After designing her own wedding dress for fun, New York–based dress designer Cristina Ottaviano was inspired to start a line solely for bridal. She finds inspiration for her designs anywhere from a simple conversation to walking among hundreds of flowers in Claude Monet’s French gardens. We sat down with Ottaviano during her visit to Stanley Korshak to gain insight for brides trying to find the dress of their dreams.
How did you get your start in fashion design?
I started at a very young age. I had a wonderful relationship with my great-grandmother; she was from Galicia, Spain, and she taught me how to hand-bead, crochet, and knit. So at a young age, that sparked my love for textiles, fabrics, and creation.
What inspired you to start designing bridal?
I actually was married in 2017 and my Cristiana Ottaviano collection at that time was predominantly evening and ready-to-wear. So, I had designed a couple of pieces that I thought were really spectacular and that would translate really beautifully into bridal. I wound up creating five or six pieces just for my wedding and the events around the wedding, and it was a really big hit. It was sort of a natural progression. I think it was in the brand’s DNA all along, and in 2017 it just kind of topped.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
Being that I’m in New York, I feel like I’m a little sponge and I’m trying to absorb everything, whether it be an interesting meeting that I had with a friend or an artist, or if I’m at the Whitney Museum of American Art or the Museum of Modern Art, I’ll try to take a sketch pad with me—it’s sort of a habit with me wherever I am. [Inspiration] can come from anywhere.
This past season for bridal, I took a trip to France. One of my favorite artists is Claude Monet, and I had the opportunity to visit his garden in Giverny. They had over 300 species of these amazing orchids—it was incredible. I really took the inspiration from this trip and this experience that I had there; it was the starting point for the designs of the bridal collection. I always remind myself to keep my eyes open.
What is your favorite thing about designing bridal and working with brides?
I love the whole experience. I love getting to know their story, and them as an individual and as a couple with their significant other. It’s also great because you check all of the boxes when you work with a bride; if they like something a little bit tweaked or specialized, I will certainly offer that. It’s a really fun process to see them really happy and beautiful, and helping them to make their vision come to life.
Do you have any tips for brides trying to find “the dress?”
I think that all brides should be open to trying on different silhouettes, necklines, or fabrics. Try to be more open minded because many times, brides have a vision of what they want in their mind and then they find themselves going in the complete opposite direction. Someone told me many years ago, “Be open!” I think it’s also important for the brides to listen to themselves and how they feel in the dress, too. At the end of the day, it’s about them and how they feel.
[Christina Ottaviano] has been offering a custom bridal service. If someone is looking for a dress and they’ve tried on a ton of dresses but they still haven’t been able to find that perfect one, we will sketch for them. We will do the fabrics and the embroideries. We can customize the dress of their dreams—that is something that I love to do. It is a very unique experience. I think that’s something that, as a younger bridal brand, sort of sets us apart: the fact that we offer this beautiful bridal collection twice a year and we offer this customized bridal service as well.
What does the future hold for Cristina Ottaviano designs?
We have a ton of stuff coming up. We’re traveling in the next two months—we have trunk shows in Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York. We are going to be showing again for New York Fashion Week in February and then again in April for bridal.
It was so exciting to be in Dallas and to be at Stanley Korshak bridal. The team was incredible and the store was just beautiful. It is exciting to see everything come to life and see the sketches come to reality. Definitely follow along and see how it all unravels.