Thursday, 2 January 2014

Athena Couture comes to Fort Garry

At 1373 Pembina in Fort Garry, Athena Couture opened for business in December. In a brightly lit spacious storefront, new owner Jackie Yu proudly shows me the wide selection of wedding and evening gowns. Beautiful white silk and chartreuse gowns adorn mannequins and drape on racks. Rows of turquoise, peach, crimson and amaranth tulle, taffeta, chiffon and crepe evening gowns decorate the store like a flower garden in spring. Jackie moved to Winnipeg from China just 2 and ½ years ago. In her previous home of Beijing she owned and operated a dress shop for 10 years where she designed and sewed formal evening gowns for weddings or other special occasions. Her four year educational background of fashion design prepared her for the entrepreneurial job.

Now she brings her experience of entrepreneurship and fashion design to Canada. To learn the ways of the dress making business in Canada, as a new immigrant, she worked for a dress maker for the first two years. Although she learned English in China, she says she did not practice it enough and therefore she took English classes as well in preparation for starting her own business. Now she is ready to embark in the business world. “I want to design dresses,” she says with enthusiasm. As we talk Jackie serves me a cup of hot red tea while her sister bustles in the front door. Jackie’s family has been very supportive of her new business venture.

About wedding gowns in China Jackie says, the bride usually wears three or four different gowns for the occasion. The morning starts off with the long white gown. At lunch the bride changes into a traditional Chinese gown and for the evening she changes once or twice again into special evening gowns fashioned just for the occasion. Jackie’s dream is for customers to walk in the door with a specific idea for a dress. “Maybe a customer likes a design and I will make the pattern and sew it. Everybody has different ideas. They don’t want the same dress as others.” With her expertise and sewing machine she is prepared to take measurements, make patterns, and design gowns for every occasion. Her favorite dress to make is a wedding dress.

Athena Couture is positioned in a prime location just across the street from Vincent Massey Collegiate where hundreds of girls will be looking for graduation dresses soon. Graduation dresses can be made to order as well.

By Helen Lepp Friesen

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