Cristina Sabaiduc: Practical Innovation

I was sad and surprised to read that Jonathan Saunders’ eponymous label is shutting down. From the outside, it appeared that Saunders’ was going from strength to strength. He’d secured backing from financier Eiesha Bharti Pasricha and his last show at London Fashion Week was confident, well received and expensive to stage. The closure of Saunders’ label confirms how precariousness of fashion industry.

Despite the challenges of starting a luxury brand, there are still innovative, emerging brands setting up shop. I’ve recently got to know Cristina Sabaiduc, a new designer who originally hails from Romania. It’s always exciting to get involved with a label in the early days. I think Cristina has a bright future, with luxurious, statement making clothes that are firmly grounded in practicality.

Cristina started her career by knitting ball gowns from scraps of fabric and she explained how she loves to create niche, intricate pieces. But Cristina has a strong business brain and realised that in order to start her own brand, she would have to scale back and make more commercial, accessible collections. Sabaiduc took photos of her knitted creations, capturing the experimental process, she then turned the images into prints.

‘That started me off on the path to creating a brand that is practical but has a conceptuality behind it, it’s almost like doing it backwards. I feel that building the viability of the business will allow me to go back to the lovely, creative stuff, that every artist wants to do, but it will come later at a point when I’m not worried about paying the bills. Right now I’m focusing on building a business; I want to be doing this for the rest of my life.’

Cristina collaborates with photographer Jo Holland, and together they create  images based on close ups of natural objects. They share a studio space and make the original artwork in a darkroom on positive photo paper, Cristina then digitises the etherial images, which are applied to silk scarves and clothes. The results are beautiful, diaphanous pieces in rich, yet muted colours. The SS16 collection is based on extreme close-up of dragonfly wings. Cristina explained:

‘I’ve always been really interested in textures and found natural objects and capturing them. It’s always been the way I see print.’

I’m always fascinated by the transition from a designer’s original inspiration to the collections. Another intriguing part of Cristina’s process is how she chooses her fabric, not by sight but by touch:

‘When I’m going through fabric at a suppliers, I’ll feel something that’s interesting, either from the point of view of comfort on the skin, or elegance. I can feel if it’s an elegant fabric, once I’m interested then I’ll look at it.’

The result is indeed elegant, Cristina’s clothes are versatile and can be worn by a wide variety of women. Sabaiduc’s collections epitomise casual luxury and easy elegance, designed to work hard from morning to night. They carry over from season to season and the Cristina Sabaiduc customer can build upon the pieces she already has. It’s not about having the latest fad trend, rather creating an edited staple of beautiful, easy-wearing clothes. Cristina added:

‘Anyone starting a label now has to consider the aspect of sustainability, and the last thing you wan’t to make your customers feel is that they need the next best thing. Rather adding to something they’ve started to believe in as a brand, and a philosophy and adding to what they have in their wardrobe.’

As ever, in the fickle world of fashion it’s impossible to predict the future success of a luxury label. But if anyone has a solid chance of going the distance and building a successful business, it’s Cristina Sabaiduc.

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All images feature Cristina Sabaiduc’s SS16 collection