Gok Wan is an undisputed champion when it comes to inspiring body confidence in women.
From coaching girls of all shapes and sizes to bare all on the catwalk in the series ‘How to Look Good Naked’ he has found another perfect fit in his latest TV project helping brides find the ‘dress of dreams’ to make the walk down the aisle.
This Friday (March 22) reality cable show series and global hit “Say Yes to the Dress” will hit the screens Lancashire-style and Gok says a chance to be part of the TLC northern spin-off was an easy decision to make.
He says: “I’ve always been a fan of Say Yes to the Dress and loved making the special so I jumped at the opportunity to do Say Yes to the Dress Lancashire.
“Me saying yes to the show was probably easier than the brides saying yes to the dress.
“The guys involved really wanted to focus in on northern mentality and humour, heart and warmth - the north is renowned for that warmth and down to earth-ness and we really got that with Paula and the girls in the shop but with the brides too.”
Gok refers to Paula Chappell, owner of Ava Rose Hamilton in Colne, where the new series is set.
The family-run boutique was chosen by producers True North as the perfect location and filming was split between the shop in The Bridgewater, Primet Bridge and Paula’s second bridal shop in Silsden.
The former three-storey carpet shop turned luxury bridal store, has catered thousands of brides from across the county and as well as having the right aesthetics, programme makers were particularly taken with the down-to-earth, northern roots of Paula, daughters Niamh and Ava and her team of long serving bridal consultants and seamstresses, who feature in the show.
It was, Gok says an opportunity to show off the real inner workings of the bridal industry as well as the story of Paula and her ‘wonderful family of staff.’
“What they do at Ava Rose is just incredible and what the girls know about bridal is amazing.
“This was new and really interesting for me because I’ve learnt a huge amount, the technology and architecture, the amount of effort that goes into creating one gown
“My job has always been to fulfil a brief whether dressing someone for a red carpet event or for their wedding day, I’ve got to work with the brief, so it was nice to work with a team of really experienced girls, brides, putting everyone’s different tastes, wants and styles inside of a box, especially when you have such a high volume of stock and so many variants.
“The set-up of the show means we really had to hone in on that, find styles, filter them down, making sure the box was neat and compact and then not thinking, now you’ve got to choose from 20,000 different dresses. Here are the three dresses now which is it going to be.”
The Leicester born stylist and award winning presenter says it was also a chance for the team to delve deeper into the lives and relationships of the brides, they looked after.
“We came across brides with incredible stories and it was nice for the girls to have that little more of an emotional connection than perhaps they’re used to.
“Part of what I do is making those very early connections, digging a little deeper, we all worked so well together and without taking away anything from what the consultants at Ava Rose do, there are probably a few new techniques all the girls might take from the experience too.”
Gok and the 15-strong TV crew were based at the shop for a 12-week filming block, during regular business hours which meant embedding themselves in the shop for three, sometimes four days every week.
He says from the first day he was made to feel very much a part of the everyday team
“My humour is probably best placed in the north anyway and so that was fine - the language and how people communicate is very down to earth, everything is very honest which suits me.
“And there’s no dressing it up at all, this is how people feel and it’s great and I’m hoping the show in that essence will really show how special the north of England is.
“Around the humour, that honesty, warmth, sense of community, sense of family - you get all of that in spades.
“The dads in the series particularly were amazing, complete golden nuggets - if you want to see a real sense community, personality, sense of humour, in a TV show wrapped up in lace and sparkly things this is it.
“I can honestly say I have never been involved in a series that shows a community so well and that is testament to Paula and the girls, - it is as much about Lancashire as it is about wedding dresses.
“It’s a bit of a hybrid of lots of other shows I have done and I loved it. You’ve got the warmth and care, support of How to Look Good Naked
“You’ve got the creativity and the customising of Fashion Fix and then you’ve got Say Yes to the Dress, so it feels like a real combination of many things we’ve done - it’s not the traditional say Yes to the Dress and it’s not just a wedding show either because you get so much more from this and every single episode/ scene has been very well thought about, so you do follow a journey of many, many different brides over the series and you pick up tips as well, whether you’re getting married or not.”
The 10-part series was filmed from September to December last year, with the first episode to air on TLC on Friday March 22.
Alongside the dream dresses, nail-biting decisions and straight-talking entourages, viewers will also get involved in life behind-the-scenes at the boutique from the excitement and stress from selecting next season’s styles to planning a big magazine shoot.
Paula, who has 30 years experience in the bridal industry, having by chance started out as a bridal model in her early 20s says it was an exciting prospect to invite Gok and the TV crews into the boutique.
“We are all local girls, who all share a real passion for bridal as well as creating a bespoke experience for all the brides and the families who have come through the doors.
“It does sound cliche but it really is very much a family - coming to work everyday doesn’t feel like work because we love what we do.
“We’re also extremely proud of our northern roots and that was something we really wanted to capture in the making of the show - it was strange at first with the cameras but we all got on so well and it was just very special, an amazing experience and we’re all so proud of it.
“There were some really special moments and even though it was really tough, with some long days fitting in the filming around all the regular appointments ,we had the best time.
“Gok really has become part of the family and without doubt a friend. Between filming we had him working the shop floor and taking part in our everyday consultations which was fantastic for all our brides.”
Gok adds: “These guys work so, so hard, it was really exhausting but they are so much fun I’ve taken a whole new set of friends from this series, which I’m very proud to say every person at Ava Rose I now call a friend.
"They are my northern family
“I also came away with half a stone extra weight in pies, I’ve never eaten so many cheese and onion pies and a whole bunch of new phrases, which I just love.”
The first in the series of ‘Say Yes to the Dress Lancashire’ airs Friday March 22 on TLC at 9pm