can a gown be altered? “Well, I think you can’t necessarily say I want this top to go with this skirt. That’s too much,” she chuckles. “We have so many options that a bride may find what she’s looking for. If it’s about lowering the neckline or the back, that’s easy. That’s fine. Or the hem. Or if they want to make it high-low. We also have a lot of cover-ups, belts and other accessories they can add to the dress, like the veils and all these other things to make it theirs. Seamstresses well-trained in bridalwear are on hand to do the alterations, with no extra charges.”
What are the challenges of opening a store at this scale? “It was important for the company to make sure we represented their brand well. The biggest challenge was actually constructing the store to make sure that when you enter our store, it had the same feeling as when you enter the Rodeo Drive store or the Hong Kong store. The same aesthetic. The whole Vera Wang feel. It’s also important to train our people well to give excellent service because you can’t sell top-quality products then give customers low-quality service,” Valerie explains.
The store has only been open for a few weeks, but it has already sold a gown. “We’ve had inquiries and we’ve taken some calls so we believe this is going to turn out well. We’re very optimistic about the Philippine market because Filipinos love weddings,” Valerie says. “When you look at it, even culturally, we love to get dressed and in an intricate way. You look at our Filipinianas, ourbarong Tagalogs, so as a people we love to dress up, we love to celebrate, we love to host people at home. It’s innate in us to like things that are beautiful—we have an appreciation for it. And that’s what Vera Wang offers—extremely beautiful gowns that are so well-crafted.”Read more at:formal dresses | semi formal dresses