Designer interview: Cristina Adami

    [Image: Lewis Buchan]

    It feels like such a privilege to share this interview with the incredibly talented up-and-coming fashion designer and artist Cristina Adami. A recent graduate of Central St Martin’s School of Art and Design, Italian-born Cristina is literally a ‘rockstar designer’, having created costumes for Florence Welch, lead singer of Florence and the Machine, for the band’s latest tour, and recently established her own label. Cristina’s gorgeous ethereal work caught my eye at a fair in London recently. It is hard to describe just how beautiful her work is – light as air, romantically wispy, other-worldly – so I asked Cristina describe it herself, and tell us how she has gone about making her way in the industry. I am delighted to share this fascinating insight into Cristina’s world.

    [Image: Lewis Buchan]


    Can you tell us a bit about your creative journey so far?

    It has been a long and beautiful one. A collage of memories, dreams, magic and a bit of rock and roll. It’s a work-in-progress that makes me happy every day

    When did you first develop your love of fashion?

    When I was very little. I always enjoyed drawing and would spend hours with pencils and watercolours. My grandmother was my first inspiration to get into fashion. She was a pattern maker for a bespoke garment business. I learnt from her how to make clothes from my dolls, using leftover swatches of fabrics and would – try – to put it together with a toy sewing machine I was given as a gift for Christmas. I then knew what I was going to do in my life

    [Images: Lewis Buchan]

    How would you describe yourself as a professional?

    When I had to create my business card I had to think about what to write! I think I’m a designer/artist more than anything else. I have never really like the word ‘fashion’. I’ve chosen fabric as the medium but what is important to me is exploring a concept, an idea, an emotion that can be translated into a shape.

    How would you describe your clothes?

    Soft, feminine, ethereal, elegant. They’re for anyone who wants to feel unique and special no matter what the occasion

    Your style is beautiful – elegant and seductive – is this something that developed over time or as a result of a particular influence?

    I was born in Italy and spent all my teenage years there. Growing up close to the seaside it means you get quite comfortable on your own skin. When it is really hot you don’t need much on. This feeling always stayed with me and I still like to think of the things I design as if they are made of air, light and wind.

    [Image: Lewis Buchan]

    What kind of materials do you use and why?

    Silk georgette and vintage lace are definitely my favourite. Georgette has that slightly wrinkled soft feeling that seems like skin to the touch. In vintage lace I find my world of wonder. The unusual shapes, the flowers and small creatures, the little faces appearing from the intricate patterns… I like to explore it, combine it and cut and sew my own story

    What was the most important thing you learnt in your studies at Central St Martin’s?

    To look at things upside down, to look at what is all around, to wipe everything out and start again. I’ll never forget what I learnt there

    And what is the most important thing you have learnt since setting up on your own?

    To try and try and try again! And to keep believing it even when seems like you are doomed to fail! If after few months you think you’re going nowhere but you’re still awake at night doing what you love , well maybe you’re doing the right thing. Money management is also important. I’m currently self funding my project – it’s not easy and I still have quite a lot to learn.

    [Image: Lewis Buchan]

    How much of a factor is ‘who you know’ in success in the fashion industry?

    I suppose it is quite a big factor – if you know the right people you can travel along the road much faster. Having said that I want to believe that even if you don’t know anyone you can still get recognised if you do something truly valuable.

    Can you talk us through the main steps involved in launching your own womenswear collection?

    I’d been wanting to do it for many years, but there have been a number of obstacles. Firstly, to study fashion in a good college in Italy was very expensive, so I decided to go for a Graphic Design BA instead. After graduating I moved to London to pursue a career as a graphic designer/illustrator. After two years in a publishing job I had managed to save enough money to accept a place at Central Saint Martin’s. It has been easier since then.

    Since leaving Central Saint Martin’s I’ve been working for a number of labels between London, Paris and Italy. It has been an amazing learning curve, but I could never stop going home at the end of the day and doing my own thing. In the beginning it was only trying things out – clothes for myself and a few friends. But I gradually realized people kept asking me where I bought the clothes I was wearing so I decided to get more serious about my own label.

    Over time I developed a personal style, but one day a friend (who is a professional brand consultant) suggested I should write down in just a few words exactly what I was about. I suppose it all came together that day. Working with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine (see below) happened around the same time, gave me the confidence to go on with the idea and present my first range. Dreams sometime do come true!

    [Images: Avital Aronowitz]

    How did your collaboration with Florence Welch come about, and what did it feel like to see her wearing your clothes when performing?

    I entered a design competition on Talenthouse (, an online platform that helps promote new talents around the world. I had just bought the Florence and the Machine ‘Lungs’ album and was finding the music rather inspiring. The day after I saw the design competition, I put the album on and worked through the night to meet the deadline. I could not believe it when I was told Florence and her stylist Aldene Johnson had chosen my work out of 800 entries.

    [Image: Lewis Buchan]

    It was a very enjoyable experience working with them from beginning to end, and it was a rather flattering moment when – at the end of the gig in New York – Florence thanked me for the outfit in front of a massive crowd!

    [Images: Avital Aronowitz]

    What is your big dream for your own fashion business?

    I’m quite keen, at least for now, to keep it as a collection of one off garments, but I would like it to grow over the next couple of years. I would like to work in the music industry again, and perhaps in theatre. In the short run I’m looking for a space here in London where I can exhibit more of my creations – hopefully in late September.

    My big dream is to have an atelier where I can drape and experiment with fabrics, beads, sequins and build a close relationship with my customers – I’m a bit romantic that way!

    Find out more about Cristina and her gorgeous work on her website or blog.

    [This interview first appeared on Do What You Love on July 28 2011]