Cristina Tridente, the designer behind couture label couture + love + madness is leaving Australia shortly to take up a place at London’s prestigious design school Central Saint Martins. We chatted with the very busy Cristina, who’s based in Adelaide, while she was on a train, shortly before she jetted out to Paris.
What’s your earliest fashion memory?
When I was 5 I started making dresses for my barbie dolls. My grandmother was a dressmaker, and my family was always crafty so I would collect scraps of fabric and basically glue them together because I obviously couldn’t sew at 5. Then I would take photos of them. That’s definitely my earliest memory and when I decided that I wanted to design as a career.
What drew you to couture? What’s your favourite thing about it?
The appreciation behind it, it’s slow fashion, it’s not mass produced. For me, I would rather make something that took 3 months of blood, sweat and tears, than to pump out 30 pairs of shorts in a day. When I was young, I would look at Barbies and watch movies. I really loved the big dresses, the sequins, anything glitzy. It’s never crossed my mind to design anything else.
People design in two different ways most of the time. Either they have a design and source fabric, or they source fabric and then they’re inspired to design. I’m definitely the latter. If I see a fabric, I won’t buy it unless I know what I’m going to make out of it. That’s what led me to go overseas to source all of my fabrics. I go once a year and hand-pick everything. It’s great to see the new trends and bring them back to Australia. That way you can ensure that your clients will have a unique piece.
What are your main influences?
Everyday life, and also, something I didn’t think was ever possible. My dad and brother are both architects, and I was so anti all of that growing up and whilst travelling. But it’s hard not to be influenced by it when you’re surrounded in your everyday life. A family trip to New York where I was dragged around to look at architecture actually really inspired my very first collection graduating from TAFE SA and completely changed my outlook. I’m definitely inspired by architecture and I also have a really close connection with China. A lot of people have noted that all of my collections look slightly oriental. It’s a really great connection for me and I love the vibrancy and richness of China. Everything is quite opulent with their fabrics with red being their lucky colour and also my favourite colour. Gold features quite heavily over there as well, so the colour combinations really fit in with my work.
What makes your designs unique?
I’ve been going to China for 8 years now, but when I first traveled there to showcase my designs, I was heavily inspired by the fabrics and I ended up with a Chinese/Western collection called Silk Road. It was basically their traditional fabrics sewn into Western styles and cuts. I had a really great response from China because it was an interesting blend of traditional and non-traditional without the Mandarin collar. It was very different to a stereotypical Chinese collection. My designs are also unique as the cuts are quite feminine and classic. I also love interesting, textured, and colourful fabrics.
Congratulations on being the first South Australian to be accepted into London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins! What are you looking to get out of the experience?
Thanks, I’m a bit nervous. They’re one of the very few schools worldwide that offer an Advanced Fashion program which I’m really excited about after studying an Advanced Diploma at TAFE SA. I hope to be inspired by learning and embracing the “Central Saint Martin’s way”. The intensive course is filled with pattern making, sewing, lectures, fashion illustration, and portfolio development. It’s been a dream of mine for such a long time. Even to get just a taste with the summer school, it’s a fantastic opportunity.
I will be gone for 3 months, that encompasses time for work and travel. I’m treating myself to an inspiration trip as well. I’m beginning with a photo shoot in Paris next week – which I’m frantically preparing for! Then afterwards I’ve got some travel planned, including staying in Paris during Fashion Week which is exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens and to immerse myself in the culture. Then I’m off to London at the end of July to begin the course at Central Saint Martins.
What are your dreams and future plans for couture+love+madness?
I’m going to start focusing on bridal this year which is new for couture+love+madness. I’ve had a few clients but in the near future I hope to release a bridal range. Also, it was a really great experience having a few pop-up shops in the past year. I would like to do another one towards the end of the year as it’s a great way to meet new interstate customers.
I’m really looking forward to continuing to grow my label and set it in the direction that I want. I’ll be launching a new collection at this year’s Adelaide Fashion Festival. That’s the collection that will be shot in Paris. I’m excited for everyone to see this collection as it’s quite different to my previous seasons. We’re looking into summer this year and I’ve never done pastel so prepare to see gorgeous colours, feminine styles and lots of florals!
Interview: Jacqueline Miholos