“The creative process starts with knowing people well and, especially, understanding their bodies”
22 April, 2014
Precision has always been the aim of fashion designer Cristina Saura. Along the way, she has fought to achieve the perfection she was after in her creative designs.
The studio/store of designer Cristina Saura is located in the Born neighbourhood of Barcelona, where she has been personally attending the public and modelling fabrics on her customers’ bodies for over a decade.
She likes working in the same way she saw the dressmakers in her family in Castellón do. “You had to put an apron on before you entered the sewing room. It was a way of showing respect and care for the fabric and the work that was being done. I don’t wear an apron, but the fabrics are always on a piece of paper on my work desk,” she says, recalling the times during which, without realising it, her passion for fashion began.
She had to do a university degree, maybe psychology or teaching. But even at that tender age she enjoyed taking risks and probably wasn’t aware of it. Life led her to study dressmaking and cutting and this was her springboard into fully entering the world of fashion design. “When I was young I would look at Valentino’s dresses in magazines and say, ‘That’s what I want to do’,” she says, in a running dialogue with herself that she keeps up throughout the interview.
“Maybe I’m strong and sure of myself now – age has allowed me to tackle problems I run into head-on. I used to get scared and fear would hold me back. Now I feel strong because I know that when I do take a risk it very often works out well. I have built up experience and know-how and that is what allows me to overcome my fears,” she says, during a lengthy conversation which the designer steers towards the most decisive moments in her professional career.
Over the course of twenty years, Saura has learnt that success can sometimes come on the heel of failure and risk. She has gone through all of those phases and analyses them with the same precision she uses to advise and design for her customers. “I have a company that is small, but healthy and consolidated”.
Eighteen months ago she ventured into bridalwear design and is now immersed in a process of boosting its renown. The gowns she created for the actress Montserrat Carulla and the oceanographer Josefina Castellví for the last Gaudí awards brought her work to the attention of the media and the art scene.
Out of the limelight, and with both those two major professionals and all of the customers who enter her store, her creative process always begins “by knowing people and their tastes well and, especially, understanding their bodies”, an expressly slow and careful process. “The idea I have about a piece of clothing is a highly elaborated concept and I cannot translate it into patternmaking, or produce and sell stocks. I want to test the models, study the patterns and work carefully and in detail”.
This idea is targeted at customers who recognise, value and appreciate that Saura puts precision before trends. “First I want to understand the internal structure of a dress and then get down to creating. More than patternmaking, my capacity for expression lies in geometry. And if that doesn’t work I try modelling, by which I mean I interpret it on the body, or otherwise I draw on the properties of the texture, including the thread, warp and bias”.
Menswear cedes way
Cristina Saura’s work focuses on womenswear designs, but when she first started out she wanted to make suits for men. “I thought a good suit was wonderful. I had the need to be able to make them from start to finish – taking the measurements, cutting them out…do them the old-fashioned way.”
When you look at Saura’s capacity for work and her tenacious nature, it’s no surprise that this concern also became a reality. After studying fashion at Idep Barcelona and making suits for the men in her life, she began to work at Antonio Miró, where she confesses that “I learnt loads”. At the same time and committed, as she still is today, to self-learning, she continued with her training. She recalls it with this anecdote: “I found the grandchildren of Mr Muller, the master tailor and creator of a famous manual on menswear designs. They were living in Barcelona and sold me one of the editions of the manual. I learnt so much from his observations. I felt I had to learn a lot to be able to do my job”. Later on she formed part of the team of designers working for Margarita Nuez, where she discovered the potential of modelling fabrics on the body and moved back into designing womenswear.
The passion Cristina Saura shows for her work after two decades of almost always working alone is the energy that helps her continue to come up with new ideas for the firm. “But it’s extremely hard,” she says, “when you have to do everything yourself. It’s very complicated and requires a lot of time. Everything I make I do myself, absolutely everything. The way to making things possible is doing them yourself.” She says this by way of conclusion, but states it forcefully and with precision. The same traits she applies to language, designs and life.