Fashion / Style

Hollywood’s New Red Carpet Secret Weapon — Cristina Ottaviano Emerges From the Shadows

Celebs Love Her Wow Gowns

BY // 02.21.20

NEW YORK — Increasingly, Cristina Ottaviano is becoming a go-to designer for red-carpet glamour. At the Golden Globes, Priyanka Chopra won raves in a body-hugging off-the-shoulder pink gown designed by Ottaviano. Other celebrity clients of the New York-based designer include Kristin Cavallari, who wore an Ottaviano-designed blush beaded bustier gown to the Globes, Eva Longoria, Allison Janney, Kristen Chenoweth, Laverne Cox, Bella Hadid and Aly Raisman.

“A great part of what we do is customize. I take pride in doing my craft really well,” says Ottaviano, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology who learned the ropes at Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Marchesa before launching her namesake label in 2014. “A lot of people know what they want in their heads, but they don’t know how to achieve it.”

During New York Fashion Week, Cristina Ottaviano previewed her fall ’20 collection in her charming West Village atelier, where nearly everything is produced by hand. She emphasizes special occasion dressing, with attention to detail, expert construction and intricate corsetry.

“If you can make an amazing bustier, why not put that inside of a gown and build from the inside out?,” she asks.

Ottaviano became interested in fashion at a young age when she was taught how to hand-bead, crochet and knit in the time-honored tradition of her grandmother’s homeland in Galicia, Spain. In addition to the designer’s evening and ready-to-wear line, she launched a bridal collection after creating pieces for her wedding and the events surrounding it in 2017.

She recently broke with tradition when she designed all-white suits with wide-legged pants for a bridal party of 17 women at a wedding at Ashford Castle in Ireland, as well as the bridal gown. “The most interesting thing we’ve heard of in the past year is that you’re not supposed to wear white to other people’s weddings or events. I was thinking to myself, I never knew that,” she says. “They looked beautiful.”

She also has discovered that her customers increasingly are interested in how a special occasion frock looks from every direction.

“I find that they like pieces that have beauty from all angles,” she details. “For example, the mother of (the bride), she’s walking her daughter sometimes down the aisle, she wants to be beautiful from the front, the side, and the back.”

Popular colors for fall include pistachio, marigold, emerald and black with pops of embroidery throughout, Ottaviano notes. But key pieces in black and white, navy, silver, gold and gunmetal remain in demand.

“I like to know what’s going on as far as color trends, but I try to stick to what speaks to me. I love architecture and fine art, so I create a mood board each season and take bits and pieces. We have a beautiful inspiration for this season, which is these gorgeous ceramic sculptures. And you can see a lot of that in the draping. There’s a lot of movement and a lot of drama to it,” she says.

And she believes in variety. The scoop-neck gown she created for Chopra can be made in 45 different colors.

“The fashion world is changing so much with Instagram and social media. We’ve been working with many stylists internationally, people who take a picture of something or see it on the red carpet and they want it the next week,” she says. “We’ve changed the business structure in the past three years where we are able to accommodate those needs. Because we can offer those quick services, change of color, change of neckline, adding a sleeve, adding a strap, we’ve been able to stand apart.”

Cristina Ottaviano Atelier
Cristina Ottaviano designs her creations in her New York atelier. (Photo courtesy of Cristina Ottaviano)

Ottaviano launches her spring personal appearance tour with a visit to Elizabeth Anthony on February 27 to 28 before traveling to specialty stores around the country and overseas. She finds that customer input is important in figuring what to design.

“It’s nice to listen to what people are looking for,” Ottaviano says. “A lot of people say the same things, ‘I’m not crazy about this’ or ‘I’m looking for this type of look’ or ‘I want to feel like this.’ You keep that in mind when you’re creating.

“Not that it drives how you create, but you hear that over and over and it stays in the back of your head. And it’s valuable.”

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