Turning Tables in Couture
Reversing fashion’s creative process and creating her collections from materials and samples, Moïra Cristescu is a fashion designer fascinated with the body. As the subject of her research that has both haunted her and become her obsession, it is also what led her to fashion in the first place; everything revolves around the body which is her main medium.
She thrived and matured within great fashion houses such as Proenza Schouler and Narciso Rodriguez in New York, Kenzo and Jean Charles de Castelbajac in Paris, George Wu in Australia and freelancing for Mother of Pearl in London. She then joined Karl Lagerfeld on his namesake brand for a decade, working on the first line and on VIP dressing. Now, Moira focuses on sustainable sur-mesure and rental designs with her own brand Moïra Cristescu Paris.
“Creating 100% upcycling is a challenge, but I want to contribute to the solution, not be part of the problem. It is also very fulfilling to create something beautiful from waste.” Her whole work is based on sustainability as all materials are upcycled, recovered from discarded stocks from luxury fashion houses or second-hand. It is produced ethically and locally, in her Paris atelier, in a zero-waste process. It also promotes female empowerment, and body and age positivity. Here & There Magazine met with Moira to talk about her career and her future projects.
"If I was to start my own business one day, my priority was going to be as environmentally friendly as possible."
What’s your story? How did you start in fashion?
My journey in fashion started with a failure: I didn’t get into the fashion school I wanted, so I studied Fine arts in Paris for a year and tried again. I finally got in, graduated top of my class and was accepted at Central Saint Martins in London. I knew from the very beginning to never quit. After graduating, one of the fashion houses I had interned at hired me in a junior position, and I climbed the ladder. After a decade of working for other brands, I am now focusing on my own label, specializing in sustainable event dresses, made-to-measure or for rental.
What was the spark that made you want to create your own brand?
Fashion is my vocation. There is no doubt I wanted or rather needed to keep to this field. I just had to do it differently. I had to be in alignment with my values: full transparency about where and how each piece is produced. I communicate a lot about this traceability on my Instagram account. Followers can see where I get the materials from, who worked on the piece, the inside of the atelier, the backstage of the construction, and the full process.
What was the most important lesson you learned working for famous designers, more precisely, something that you kept when creating your own brand?
I had the great privilege to work directly with Karl Lagerfeld for many years, and collaborating with such an icon taught me well and very fast. I learned to meet high expectations with super quick deadlines. Perfection was required at all times, in the quality of my work, or from anyone I was supervising. Efficiency, constant availability and also impeccable personal presentation were key. It was very demanding, but it induced a climate of trust and respect among the team. My ability to prioritize and retro planning definitely developed there. But also, the confidence that I could make things happen.
Was working with upcycling material obvious for you?
Absolutely! When I was working for fashion houses, all that was important was creating new pieces: always the newest thing, the newest fabrics, the newest techniques… I witnessed so much waste, it drove me crazy! There were lots of fabric samples thrown out, forgotten materials stocked in warehouses, just lying there for years. And also, all the rest, phenomenal amounts of cardboard boxes or plastic garment bags, always new and rarely reused, just tossed away. I did try to change things from within, like implementing recycling or donating to fashion schools, but as I did not have the power or resources for this change, it was only skimming the surface. If I was to start my own business one day, my priority was going to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Are there still challenges around sustainability today in the industry?
Public concern regarding the environment has forced the industry to question its ways. Many companies are finally investing in sustainability but we need to be careful about greenwashing and make sure that they hold on to their promises to see real lasting progress. At the moment, my opinion is that they are doing too little and going too slow. Time is key in the protection of the environment and we, as a society, need to be bolder. Having fabrics flown halfway across the world to be cut and sewn into a product, flown back to be sold, should not be an option any longer. We need to bring back production closer to home.
Most young designers building their companies now have sustainability at heart, and it’s great. They make sacrifices to keep up with these standards and it’s up to the larger companies and groups to really play their part now, the impact would be on such a larger scale!
We also need to reconsider our consumption of clothing. We need to get used to fair prices, which will have to be more expensive than today but guarantee the materials were produced environmentally friendly, the working conditions of the makers were decent and that the product was locally manufactured. It probably means buying less to be able to afford the change, but we, as consumers, can make bigger fashion brands listen, and help shape the world we want.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
When I design, I always have in mind images from mythology books from my childhood. I was so impressed by the cunning goddesses and strong-minded nymphs. I aspire to empower women. I would love each and every one of us to feel confident regardless of body or age; to tackle life like contemporary Amazons.
Keeping these muses in mind, I am also inspired by the materials. I use only upcycled fabrics, but I also wanted to reduce the waste from the fabrication process so I reversed the classic “design first, then attribute a fabric” and instead, I am starting from the materials. Sculpting directly on the mannequinoptimizes my use of the fabrics and allows me to achieve zero waste. With my last creation, for example, I opened one of my treasure boxes and a refined lace emerged, then I chose a gradient of tulles to combine it with, a matching grosgrain ribbon to add edgy lines to the design and finally cut from a vintage embroidered cotton petticoat to assemble under the tulles and avoid transparency. I love the uniqueness of this procedure.
Who are some designers who inspire you?
I am thankful to pioneer designers who set the tone for our industry evolution, like Stella McCartney, especially at a time when sustainability was not yet a general concern. It took a lot of courage to bring it to light and start implementing actions. I also applaud younger designers like Marine Serre or Germanier who put sustainability at the very core of their concept.
What’s next for your brand?
At the moment, I work mainly with wonderful artists, singers, dancers, and performers. It’s truly captivating to be collaborating with such inspirational people. I would love to extend to the cinema community, working with such enthralled figures that manage to reach us; they make us feel and live their story through them. It would be an honour to be dressing talented actresses for Awards Ceremonies.
By Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle
Photos provided by designer