Interview with Grace Lee-Lim, bridal designer of Lee-Lim, on her debut collection and custom designs
Wit: Tell us about the inspiration behind your 2015 Bridal Collection.
Grace: Our 2015 debut collection, Arioso, was inspired by movement. It began from the idea of five women who made a significant impression on my life through the years living in California, Virginia, Chicago, and New York. Each woman represents their respective cities where I have developed my relationship with them/their locale, and how it has grown over the years to now. They inspired a woman not necessarily just from their city, but the lifestyle and attitude that each region, West to East, offers. I kept in mind the body types of the individuals and the specific unique factor that each want to showcase, which is what I like to focus on when creating silhouettes. Movement was also an integral aspect when deciding on fabrication and the essence of each gown - they needed to be substantial in presence, but airy at the same time (hence the name, "Arioso").
Wit: When we last met over coffee, you were heading to New York to source fabrics. Are there any particular fabrics you are most excited about?
Grace: There is this magical silk satin-faced crepe I found that makes me so excited whenever I look at and feel it! It has so much character when it drapes and moves, and I used it mostly in the "Lauren" gown, with the deep-V front and cowl back. Sourcing lace is always an adventure for me as well - I felt like I found gold when I discovered this lace that perfectly suited the tulle I wanted to pair together, as shown in the godets and train of the "Shiela" gown.
Wit: Your design sketches are beautiful! How do your sketches help in making concrete decisions prior to constructing the dress?
Grace: Thank you so much! I am an extremely tactile person in both senses of texture (with fabrics) and by using my hands to draw something onto paper. I usually start with a collage or mood board that inspires me, and even with those I like to gather images and collage by hand rather than by computer. But sometimes I get random glimpses of imagery in my head that I have to sketch to make sense of what I am feeling. This is not how every design of mine conceptualizes, but I feel the most powerful ones come to my mind as a figment of my imagination, and then I have to draw it onto paper to make it something tangible, something "real." Taking a drawing and making it a 3D object out of fabric is an entirely different feat, however, so there are a lot of compromises between the drawing and actual construction phases. The drawing does subtly change over time, but the overall feeling usually remains the same.
Wit: What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as a bridal designer so far?
Grace: I have been very fortunate to have several custom clients already! Working with custom brides has been extremely rewarding because we get to work together on a single vision and make something so unique and one of a kind.
Wit: Do you approach the custom design process similarly or differently when creating a collection?
Grace: The design process is slightly different from collection to custom, primarily because the focus and inspiration shifts from something that I am intrigued with and imagine to something that a client envisions herself. It is a very interesting dynamic to have - you are involved so deeply in someone's life for a brief moment, and it is very much about trust and balancing their aesthetics with the Lee-Lim design sensibility. However, regardless of custom or collection, I cannot express how absolutely amazing it feels to deliver on the design of a gown and seeing our brides genuinely ecstatic at the outcome. It is one of the best experiences of my life that I have had so far!
Wit: Where can brides shop for your 2015 Bridal Collection?
Grace: Currently, brides can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about purchasing from the 2015 Collection.