Caroline Castigliano is an internationally renowned designer of luxury wedding dresses and bridal gowns. She has also recently launched a range of bespoke cocktail and party dresses.
Caroline has a flagship store in London’s Knightsbridge and 50 exclusive stockist around the world.
- When did you first realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
When I was about twenty two, I was an actress at the time when I realised I wanted more control in my life. I was lucky to meet a successful business man and he suggested I went into business and the fact I could design and make clothes (my mother taught me to sew from the age of five and my interest in design and making developed from then on).
- When did you first enter the fashion industry / profession and what was your first job role?
My first job as a designer was for my own company, it was when I designed my first product ‘Survival Kit”. I took the kits (that were high fashion exercise wear) to the USA and sold them to Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Nieman Marcus. It was great fun, I was really lucky to have my first designs showcased in such fantastic stores.
- Can you tell us how you came to be working with Jasper Conran and what it was like working with him?
I got to work with Jasper Conran when I was looking to develop my bridal business quickly, my then partner Chris (now husband) asked me if I could choose a well known designer to work with who would it be? I said JC, Chris told me to call him and ask if he would like to design an exclusive range of wedding dresses for my store, I did and Jasper said lets meet for lunch. We met at Daphne’s and the rest is history, the collection launched nine months later to critical acclaim.
- What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?
I used to design and make clothes for my dolls, by the time I was ten I made clothes for myself. I vividly remember a pair of bright green trousers with wide flares and a flower print all over that I made, I was so proud walking around on my summer holiday with my parents in St Tropez thinking I was very hip!
What do you like best about designing clothes and what matters to you most as a fashion designer?
As a designer the most important thing to me is the cut and balance of a design, if you do not get this right you do not have a high quality garment. As I always say, the foundations are everything, the architecture of a design is critical.
As a designer I guess the best bit is seeing clients feeling confident and beautiful in my designs, the final result says it all.
- How would you define your fashion style?
My style is understated glamour, classic design with a contemporary modern twist.
- Where do you get your inspiration?
I am constantly inspired; it can be watching an old film, walking round a museum or just watching people in the street.
- Who is/are your favourite designers?
Dolce and Gabbana are definitely my favourite designers followed by Victoria Beckham, all simple classic shapes but looks that are on trend.
- What has been the most expensive item you have created and sold?
The most expensive dress I have designed and sold was a wedding dress for £35,000 – then of course they had a jacket and a veil so the whole thing came to abut £50,000
- How long does it usually take you to design a wedding gown?
That totally depends on my mood, sometimes to get a dress to move the way I want it to I remake it six times. I believe the movement and flow of both evening dresses and bridal gowns is so important to the beauty of the finished dress. The concepts don’t take long it is technically making the dress perfect that takes time.
- Describe the processes involved when designing a wedding gown collection?
When your designing the first thing is to create mood boards and play with them so you get a general theme firmly in place before moving onto create dresses. Personally I then decide on price, there is no point designing dresses that are too expensive for your customer. I then proceed to choose the fabrics for the collection and most importantly the laces. The next decision for me is how many full dresses, fishtail, A-line, high neck and backless etc. The list is long but I like to start knowing exactly what has to be achieved. Then the real work begins and along with the mood boards and fabrics the collection is sketched and created.
- What has been the highlight of your career to date and why?
Big question and I don’t really know the answer. I have loads of moments and thoughts. I used to dream of this happening to me.
- Who would you most liked to have design a wedding gown for and why?
Lots of people, firstly Kate Middleton. I would love to have dressed her for the wedding; she is showing she has great style. Her understanding of fashion is really good and my styling would definitely look good on her! I would also like to have dressed Katie Holmes when she married Tom Cruise, she is another girl that understands style. Kate Winslet is another, I could go on, what I like is a woman with an understanding of simplicity and cut. From what these women wear you can see easily that they look for excellent structure and cut in their clothes, understatement makes the statement!
- What has been your biggest career mistake to date and what did you learn from this?
The biggest mistake I have made is running a retail chain for too long where I spent vast amounts of time managing people, now I can devote my time to looking after my VIP client base in Knightsbridge, whilst my dresses become well represented in specialist boutiques around the world.
- What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
It is a tough business so make sure you are well financed from the start!
- Can you tell us a little about your plans for the future? I believe you have recently launched in japan and you have a new range of cocktail and party dresses planned.
Yes the collection recently launched in Japan and we are really happy with how it was received. We will be showing there again in August and then plan to launch in Brazil towards the end of the year.
The evening and cocktail collection is sold exclusively in Knightsbridge. Although I carry about fifty designs in the store I often work closely with the client to create a dress for them that incorporates the fabrics, colours and silhouette that are perfect for them. The process can be quite quick depending on the design and fabric they choose but it can take up to six months if all the fabrics have to be specially created for the client.