Gok Wan has been styling women up and down the country for more than a decade, but even he admits that styling brides-to-be is a unique challenge.
The 44-year-old fashion consultant, TV host and author, is stepping into the shoes of the acclaimed designer David Emanuel for Say Yes To The Dress Lancashire, a regional spin-off of the successful TV show.
In the show, Gok - who was born in Leicester but now lives in London’s Bloomsbury with his bulldog, Dolly - becomes fairy godmother for a whole bunch of soon-to-be brides, who are relying on him to find their dream wedding dress.
For the show, Gok upped sticks and relocated to the Ava Rose Hamilton bridal boutique in Lancashire, working with the boutique’s owner Paula Chappell and the rest of the team, in the hope that they can get these lucky women - and their entourage - to say ‘yes’ to the dress.
Ahead of the launch of Say Yes To The Dress Lancashire on TLC, Gok Wan chats to BT TV about what it was like to film the show and reveals secrets from the set...
TLC is one of the extra entertainment channels available for BT TV customers, part of the BT Entertainment Starter Pack. You can watch TLC on BT channel number 323/377 HD.
Mastering the art of bridal fashion
Gok had a head start in being a fairy godmother to brides-to-be having worked as a fashion designer and consultant since 2006, a role which has included designing wedding dresses and styling brides.
But even he admits that he’d done “nothing on this volume” and was surprised about how difficult it was styling this many wedding dresses.
He tells BT TV: “It’s so complicated because you’re dealing with so many different aspects of the human psyche, you’re dealing with their confidence, then their lack of confidence, and their opinions, then of course it’s subjective.
“They walk in and at the end of it they’ve got to have a wedding dress, so you have to work very, very quickly, and you’ve kind of got to get your head around it, so all of those conversations on the show [with the brides-to-be] were research chats. They gave us the direction we had to go in.”
Gok stresses that he couldn’t believe the amount of dresses that were available to choose from.
He says: “There’s hundreds of thousands of dresses, every single season. I honestly underestimated how tricky it was going to be to style these up, and in such a short amount of time as well.
“I suppose in my head I was quite arrogant about it, thinking ‘you know what, I can do this, I’m a stylist, I’m fine’ but when you’re doing what can take a bride up to three years to do, in a matter of hours, the sand timer is going.
“I suppose it was shifting my area of expertise slightly because I am just dealing with wedding dresses, whereas if you’re just dressing someone you’re dealing with the whole world of clothing, you’ve got so many different areas you can go to.
“So [bridal fashion] is quite restricting, but at the same time that restriction is quite nice to work with because you’ve got certain rules to follow and all that sort of thing.”
Gok also learnt about the complexities of wedding dress design, and he has a newfound appreciation of the craftsmanship that goes into these gowns.
He tells BT TV: “The amount of technical stuff that goes into some of those dresses is just mind blowing, just how those dresses sit, it’s a completely different skill set to what I’ve ever seen, even from a Savile Row tailor.
“These dresses are complex, how it’s cut is completely different, the different types of lace and beading work, and just the mechanics of how these dresses work, they’re literally like buildings, I mean the architecture behind them is incredible, so I learnt a huge amount about that.
“I learnt also the amount of alterations that are needed. You wouldn’t buy a dress on the high street and think instantly 'I need to get it altered' but there’s not a single wedding dress out there that’s not had some work done to it, so just the level of attention to detail... it’s quite remarkable.”
Making firm friends for life
Gok got along with the bridal boutique team brilliantly, revealing they’ve all become very good friends.
He tells BT TV: “Working with the team up there was incredible. I loved working with the guys at Ava Rose [the bridal boutique featured in the show], all the stylists and the sales assistants, and Paula [Chappell] who owns it.
“That was really stand out for me because they’ve become very good friends, and we spent a lot of time together, getting to know each other. It was a lot of fun.”
Writing on Instagram at the end of filming, Gok wrote: “Working with a new crew of talented and hard working people has filled my heart with reassurance and joy.
“And meeting the most divine bunch of kind and fabulous people at @avarosehamilton has been life changing.”
