Vatana Watters was born in Thailand and moved to the U.S at age 7. She was schooled and inspired by living in New York and Los Angles. In 1985, Vatana graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. A year later, she moved to Dallas to pursue her own custom bridesmaids business with her sister Neiman Marcus became the first national retailer to carry Watters designs.
The Wtoo line was introduced in 1999 to offer more contemporary, yet affordable designs. In 2002, Vatana launched Watters Brides in 2002 to fill a niche for well-designed, attractively-priced bridal gowns. Finally, she completed the bridal party with Flower Girls & Junior Bridesmaids in 2005 – a collection for junior bridesmaids and flower girls
Some businesses are launched with a cocktail napkin sketch. Others are born in garages. This one was inspired by peer pressure.
What started with a few handmade special occasion dresses for friends and family in California caught on in a big way. And by the late ’80s Watters was a household word in the bridal industry.
After 20 years, Vatana Watters continues to be at the heart of the company and is passionately involved in setting the design tone. Her inspirations emanate from her heritage, experience on both coasts and desire to reflect the spirit of the times. Vatana recognizes that design is where it starts, but not where it ends. The other hats she wears help the company to continue to be appreciated for being a cut above for quality and responsiveness.
Vatana is married to Steve, a landscape designer and together they have a daughter, Sydney, who loves fashion and can be seen on the Watters website modeling the Flower Girls & Junior Bridesmaids collection. Vatana is charmed by many things, vegetables are not yet among them.
ASIANCE: Where do you receive your inspiration for your dresses?
Vatana: I’m a visual person and I am drawn to things that are interesting. I collect these images whether in magazines, pictures or in my mind. Many dresses have found their way into the collection through my recollection of details from my travels, flowers, vintage finds, books, magazines, media, and of course real brides. I’m fortunate to work with such a talented design team. We share our inspirations and many of the best ideas come from these collaborations.
ASIANCE: What are you looking for in a bride when you have to design their couture gown?
Vatana: Every Bride is unique and what is not important to one bride might be paramount to another and vice versa. Listening carefully to the words a bride chooses to describe her big day is important. Sometimes an overall vision of her big day can lead you to the design and other times it’s pictures that she has saved knowing that one day she will be collaborating with a designer. Or simply it’s a gown that’s existing in our collection and we put the total look together and she simply falls in love with.
ASIANCE: Who would you like to dress that you haven’t? A celebrity?
Vatana: I have always wanted to design a gown for Jennifer Aniston. She is a confident woman that can appreciate understated, quieter yet luxurious design.
It’s always the most rewarding when a bride-to-be selects your gown as the “it” gown for her wedding day. From time to time we are posed with the challenge of what we would design for a particular famous bride-to-be. A few months before the marriage of Kate Middleton to Prince William, Brides magazine asked a dozen designers to submit a sketch of what we would design for Kate. After the wedding, Brides magazine did a recap and the Watters sketch was the closest sketch to the actual gown that Kate wore.
ASIANCE: Any celebrity wedding dress that you would have liked to change and/or add something different to?
Vatana: I think it’s really easy to pick someone apart after the fact. But so many times in bridal gowns the choices are personal and dear. Without knowing the full reason why a bride picks a gown, I would have a hard time naming someone. It’s very much like our design meetings before a collection launches of what will round out our selection. Ideas are endless and at some point the gown that a bride has selected is the right one for her at the time.
ASIANCE: Who are you inspired by? Any designers?
Vatana: I find often, as many do that I get into a rut, traveling will help me reset and recharge. Recently, I went to Canyon Ranch Miami and met a small group of influential women and just listening to their stories about family, career, travel, interests was enough to fuel my creativity. As far as designers I have a particular affinity for the old masters such as Balenciaga, Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Lanvin, Valentino, YSL, Vionnet. I can go on and on.
ASIANCE: Who is your favorite designer?
Vatana: Fashion is an organic and living thing that’s what makes it so interesting. I love so many designers but right now I am particularly drawn to Alber Elbaz he has done a beautiful job at reviving Lanvin. Of the past I would pick Coco Chanel she had created a style of her own and with Karl Lagerfeld continuing to renew her style.
ASIANCE: Did you wear one of your own designs for your wedding?
Vatana: My wedding dress was inspired by a beautiful French lace that we had sampled, which was sewn up the day before the wedding. I lean towards handcrafted details, beautiful hand beading and embroidery at the empire. That was all we had time to make. We were focused on finishing dresses for a prominent Forth Worth wedding. My wedding pictures are in storage due to remodeling our home.
ASIANCE: Is there a favorite dress, besides your own, that you remember or is your favorite?
Vatana: Besides my own it would have to be the dress that Grace Kelly wore when she wed Prince Rainier of Monaco. The designer was Helen Rose and to me that gown is still the most timeless.
ASIANCE: What type of bride would wear your designs?
Vatana: We have a varied and diverse group of brides, from all walks of life, the common thread I would say is that they value quality and design. Between Watters Brides and Wtoo Brides we can cater to the various needs of our unique group of brides. Watters Brides offers gowns in rich silks hand detailing and understated elegance. Wtoo Bride on the other hand has details found in a more expensive gown, but she is fixed on an affordable price point.
ASIANCE: What bit of advice would you offer women who are picking out their wedding gowns? What do they need to know?
Vatana: Enjoy the process of selecting the gown of her dream and be open minded. Many times the specialist in the salons have years of experience. Do your research before booking an appointment; consider what kind of wedding you want, a formal wedding, an outdoor wedding, a beach destination wedding. After the gown is selected make sure that she is a complete vision, from veiling or fresh flowers in hair, what kind of jewelry, shoes, etc. and put the total look together. What the bride needs to know is that she has so much selection and there is a dress out there for her.
ASIANCE: Is there something a bride should know when picking out her bridesmaid dresses?
Vatana: To make sure that the dresses compliment her entire vision and her maids, no on wants an unhappy bridesmaid.
ASIANCE: What advice do you have for women who want to be a wedding dress designer? What is the hardest obstacle to overcome?
Vatana: It is ideal to get a fashion degree and that will establish a network after the completion of school. There are lots of internships available and that is helpful to work inside companies that you are interested in and gain credits for school. The hardest obstacle to overcome is that there will be more critics that tell you that it can’t be done so at some point you will have to shut that out and focus on your vision.
ASIANCE: Anything else you would like to add?
Vatana: Remember, that this is a business and it requires focus and the ability to adapt is utmost important.
Please visit www.watters.com