Image by Mark Davis Photography

It’s no secret us folk at Polka Dot Bride love colour. We also go weak at the knees for artistic projects and amazing (and unique) wedding looks. So when we stumbled across the incredible Edward Kwan, a label that designs and hand paints the most stunning textiles, ties and bow ties, we were smitten immediately. What an extraordinary and completely bespoke way to inject your own personality into your wedding day look as well as supporting a talented local artist with a true vision. We were thrilled to sit down with the delightful Zara Lim, the artist and brains behind Edward Kwan and learn all about her colourful journey. 

Tell us about your brand Edward Kwan

Edward Kwan specialises in custom hand painted bow ties and ties. I regularly work with brides and grooms to create unique one-off pieces.

I started Edward Kwan in 2013 while in law school and ran it as a side hustle for six years, before finally taking the plunge in November last year to focus more energy on it. I was able to have a career as a lawyer for 5 years and build up Edward Kwan at the same time, by employing my father to sew all the products. Thanks Dad!

Edward Kwan is named after my grandfather who, at the age of 88, still works full-time as a master tailor in Singapore and made suits for Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior. He took over the business from my great-grandfather when he was a teenager after my great-grandfather disappeared during the war.

You used to be a lawyer – that’s pretty different to running a creative hand painted bow tie label!?

It is! Actually I originally planned to be a professional ballerina – I’m on my third career! I trained full-time in ballet for 4 years at the Australian Ballet School, but ended up quitting before I graduated. My ballet background is where I attribute my creativity to. I’m self-taught at painting so my style is continuously evolving.

As a lawyer, I practised in intellectual property and then in commercial litigation and insolvency. I look back now and think how did I do law for so many years when I’m such a creative person deep down?! But I learnt such valuable knowledge that is applicable to running a fashion business, particularly around copyright and trade mark law, staying solvent and how to not get screwed over in business!

I still volunteer as a lawyer at a community legal centre, doing occasional court appearances for criminal law matters, which I really enjoy.

What do couples getting married love about your products?

People love the fact that my products are completely customised for them. They can tell me what they want painted and I’ll create it (subject to my painting style).

Some examples of requests I’ve had are:

– The bride was of Scottish heritage and the groom Australian, so I created a tartan inspired design with native Australian flowers
– A panda painted on a small section of a white pocket square as something sentimental (and a surprise) for the groom from the bride

– A design to compliment the colours of the bridesmaids’ dresses
– Most commonly, floral designs to match the bouquet or reception flowers

I generally create statement pieces for the groom and groomsmen but sometimes also for the fathers of the couple and as gifts for the bridal party. Sometimes the bride will want a keepsake for herself made in the same design as her partner’s bow tie, such as a pair of earrings or a headband.

Image via Cassandra Catic of Blossom Daisy Creative

Can you tell us a bit about the design process and the options available?

Clients tell me what ideas they have for the design and can email me photos of the bridesmaids’ dresses, the bouquet or any other inspirations. Often they’ll tell me the colour of their suit jacket to make sure it compliments. I then come up with a few draft designs on paper and email them to my client. They can then provide comments on the design generally, the colours, the placement of the elements, anything really! I will do as many rounds of drafts as required, but it generally ends up only being 2 rounds.

Image by Kacey Maree Photography

We make bow ties, ties, pocket squares, headbands, earrings, scrunchies, flower girls’ hair bows, page boys’ bow ties and dog’s bow ties. The bow ties and ties are the most popular! Everything is hand cut, handmade and hand painted by me. The neckties are hand stitched up the entire back length. A lot of work goes into them, but it’s worth it.

I post videos of the painting process on Instagram – customers love being able to see their order being made!

Do you have any favourite orders that you’ve worked on?

I created a flame lily design for one client last year. This is an interesting one, because it is hands down my favourite creation now, but at the time, I thought that I had done such a terrible job of it. My clients absolutely loved the design!

What do you love most about running Edward Kwan?

My favourite part of my business is creating the designs. When I’m creating, I kind of get into a flow state where I can just lose myself in the process. It’s the closest I’ll find to that passion that ballet dancers feel in their soul when dancing, which is hard to explain unless you’ve been a ballet dancer! That passion is definitely something I was missing when I was a lawyer.

And then I love receiving photos from my clients after their wedding and being able to see my work as part of their big day!

About Edward Kwan: we specialise in bow ties, ties and custom hand painted designs. It is named after my grandfather who, at the age of 88, still works full-time as a master tailor in Singapore and made suits for Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior. The original tailoring business was passed down from my great grandfather and all products are handmade in Melbourne, Australia by myself or my father.