Written by Emelye Lovell and published in Working Women Magazine Summer/Autumn 2016
What started with a vision and a beautiful range of DIY stationery has blossomed into one of the fairy-tale brands to emerge from Melbourne’s design scene in the past decade. Our branding reporter, Emelye Lovell, sat down with Cristina Re to share tales of business, beauty and being a brand icon.
A truly adored design icon in her own right, the beautiful Cristina Re has expertly crafted her self-titled brand to lead the way in all manner of design industries, from fashion to beauty to tableware and of course, paper masterpieces.
One need only look at her work or personal brand image to see that Cristina Re does not conform to traditional stereotypes of the successful female entrepreneur. Her long blonde hair is always flowing over her shoulders, and her headquarters more closely resemble an art gallery than a corporate office.
In her formative years, Cristina’s emotional intelligence was mistakenly labelled a weakness, as she endured a maths/science dominated curriculum that placed little value on the arts.
“It’s still the same. Nothing has changed. But without the great artists, where would we be?”
Cristina describes herself as hypersensitive to the sensory stimuli around her. With such heightened awareness come both positives and “extremes in the negative”, but Cristina cherishes this attribute and focuses on the beauty of her environment and of her relationships with people.
“I stand for what I believe in and sometimes I don’t win. But it’s not about using power or gender or control to get the most out of people; it’s about being respectful and humble.”
As a young creative mind and bourgeoning entrepreneur, Cristina worked for herself right out of Design College, abandoning all logical reason in the pursuit of her vision.
“It was a complete lack of fear, financial or otherwise … I think because my parents have no fear and don’t hold back. I believe I was given a talent and it must be utilised. It’s a waste to come into this world with a gift and not use it because we’re fearful.”
In regard to the instinctual fear in starting your own business, Cristina says, “Circumstances around you can stop you from being the person you’re meant to be. And you must rise above it – your insecurities, the economy, all of it. It’s not easy and everything comes with challenges and there are a million reasons not to do what you love”.
Cristina acknowledges that being a woman can indeed be one of the challenges you come up against in business, though working for herself has spared her the first-hand experiences. She says of gender bias and inequality in the workplace, “I’m aware of it. It’s positive that women are speaking up”.
On the expansion of her own very feminine brand empire, Cristina muses, “From the start there were no limits. I wanted to be a designer … stationery was just a canvas”. But the seemingly large product gap between paper, porcelain and potions was not a concern to the visionary designer. Cristina describes her brand as a puzzle, with the diverse offerings all fitting together as part of a bigger picture.
She explains that the brand evolution was indeed a logical progression, with the paper revolving around themes of celebration, which in turn led to the development of the high tea tableware that was centred on indulgence, which logically lead to the luxurious bath and body collection. The products present one united front, all sharing the same values.
Regardless of the product, Cristina has designed her brand to elicit feelings of celebration and indulgence, of prettiness, sharing, and friendship. Despite the rapid evolution of social media and electronic communication, Cristina has managed to keep the art of paper craft and handwritten correspondence alive.
“There will always be people who love tactile things … you don’t need a majority. Having diversity of relevant products equals loyalty, and with it, a certain protection from market threats.”
Ultimately, the Cristina Re brand is built on beauty and a passion for art and fashion that ranks more highly than any concern for commercial success – that is simply the cherry atop a tower of cakes at high tea.