I was no more than 9 years old when I first started sketching dress ideas. I still remember the first "dress" I made. It was constructed from a red and white checker quilting fabric (think traditional Italian restaurant) with a few pineapple images in every other checker box. I had found the fabric for a few dollars and was determined to turn it into my favourite Sunday dress.
I wasn't quite comfortable yet with our sewing machine, so I stitched it by hand. A waist band was fashioned and the fabric was gathered to create the flow of a skirt. Due to the simplicity of the design, I decided a white t-shirt under the "dress" would be best.
I do not recall if I wore this "masterpiece" more than once, but I clearly remember feeling proud and fabulous on one special Sunday occasion. My mother and grandmother entertained the idea and let me wear this craft of a dress! Could you ask for better support?!
Paris Hart Designs
By the time I was 15 years of age, my skills improved greatly and I was receiving contract inquiries. We didn't have a computer at home, so this was just another time I used the local library resources. There I made my very first letterhead. At that time I thought "Paris Hart Designs" would be an amazing name! Little did I know a different "Paris" was soon to explode all over the tabloids!
Paris Hart Designs officially started in January of 2002, was with me throughout high-school and was the name on my receipts when I issued invoices to my clients from school and from my part-time employment connections.
I entered the business fair at school and won second place during the business fair for my branding and business plan. I had launched a slipper collection with customizable options for my pretend clients.
When I reached University and was well into my first semester, an Italian professor insisted on calling me "Cristella".
My mother's maiden name is Bumbacco (Calabrese) and I was raised in a small Italian community. I didn't appreciate my heritage growing up, you just grow up surrounded by people, no one tells you they are Italian. No one says you are eating Italian food, it's just food.
It wasn't until I was an adolescent and began researching my hometown and grandparents, that I began to embrace my roots. When people asked me what I was, I rhymed off "French, Italian, Irish and Dutch, a quarter of each".
When it came to the arts, food and rich culture, the Italian part of me, yes that full-quarter, grew and grew and grew. Who knew an Italian class could hit me so hard.
Crystal Jean, became, "Cristella Gina". The name was founded in 2003 (replacing Paris Hart Designs) and it remains a special part of me, still showing up and influencing my branding today, Cristella Mac and Cristella Betty Ray.