When Celest Thoi was looking for a dress to say yes to for her own wedding 13 years ago, she could not find what she was looking for in Auckland, New Zealand, where she was residing then. Little did she know that her decision to design her own wedding gown to walk down the aisle in towards the man she fell in love with – “It was a simple A-line dress,” Celest reminisces. “I’m quite small in size, so I can’t be wearing something too overwhelming.” – would make her fall in love a second time, only this time, with the bridal industry.
Fast forward to the present day, the Celest Thoi label has become a reputable bridal house to brides and brides-to-be in and around Malaysia since its debut at Malaysia-International Fashion Week 2011. Recently, we caught up with her as she showcased her first non-bridal collection at the Starhill Gallery Fashion Week, which took place from 12 to 15 April. Not to mention, a new home for her designs and patrons at Les Suites, situated at The Rooftop at The Gardens Mall.
Sarakichi is a fairly new fashion brand by the Tomita Somé-Kogei fashion house in Tokyo, Japan, renowned for their traditional craftsmanship, particularly when it comes to the traditional kimono. For Sarakichi, they focus more on the traditional Japanese technique known as Edo Komon, a dyeing method in the making of kimono that has been around for more than 200 years.
Besides modernising the practice upon scarves, ties and pocket handkerchiefs – all produced by hand and using the most promising materials available, Sarakichi has gotten in touch with Celest and her label for a ready-to-wear collaboration that will bring further novelty to the Edo Komon tradition.
“I thought back to my childhood days when my mom would hand make all kinds of dresses for me to wear,” Celest recalls when asked about the inspiration behind this special collection. “So, we’re looking at off-the-rack dresses that are more fun with funkier colour palettes and easy going designs, which can be worn at more casual events, besides the usual gala and wedding events.”
The Celest Thoi x Sarakichi collection features flowy dresses both short and long, playsuits, blazers, convertible skirts and flutter tops, immersed in the Edo Komon mastery, alongside materials of lightweight tulle and silk organza, some embellished with dainty beading.
From its initial homestead at the Publika Shopping Mall, Celest Thoi has recently relocated her boutique to the highest level of The Gardens Mall, where an open concept space of concrete and greenery welcomes new tenants that include The Studio on the Sixth with an array of local designer wear collections, Wei-Ling Contemporary art gallery, The Gardens Theatre, and Les Suites, where Celest sets up shop alongside likeminded luxury bridal compatriots, MunKeat Photography and The Occasions Eventeur.
“The Rooftop at The Gardens Mall is very centralised and customers can find the place effortlessly, but at the same time, it’s well-hidden enough that it plays to our strengths as a bridal boutique,” Celest says. “It provides enough privacy for the brides-to-be when they try on dresses; it does get slightly uncomfortable for the clients when there is frequent traffic coming in or going about outside of the boutique.”
It is business as usual for Celest Thoi’s boutique, with its supply of off-the-rack wedding gowns for rental or for purchase, as well as the made-to-measure service the designer is renowned for, if and when the customers can’t find anything suitable on display, or when they have specific requirements for their special day.
“A lot of the brides-to-be would already have an idea of what they want when they come to see me,” she says. “From there, it’s a lot of gut feeling on our part in figuring out the kind of design that will suit their personality. Then, as we get to know more about them through our sessions together, it’s all about narrowing down to what is best for them, and what will make them feel more confident in.”
Whilst keeping with the brand’s philosophy of simple, timeless and elegant bridal designs, the brand is always exploring new techniques to work on their signature detailing of beading and embroidery. For the upcoming season, one can expect a bridal collection that is a little bit more elaborate on the embroidery, with a touch of femininity that is ethereal and dreamy.
“We wouldn’t want our brides to look back a few years down the road, and regret what they were wearing on their wedding day,” Celest says. “We do hope that it can stay elegant for a long while, perhaps even keep it as a piece of family heirloom they can pass on to the next generation.”
“Most of my clients are Malaysians who reside overseas, and they’d much prefer custom made wedding gowns they can pass on to their children for their wedding day someday,” she adds. “One of my clients even requested for her wedding dress to be remade into a christening gown for her baby!”
Celest is also looking into bridal gowns made with Nano technology fabrics that may provide a more secured longevity to the dresses. Although it’s not going to be in the foreseeable future, as there is still a lot of research to be done, especially for the delicate fabrics bridal designs usually work on, such as lace and tulle.
“Even though it’s been more than 10 years since I made my first wedding gown [for myself] and set up shop in Auckland, it’s still exciting and fun for me,” Celest says. “Every day is a learning step for me, and there is still much to learn and explore to keep me going for a little while longer.”