Well that’s a wrap! What an incredible experience making @syttdlancs has been. Meeting the beautiful brides and styling them has been nothing short of wonderful. Working with a new crew of talented and hard working people has filled my heart with reassurance and joy. And meeting the most divine bunch of kind and fabulous people at @avarosehamilton has been life changing. Love you guys very much and I can’t wait for the world to see what we have made. @tlctvuk 💋
He also shared some cute behind-the-scenes pictures from filming with his new 'bridal best mates':
If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to then follow my new best bridal mates @avarosehamilton where we are filming the new series of @syttd_uk THESE GIRLS KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE PERFECT WEDDING DRESS!!! I adore them and so will you!!! X #Repost @avarosehamilton with @get_repost ・・・ What a great day 💕 #Repost @tlctvuk with @get_repost ・・・ Throwback to just yesterday when we got to spend the day with this absolute legend 💁♀️ #TBT #SYTTDLancs #TakeUsBackPls #👀
But does he have a favourite bride?! Gok says: “The problem is, if you say there’s one particular bride that sticks out, the other brides feel like they play second fiddle so it’s really difficult because all of them are very special.
“I can’t really choose one particular bride. I feel way too mean saying that, and so they were all very special.”
Emotional moments on set
It must be tricky holding it all together when you’re faced with the emotions of not only the bride-to-be but her entourage too.
Gok tells us there were some particularly poignant moments during filming. He confesses: “I got emotional quite a few times. Moments I didn’t expect, when people are telling their story, or you’re hearing or watching their reaction, and probably less so at the reveal moment if they say ‘yes’ to the dress.
“Less those parts, but more getting to that stage, when something triggers with you personally, or you hear something, or you can imagine how they’re feeling. I mean that stuff’s very emotional.”
Of what else viewers can expect to see in the show, he teases: “If you’re looking for fun, there’s loads of that in, and it’s cheeky and it’s kind of a bit naughty.
“If you’re looking for the emotional stuff, which of course we all want with television, then there’s certain moments throughout the show where that gets triggered, then of course the reveal moments are too.
“If you’re looking for the cattiness that you get, I mean some of the entourage that you get are mental. So you get all those moments, there’s a little bit of something for everyone really.
“My friends that have been married for years said to me ‘Oh I love that programme’, because I think it triggers all those moments of looking for their dress.”
The brides-to-be trusting in Gok
Finding the dress of your dreams is as big a decision for a bride-to-be as choosing the ring or booking the venue.
No wonder, then, that the average woman spends nearly £1,500 on her wedding dress, according to BridesMagazine.co.uk.
All the willing participants featured in the show trusted Gok completely, and were completely honest with him about their hopes and dreams for their wedding day frock.
He explains to BT TV: “There’s something about a bride, that she does wear her heart on her sleeve, and everything comes out.
“I’ve made other TV shows and makeover shows where people haven’t been as giving at all. In this show, every single one of them gave everything, and it was a moment of desperation I suppose.”
This candid honesty means we get to see the human side of wedding dress shopping, says Gok.
He tells us: “The show is sometimes so far away from the actual wedding dress, it’s about the human story, and we as consumers of television, we love that, we love finding out things about other people.
“It’s like being invited to someone’s living room, you can’t help but have a little look around, and this show does it.”
Scooping wedding invites!
Needless to say, building such a unique relationship with this lucky crop of brides-to-be doesn't end when they say 'yes' to the wedding dress.
For his vital role in the run up to the weddings, Gok has received invites to every single one of the weddings!
He tells us: “I don’t think there was a single one who didn’t invite me, so that’s nice.
“I’m not going to go to any of them, bless them, because I think it would be odd if I suddenly turn up at the wedding, but all of them invited me. They’re very lovely.”
He could always just pop into the evening reception in disguise...
Gok’s top 3 tips for saying ‘yes’ to your dream dress
1. Build a relationship with your sales assistant
“I think have a really good relationship with your sales assistant, the person that knows that stock.
“They’re on your side and, yeah, they want to make a sale, but they also want you to feel beautiful.
“Be as descriptive and as articulate as you possibly can, even when you think you don’t need to discuss that part of the dress, get it discussed, because there will be something hidden around.
“If that person, who’s going to be your hunter/gatherer, doesn’t know what you’re looking for, they’re never ever going to be able to suggest it.”
2. It’s about how YOU feel in the dress
“Make sure the dress is comfortable, make sure that it fits properly, make sure that you feel beautiful.
“Also for all intents and purposes, listen to your entourage but dress for yourself. You’re wearing that dress, so if you feel beautiful, try and commit to how you feel.”
3. Don’t give up on your dream gown
“If you walk into a boutique and there’s 700 dresses on the rails, there is another 28,000 dresses available to you, and if you’re looking for that perfect dress, it will be out there, somewhere.”
Watch the trailer for Say Yes To The Dress Lancashire
Say Yes To The Dress Lancashire premieres Friday, March 22 at 9pm, exclusively on TLC (BT channel number 323/377 HD).
TLC is one of the extra entertainment channels available for BT TV customers.