How did Peony Rice begin?
I started it as a passion project from a deep love for traditional textiles to really see how we could utilise our experience in fashion in a ‘do good’ way – a total cliché. It’s taken a long time to create a brand that can contribute in whatever small way to sustaining communities. Today, more than five years on, our own collection of bridal gowns are in super gorgeous silks from China, hand-woven textiles from South East Asia and selective laces and fabrics from Europe.
You must see a lot of very demanding brides-to-be....
I get asked this a lot, but so far no, it’s not the brides being demanding. I am probably more demanding of myself and our team. We have a huge responsibility to make sure that our ladies look great; that’s a lot of pressure on both sides.
...and demanding grooms-to-be?
Now this is more like it! Yes, we do get a few of those – some men tend to be naturally protective over their brides-to-be, right down to what they think they want her to be wearing. We haven’t banned any yet, but there may be a day in the future when we will need to get the bottle of whisky out.
Do you ever get frustrated by customers’ requests?
It makes my heart sink when we have visitors that treat the studio as a typical tailor shop rather than a design studio and as a brand. I have been extremely lucky to have had practical design training from some of the best in the fashion industry in my early days as a designer. Having always worked at the upper end, it has spoiled me somewhat. I like only the finer materials to work with: silks, wools, laces and other exquisite materials. It’s my job to advise the client and ensure we achieve the best look, otherwise I haven’t done my job properly as a designer. Luckily my Brit-Chinese humour allows me to laugh it off over a cup of tea and a Jaffa cake.
What do you think of the Shanghai design scene?
The progression is incredible, it just keeps getting stronger year after year. China’s on speed. There are a lot of exciting homegrown fashion brands and talent that the rest of the world will have a hard time to compete with. I would like to see more support for the design industry from the government-backed schemes and the private sectors to keep driving design forward. Every country should have that.
What are you planning next?
Lunch. There is so much more to life than fashion.
Peony Rice is at Bldg 1A, Unit B, Lane 140, Jiashan Lu, near Yongjia Lu.