Hitchbird Exclusive Interview with Designer Noel Chu
How a girl from Hong Kong made it big in the international fashion world—and hopes to bring others with her
The ratio makes sense. After twenty years in the industry, designer Noel Chu has carved out quite the niche for herself in the wedding gown world. Her creations have been on Elle, Harpers Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan, right next to the biggest names in the fashion world. Of course, she shows love towards the boys, but it's the brides she gravitates towards. The girls who throw their heart and soul into planning their big day, and she's right there to make sure it's as special as it deserves to be.
The strange thing is I didn't grow up wanting to be a designer. My parents are both in the fashion industry, but society then was all about the Big Three (accounting, law, and architecture), so I studied sociology in America before taking a job as a lawyer in a courtroom.
Around the same time, I started noticing my parents were coming home downcast and worried. The business wasn't doing so well and I recognized it needed to go through a major rebranding to revive.
That was when I officially entered the wedding gown trade. My parents had built their company from ground zero. Both came from very humble roots with childhoods that were less than financially stable. They started with pyjamas before working their way up to evening wear. It would kill them and me to see all that hard work devastated.
I wouldn't say that. My parents worked so hard to build up their company. A problem came up that I had the ability to solve and I was glad to do it.
Though I confess it's a decision that has haunted me for many years. I didn't use to enjoy talking about it during interviews because it felt like poking a wound with a sharp stick. But in hindsight, I know I made the right choice. Many of my friends have quit their jobs as lawyers or have stopped practicing to start a family, but I'm still incredibly happy with my life. After 20 years, I'm not tired. To me, that's enough.
Definitely my clients. This isn't an easy industry to work in. Fame is fickle and as my dad can attest, you can have work seven days a week, 365 days a year. He's so hardworking and I channel his work ethic every single day in my craft.
My clients make it worth it. They're my friends, and their trust and encouragement is better than anything money can buy. I never formally studied fashion and I learn from each client, each dress I make. We embark on a journey together. It's my duty to bring happiness to them on the most special day of their lives and create a dress that measures up to them in every single way.
My team is a big motivator, too. They're beyond talented and I wouldn't experience the success I have today if it weren't for them.
I really want prove local designers can be and are as good as those overseas. My pieces have been presented side by side international names on catwalks. We're not inferior in any way, but there seems to be a block in general against local brands. Everyone thinks something that's made two oceans away is better when there are unbelievably talented folk here with just as much heart. Local designers often end up quitting because materials are hard to come by and there's little support. It's heartbreaking. I hope to lead by example and inspire a new generation of designers.
I also hope my team can carve out their own little pocket in the fashion world and shine. I don't want the fame to solely be attributed to me. My colleagues play just as big a part in crafting each and every one of these designs. And of course, my parents and their legacy will always be top priority.
Like me, he didn't envision working in the wedding gown industry at first. He was interested in women's wear, the kind in magazines, but it's a rare field in Hong Kong. After graduating, he came here and developed a passion for wedding gown design. He loves it for the same reasons I do, to help clients make their big day as special as possible.
A lot of people come in and leave because they want to try new things. You can usually sense who really wants to break into this industry. I sensed that in Victor during his interview, a determination and passion for the craft that inspires my own. I admire him a lot. Like I said, this industry is gruelling and when he joined, our company was quite small and didn't have a lot of resources. He stayed out of sheer love of what he does.
Never ever, ever give up. Know it's going to be hard at first. As a new hire, you'll be expected to do heavy lifting or run errands, but I guarantee it will pay off in the long run. Try everything and be open to learning.
Photography courtesy of Adinda De Boer
Dress designed by Noel Chu and modelled by Ruby Fung
Hair & Makeup done by Joman Wedding
Hair Accessories from Lane's Bridal
Other accessories from John Hardy
Flower Bouquent from Gary Kwok Flower | Design
Photographed in Authentiques
Noel Chu comes from a family of designers. After dabbling in law, she decided to embrace the family business and is now one of the most distinguished designers in Hong Kong. Her couture gowns are tailor-made to reflect the individual spirit of each bride—and hers.
About Ruby Fung
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Ruby has always had a deep appreciation for art and fashion. Since completing her diploma in Design Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2007 and the comprehensive foundation training at the London College of Fashion, Ruby went on to receive her Bachelor's degree in Fashion Print from the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
About Adinda De Boer
Adinda De Boer is a local and destination, fine art wedding photographer from Holland, based in Hong Kong. With a background in design and styling, photography seemed like the logical step to take. She started in lifestyle photography and expanded her specialties to portrait, engagement and wedding photography. Her work is known to be natural, intimate and personal.
About Joman Wedding
Founded by award-winning makeup artist Joey Tang, Joman Wedding conducts their hair and makeup services with one golden motto: "On your special day, you shall feel like yourself but only prettier, sexier and as perfect as possible." Their team of elite artists have years of wedding experience under their belt and hail from all over the world, including places like London, Canada, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Working over 100 weddings per year, they welcome destination weddings and all bridal occasions from engagement shoots to the big day.
Now we’ve certainly saved you readers the best for last as Noel Chu will be sponsoring a HK$5,000 wedding gown cash coupon for Hitchbird’s upcoming “Hello Summer” Wedding Giveaway. To enter the giveaway, just click here and follow 3 simple steps!
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