By Daniela Degrassi
Vegan and green brides of Italy, rejoice! Today, I introduce you to your dream bridal designer! Born with the stylist genes, Cristina Invidia of Follemente Sposa combines ethical and sustainable textile to create customized wedding gowns from her Atelier in Modena, central Italy. Whether you’ll visit her Atelier in Modena or have her travel to your town, each creation is designed to reflect your style, enhance your features and celebrate your personality and your uniqueness.
In a thorough interview Cristina shares her career first steps and how and why she veered towards a more sustainable business model.
Cristina Invidia at work in her Atelier in Modena
Cristina, how was your passion for fashion born?
I think it has always been there. I inherited the manual skills and craftsmanship from my grandparents. My paternal ones had a knitwear factory that worked for a Paris designer in the ’70s. My grandmother used to tell me all about the Parisian fashion shows of those days and I was enchanted by her stories. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress, and I spent a lot of time with her as a child, so I grew up in “how to do it”. Also, as a child I was passionate about historical period costume films, like the “Princess Sissi” series; combining the two, it was obvious that I spent a lot of time with my nose stuck in the windows of bridalwear shops. I wanted to study the fashion technician profession, against the will of my parents who then imagined different paths for me, but my obstinacy prevailed.
Follemente Sposa for actress Claudia Zanella
When did you decide to specialize in bridalwear?
Among my first work experiences after attending the fashion academy, I had the opportunity to move to Scotland to become a pattern maker for wedding dresses in a renowned atelier of Italian origins. I couldn’t believe it, dressing the bride was my dream! It was an unforgettable and very formative experience, which I suspended after some time for climatic reasons (you know, my marine origins in southern Italy made me adapt poorly to such a harsh climate!). When I returned to Italy, I had the opportunity to work for prestigious Internationally renowned brands such Armani and Trussardi, for which I toured the world a bit. But this industrial world did not reflect me. My love for craftsmanship, for artistic creation and the need for free expression called me.
So I put together everything that spoke to me: choosing an eco-sustainable lifestyle, healthy food and thoughts no longer polluted by stress, getting involved with an idea I believed in (despite external disapproval), the human relationship with people, my passion for travel. Under these premises, I launched my atelier FOLLEMENTE SPOSA, subtitled “Unconventional bride” with its exclusively tailored wedding (and ceremony) dresses, eco-sustainable in natural fabrics, ecological peace silk, batik paintings of African art and fair-trade fabrics to support a cooperative of women artisans from distant lands who have redeemed themselves from a difficult past. “Women for Women” is a project very close to my heart. Through the ATELIER AT HOME, the tailoring rehearsal service at the bride’s home, I also satisfy the pleasure of traveling and seeing Italian landscapes and villages.
Follemente Sposa ‘La Noire’
Tell us about your research process for eco-sustainable textile… Which ones do you prefer to work with and which ones your brides love the most?
Textile research plays a fundamental role as my work philosophy is based on this: natural fabrics that at the same time are elegant and refined, it is a not obvious combination to find. During my travels with the Atelier at Home in the various cities, I do not miss the opportunity to visit the most historic fabric shops where I can find pieces that are now unique and precious such as ancient linen lace, for example. I spent days and days on the internet talking in different languages with international companies that help me, one step after another, to reach the producers of the fateful “Vegan Silk, Silk of Peace or Cruelty Silk free’ of which I have a vast sample to offer to my brides. Last but not least, our “Made in Italy”: from pure Italian linen, to the embroideries of historic companies that can create customized embroideries for us in design and colors, on specific requests. I also choose fabrics by African artists and Bengali embroiderers because, as I get to know and discover different cultures through the journey, I in a small way I try to support their work; the most disadvantaged female realities, where abuse is still in order and who, through their artistic and craftsmanship, sustain themselves and recover their dignity. I like to work with all these materials, because each one has its own story. The brides I have dressed in recent years have greatly appreciated the models made with hand-embroidered fair trade Bengali saris, the touch of Africa style color and the use of linen in my proposals.
Follemente Sposa in Africa Style
How does your custom design for brides work?
A first chat allows us to get to know each other. I listen to the bride’s expectations, understand her style and the mood of her wedding, so that she can understands who she is entrusting with the creation of the most important dress of her life. On our first meeting, we go through a collection of reference dresses that support us in analyzing the line that best suits her, which she can then preview in front of the mirror to make sure that the proposed model actually suits her. To this we combine fabrics, laces that we put next to her face or that we drape over her “moulage” to see the tone of white or the shade of color that best suits her complexion. The answer comes from the mirror. We try to leave as little room as possible to the imagination to give more space to the “simulation”, in order to bring the bride as close to the final idea as possible. Everything is summarized with a sketch and we proceed with taking the measurements. In a second meeting, the First Rehearsal is held, in which the bride will wear her apparently finished dress (in reality it is prepared for any changes). Here we define the accessories such as the veil, the shoes (also strictly tailored, personalized and.. vegan!). We then schedule a Second Rehearsal with the finished dress that she can take home. Where further retouching is required, we will ship if the bride is far away.
Follemente Sposa for the curvy bride
What impact has the pandemic had on your business?
The pandemic has created a collapse in the wedding industry. I reacted by immediately inviting the brides to get to know us through a video call to shorten the distances a little. This method is useful for me to collect information on the expectations, preferences, wishes or specific requests of the bride, to then elaborate and interpret them, in view of our future meeting; it is useful for the future bride to keep in touch with the planning and organization of her wedding and keep the enthusiasm high, without having to postpone this too. Some brides relied on me from a distance and we managed to take measurements in live video conferences with the help of the mannequin that allowed me to show the bride’s mother the correct way to measure and I could supervise on the call. In new policy allowed us to activate some orders and then to meet directly for a test as soon as it was possible. But in fact it was a difficult this year, coping with expenses and with drastically reduced work. On the other hand, some free time allowed me to make improvements in some aspects of the atelier.
Follemente Sposa Linen Lace
Are you noticing a change in Italy in respect to sustainability in the wedding industry?
When Follemente Sposa was born in 2013, I knew I was addressing that “small niche” of sensitive people who were looking for an ethical, sustainable, fair-trade wedding dresses, and I found that in reality the demand was higher than the offer. Precisely for this reason I receive brides from all over Italy (and even sometimes from abroad) and I reach brides all over Italy with the Atelier at Home, because it is not easy to find this type of service in all cities. Today I see a growing research on the part of brides. Over the past few years there has been media awareness on all fronts and more information from sustainable food to purchases of everyday products. We have all acquired greater awareness of what we buy: no longer a closet full of clothes, for example, but a few items chosen knowing their history, the origin of the materials, the processing methods without exploitation or environmental damage. It is a gesture of respect that gives even more value to our shopping.
Cristina is currently running a special discount until January 31st. Get in touch with her if you want to schedule an appointment or have questions.
An incurable enthusiast and independent spirit since she could remember (her childhood heroines were Pippi Longstockings and Katharine Hepburn) Daniela Degrassi found her creative outlet as a lifestyle photographer, working mainly in Northern California. Currently splitting her time between SF Bay Area and her native Italy to continue to be her autistic sister’s primary caregiver. Vegan since 2014, she found a perfect way to carry her message of compassion while celebrating her love for the wedding industry launching The Kind Bride in February 2018.