As we all know, there's no shortage of creativity in Canada. But when it comes to Calgary bridal gown designer Elina Viola, her combined background in dancing and figure skating has added innovation to creativity - inspiring custom-designed wedding dresses and other fashion that reflect her eclectic expertise.
A dancer and competitive figure skater growing up, Viola studied sports therapy before enrolling in design school at Vancouver Community College. From there, she founded her own clothing design company, Viola Designs, which creates athletic wear in addition to an array of custom-designed clothing for brides and their entire wedding party.
Viola talked to us about the relationship between her activewear designs and wedding dresses, Canada's culture of creativity, and her plans for a ready-to-wear bridal collection.
Q: Tell us about the process of designing a bridal gown once the bride-to-be shows up for an appointment.
A: My procedure has been to encourage the bride to arrive for the first meeting with ideas in her mind and/or pictures of desired features on a dress. The mantra I've quoted to brides is: "From a sketched design, to a custom built gown, highly specialized, based on your dreams and visions is why we're meeting."
Q: Are your designs available for brides-to-be outside of Canada?
A: Designs can be available for brides-to-be outside of Canada; however, if they are wanting their hands on custom fit, it's necessary to come into town for a personal experience.
Q: What is one of the most original or unusual requests you've had for a wedding gown creation?
A: There have been many unusual requests for a wedding creation; however, one that particularly stands out in my mind is what I termed "The Nymph in the Woods". The bride is an actress and wanted to involve the entire wedding guests to witness her groom searching in the wilderness to find his bride. The brides' dress was a vintage stylized slip lingerie expressed dress - layered, sheer fabrics covered with sculpted silk wild flower appliques. The bride held a handful of wilderness flowers, a shawl cascading down her back from the front of her neck and barefoot.
Q: As you also specialize in active wear such as figure skating costumes, is it important to you that your bridal gowns also have movement and comfort?
A: Movement, comfort and long-term usage, if so desired, are considered in my designs. Having had the personal experience of beauty and movement while performing, I do see the bride as center stage. Another interpretation of comfort is a particular bride which I term "Vegas Baby". She asked for a full ensemble consisting of gown with neckline trim, bustle, headdress and bouquet of non-fresh flowers, all to be removable apres ceremony for gambling comfort.
Q: Wedding planning seems to have become increasingly elaborate over the years, with more of a focus on customization, right down to the finest of details. Do you see this as a positive thing that allows for more creativity, or do you think it's gone too far?
A: Our society as a whole has become so customized and finite. The world of technology is truly mind-shuffling at a rapid speed. It only stands to reason that wedding planning expectations have risen to reflect peoples' standards of perfection.
Q: There are a lot of talented Canadian designers emerging, but Canada still isn't quite on the "fashion map." Do you think the level of design talent in Canada has been underestimated?
A: I do believe design talent in Canada has been underestimated, purely on the fact of global mapping. When one thinks "high fashion", they turn to the old world of Europe and all its colour and history for designer names. The U.S.A. also files high on the inventory list of "famous designers" in their Hollywood flair. Canada, however, I see as the silent lion. We are a melting pot of European descendants, rich with culture, strong with migration spirit, and bold with a fusion of fresh ideas.
Q: Do you have any plans for a ready-to-wear bridal gown collection?
A: Absolutely! I am in the process of putting together a collection with aspirations to feature in spring of 2009.
Story by G. Melanson