Walking into Brides and Gowns is about the only antidote to the trial of getting there in the first place. This European-style couture salon is on a high floor of an industrial building in Ap Lei Chau, where sweeping views greet visitors and soulful music, muted colours, rich damask curtains and plush carpets - on which no shoes are allowed - set the tone for a luxurious collection. Brides and Gowns is the brainchild of Hong Kong-based Malaysian designer Rena Koh, a specialist in bridal and evening wear, who last year won the British industry's Bridal Award for her designs. Recently, Koh teamed up with former banker Charlotte Leung and chartered accountant John Rempel to create an upscale bridal salon. It showcases 'anything but the meringue and froufrou dresses you otherwise find in Hong Kong', said Ms Leung, general manager of Brides and Gowns. 'I found that many of my friends left Hong Kong to buy their bridal dresses because there's so little available here,' she said. Given that most prospective brides are happy to journey to Europe or the US to buy their wedding gowns and accessories, making a trip to Ap Lei Chau seems almost insignificant. But in a town where location is everything, setting up a chic designer boutique in a less-than-central location is considered commercial suicide. So it helps that the bridal salon, in Horizon Plaza, is in the same building as the popular Joyce warehouse and homeware supplier G.O.D. Koh, whose main business is in exporting evening and wedding dresses to Europe, established Brides and Gowns as a 'sideline project'. And while only her designs are currently stocked in the spacious, light-filled salon, Ms Leung expects to gradually bring in other labels. But whatever the source, the success of the boutique lies in its adherence to pure, unfussy bridal dresses, in lines that reflect mainstream fashion stylistics. Among the most popular dresses is one that is similar to the widely-published sleek satin gown worn by Carolyn Bessette for her wedding to John F Kennedy Jr. There is also a swing towards what Ms Leung described as 'the English Patient look', in 1920s-inspired gowns that are fluid, elongated and fringed. 'Hong Kong brides prefer almost a city look in their wedding dresses, something that is toned down and simple,' said Ms Leung, adding that subtle sexiness - like dresses with dramatic in-cuts to highlight slim arms - appears to be a new wedding day objective. Pure white remains a favourite colour, as local brides eschew the ivory and creamy shades that are much more fashionable in Europe. 'There is a certain etiquette to dressing for the wedding day, especially when it comes to second-time brides or those who might want to wear a contemporary cheongsam,' said Ms Leung. 'It can all get a bit confusing.' And for those who prefer their nuptials to be extravagant, there are elaborately beaded Empire-line dresses and long sweeping trains; one Hong Kong bride, whose wedding in Europe was set to a Spanish theme, opted for a dress with heavy lace edging and wide, flared sleeves. 'This is a happy business to be in,' said Mr Rempel, whose own introduction to the sartorial world began with his five sisters making their own clothes from when they were young. 'One of my sisters made her own wedding dress. She was up at 3am the night before the wedding, sewing a row of tiny buttons down the back,' he said. There will be no such last-minute picnic at this source of bespoke dresses; all the gowns on display are average-sized samples to which modifications can be made. The idea, said Ms Leung, is to have a dress 'which fits like a glove' after a minimum of two fittings. And if the bride-to-be is not happy, the seamstresses start over again. Prices begin at $5,900 and stretch to $27,000 for a dress with a fully-beaded bodice and waistband and a billowing net skirt. Ultimately, the outlet will become something of a one-stop-shop for a bride and her coterie: rhinestone tiaras from British designer Warren York, silk rosette-embellished head-bands and satin shoes fill a gaping niche in the market. A small evening wear line is soon to be expanded, although a number of customers have already ordered dresses for handover parties. Cheongsams - like a particularly comely one in shell pink Thai silk - are especially popular. Mr Rempel, offering a male perspective on the exercise, suggests that prospective brides bring a close female friend with them for the initial try-on - someone 'who is decisive and knows the bride very well' - instead of her fiance. 'The last thing you want is an argument between the couple over the dress,' he said.