Print Edition: March 21, 2012
Providing “wedding gowns to the unconventional bride,” Vancouver-based bridal designer and UFV Fashion program graduate Justin Merluza believes in making a statement. His fashion line Just_inCouture mixes unexpected and bold elements to create wedding dresses like no others – “art pieces, showstoppers, and gowns which bring out a bride’s personality.” Justin utilizes an intensely creative spirit and strong drive to succeed. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experiences navigating the fashion world, and came away inspired by his raw talent and passion.
When did you first become interested in fashion?
When I was young, I would watch my grandparents make bolts of fabric into tailored suits and well-fitted gowns. I was always surrounded my fashion. My mother was a beauty pageant contestant when she was young, and browsing through the old photo albums, I would see the fabulous dresses she would wear. I suppose I was born with fashion in my blood.
What basic skills did the UFV Fashion program teach you, and how have they contributed to your career?
I learned so much in the two years that I was in the fashion design program. I did, however, come into the program with the knowledge of how to sew and create patterns. The biggest skill I have learned is to time manage. This is a two-year program in which really there is no time to sleep or eat. The fashion industry is just the same, everything is always changing, and if you stop and breathe, you will be left behind.
Describe your bridal line.
My bridal line is a mix of soft elegance with a touch of edge. I strongly believe that a woman should not just put the predictable white dress on because it is her wedding day. She should be able to express her personality through her dress.
Who is your ideal customer?
My ideal customer is someone that wants to showcase her personality through her dress – someone who is not afraid to step outside the box that is the bridal world. There are so many women who believe that getting married means the perfect white dress. I ask, why be part of the stereotypes associated with a wedding? Step outside the box and look great, feel great and be yourself.
What is your creative process like?
When I meet a client that wants a dress done, I like to meet her and get an idea of the vibe she wants for her big day. I then design a dress that I feel would work for her and her distinctive tastes. It’s about the bride in the end, and having the chance to design one-on-one with the bride is amazing.
What inspires you to design?
I am inspired by a lot of things. But what really gets me pumping is a clash of two worlds. This year I am designing a collection which brings hard rock chic and soft, elegant, flowy gowns together. This collection will include see-through ball gowns with leather studding and floral patch work. The elements are very edgy, but the silhouettes are soft and graceful. This outcome is what inspires me [to] bring two different worlds that would normally never work and mash them up to create the world that is Just_inCouture.
Who are a few of your favourite fashion icons or brands, and why?
I admire Lazaro for the elegance that beautifully showcases a woman’s body and John Galliano for the element of surprise he brings with his unique silhouettes. But most importantly, it is the women on the streets. Fashion is all around us, and it’s the day-to-day women that inspire me most, rather than the women in magazines. Women look in these magazines and see perfect women and fabulous dresses, but there is often disappointment upon finding the dress, and realizing that it doesn’t look the same. I keep real women in mind for inspiration, and I design for them.
Any advice to those pursuing a career in fashion design?
If you live and breathe fashion, you are fashion. Fashion school is not always the answer. Take the first step and just go! So many designers graduate every year, but only the ones that live the fashion lifestyle will succeed. Always remember to let yourself shine in your designs, because that’s the first thing people will notice.