To tread the line between memorable, au courant fashion design and timeless elegance is a tricky thing—and it’s even rarer to find it in bridal design. Luckily for young designer Cristina Ottaviano, her collections seamlessly flow between ready-to-wear and bridal. She’s the wedding dress designer you didn’t know made wedding dresses.
Aesthetically speaking, Ottaviano, who spent her childhood summers in Lake George, follows in the same tradition as Carolina Herrera and Marchesa—while her fabrications and techniques can be quite modern, her overall sensibility is elegant and timeless. Take, for example, the asymmetrical metallic bustier and white tuxedo she designed for supermodel Bella Hadid to wear to Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards. It was a fashion moment that was simultaneously high-octane and understated, both in step with the current mood in fashion but also classic. It’s sumptuous fashion moments like that one that have attracted not only other celebrities (including Karolína Kurková, Petra Němcová, and Emily Ratajkowski) to Ottaviano’s work, but also a healthy base of private clients across the country.
A graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Ottaviano apprenticed at both Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs, so, assuming she was paying attention, she knows a thing or two about building a business. While her current focus is maximizing loyalty with her core group of private clients, she’s also partnering with the right stockists and dressing the right celebrities to build her brand. Ottaviano is one of the 2018 nominees for Fashion Group International’s prestigious Rising Star Awards and, in addition to producing two ready-to-wear collections per year, also just launched a full-fledged custom bridal atelier in Manhattan. She’s clearly a woman to watch.
Ottaviano’s finely honed appreciation for exceptional design and superb construction are evident everywhere in her work. We sat down with the designer to try and dig a little deeper behind the stylish bustiers.
Do you spend much time in Saratoga Springs?
Yes, I do! I spent my childhood summers at our family home at The Sagamore on Lake George. I learned how to swim, water-ski and fish at the lake and I loved hiking the Adirondacks. I have incredible memories of this very beautiful place and still try to get there for a long weekend whenever I can.
When did you first get into fashion design?
I came from a family of strong, fashion-forward and hardworking women. My great-grandmother taught me how to sew and crochet when I was very young. I also developed a love for embroidery and beautiful fabrics. I’ve always been an artist and began drawing, sketching and painting in preschool. I knew that I wanted to design beautiful clothing for women when in my early teens.
Who are your creative influences?
Oscar de la Renta had the biggest influence on me. When I apprenticed with him, he taught me that a creative person should be open to inspiration from anywhere, at any time. He also taught me how important it is to be involved in every step of the design process, and that proper fit and construction are at the core of every look.
How would you describe your brand?
Our brand is timeless and elegant, with a modern flair. We like to experiment with textures, draping and color. We strive to create an exceptional design, a special piece.
Who is your “girl?”
Our girl is confident and embraces her unique beauty. She wants her design choices to tell you something about who she is.
You designed your own wedding dress. What was that like?
I wanted my wedding gown to be light, airy and easy to move in, as I was married in Palm Beach, but it also had to be romantic and dramatic to complement the gorgeous venue. I fell in love with a corded Chantilly lace, so we created lace appliqués that were hand sewn onto the entire gown and long train.
Why did you want to create your own wedding dress?
Who knows me better than me? I knew how I wanted to feel and look on that very special day, and only I could design a look that I’d be totally happy, comfortable and completely in love with.
Did you enjoy the process of creating your own wedding dress?
I was almost sad after the gown was completed…that’s how much I enjoyed the process. There was a lot of interest in the gown. Guests wanted to look closely at it and asked how long it took to create it, that sort of thing.
How is bridal different from ready-to-wear design?
My bridal designs are very much in line with my evening wear collection, a true extension and representation of my design philosophy.
Tell me about your bespoke bridal atelier.
We have dedicated team members who work exclusively with brides and bridal orders. The process is very exciting and it’s so gratifying to work with a bride and see her dream gown become a reality.
What can a woman expect from a Cristina Ottaviano New York wedding gown?
A woman can expect to be incredibly happy in a Cristina Ottaviano wedding gown because our team will listen to her thoughts and feelings and collaborate with her to create an extraordinarily beautiful gown. She can expect to look and feel her very best and to wear the gown she always envisioned for her wedding day.