How Jo Created the First Henkaa Convertible Dress

This blog post was originally written by Sonia Dong.

Our Fall/Winter 2019 Lookbook is dedicated in loving memory of Jo and her vision to uplift women with clothing that looks and feels great. As we look back on ten years, Henkaa's Managing Director Sonia brings you the story of how Henkaa's first convertible dress came to be.


It All Started With One Henkaa Convertible Dress In The Plum Purple Shade

Henkaa Director Sonia Dong at her wedding in 2009, Jo Chong on her left in the first ever Henkaa Plum Purple Sakura Midi Convertible Dress.

In the years leading up to Henkaa's founding, Jo was a bridesmaid or a guest at a wedding countless times. Frustrated with having to buy dresses she would never wear again, she started learning about convertible dresses. She tried some but none of them fit her needs: they were either too casual or didn't fit quite right, not to mention there was no education or instructions on what to do with them. She thought, how can I make this concept better?

Henkaa's current Managing Director Sonia Dong and late CEO and Founder Joanne Duong Chang wearing the Sakura convertible dress prototype in plum purple.

Jo was not a designer by trade (she was a successful Real Estate agent at the time), but that didn't stop her. She took her ideas to a pattern-maker in Toronto and spoke to her about what she wanted: a high-quality infinity dress that can be styled in different ways, worn for multiple occasions, is size-flexible and easy to care for. She also thought that a convertible bridesmaids dress could be a solution for bridesmaids of all shapes and sizes!

Henkaa's late CEO and Founder Joanna Duong Chang and husband Stan Chang together at Sonia's wedding. Joanna is wearing the first Henkaa Sakura convertible dress prototype in Plum Purple.

Above all, Jo wanted to feel good in the Henkaa convertible dress and find freedom in having it in her closet. That would eliminate the need to stress about what to wear and the pressure to buy something new every time she was invited to a special event. Having an infinity dress that was virtually sizeless also meant she didn't have to worry about whether it still fit - because she knew it would.

And so, she created her first Henkaa convertible wrap dress (midi length), the classic Plum Purple shade that Henkaa still carries to this day. Jo wore this dress as a guest at my wedding in 2009. Purple was popular that year - another person at her table was wearing the same shade and in the same style too. Jo promptly went to the washroom where she changed her dress style and came out with a whole new dress - problem solved!

Joanna Duong Chang in Henkaa's first Plum Purple Sakura Midi Convertible Dress standing with two male wedding guests at Sonia's wedding.

Guests at my wedding started asking her where they could get a convertible dress like hers, and that's when Jo knew she had something special. The Henkaa convertible dress collection started with one dress, but it was and still is about so much more - we're inspiring women's creativity, empowering them to be themselves and feel good about it, and transforming our relationship with clothing.

Thanks to you, our Henkaanista community for being a part of our journey and for allowing us to be a part of yours too.

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