I’m not sure I remember weddings without Cristina Re‘s beautiful paper products. They seemed to be popping up everywhere and I’ve often referred to the brand myself when I go through making card stages! Cristina’s business has grown into one of Australia’s most loved paper brands and now, along with a beautiful boutique, complete with high tea service and coffee served in the prettiest of cups, Cristina is still going strong. It’s an honour to have her join us on Polka Dot Wisdom today!
Please tell us a little about yourself. How did your interest in all things paper begin?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been extremely passionate about illustration and graphic design. I first began drawing at the age of five and continued my studies in design for many years. I used to love collecting paper note sets and stickers and was a big fan of ‘Hello Kitty’ as well. My European background and upbringing provided me with an appreciation for fine art and design. I was fortunate to have studied at an art school in Northern Italy, where I first developed my artistic and illustration skills.
I was determined to be my own boss from the very beginning and my mission was to be an entrepreneur and successful business woman. I believed to have many innovative ideas that I wanted to explore and was a bit of a visionary. As soon as I graduated with an Honours degree from Swinburne University Of Design, I immediately started my own freelance design and wedding /portrait photography business in 1994. I was one of the very first female wedding photographers in Australia and enjoyed challenging myself to provide a fashionable and glamorous approach to my work.
As a result, I also began designing unique stationery for my wedding clients experimenting with beautiful paper stocks and printing techniques, and soon discovered a niche in the retail market for fashionable contemporary invitations that were readily available and affordable.
I created the DIY concept after I received numerous requests for printable papers with my signature patterns that people could personalize themselves at home to make wedding and party invitations. The concept took off in a big way and I expanded the range to include an array of accessories and tools. Today the stationery range encompasses over 500 stationery and craft products and is sold to over 1000 stores around the world. Further to this, the company has evolved and diversified by introducing new categories including homewares and bath and body which carry my signature style of design and packaging. Developing these new gifting categories are now the focus of the company with the aim of reinventing the Cristina Re brand to become the leading name in everyday ‘affordable luxury’ products.
Have you always been a creative person?
As mentioned previously, I was a little budding artist since I was a young girl and always knew in my heart that I wanted to be involved in art and design ‘when I grew up’. I have never swayed from my passion and ambitions to live a highly creative life somehow.
Do you have a mentor or someone influential in your life, who is your ‘guiding light’?
I do not have a specific mentor in particular but I have many people that I admire and aspire to, in particular my fiancé Jason Faulkner. Jason is a highly creative individual who works in the business with me and has been my ‘rock’ and provided me with guidance and strength. His background is in filmmaking, and his experience in having worked all over the world with internationally renowned artistic directors, photographers, costume designers, set designers and actors is very inspiring. Jason has introduced me to some of the most influential people in the world through our travels together on the film sets and made me see things from a different and bigger perspective. You could say that this has influenced my creative decisions. He has most importantly taught me to push myself to be the best that I can be.
Do you use certain criteria when sourcing and deciding on your paper supplies, or do you design your paper goods yourself, to fit your particular market?
I don’t really use a criteria when sourcing product as I always create my own unique papers with my designs and patterns or colour palettes. I guess the fun part of my job is to come up with something new and trendsetting and have never purchased an already existing paper product.
You offer several different activities including high tea and workshops. What was your aim in offering all these activities in the one premises?
I originally created my store Where A Girl Goes to offer a unique shopping destination, whereby shoppers could be taken on a journey of the five senses. I wanted to create a beautiful environment to predominantly showcase my designer gift products (from stationery, homewares and bath and body products) as well as host workshops on papermaking to assist brides on how to make their own DIY invitations. As a compliment to this, I created an instore café and tea salon so that my guests could indulge and relax after a ‘hard day of shopping and creating’ .
The original focus of the store was the retail area offering the stationery and gift products, however I soon noticed the trend in ladies coming to experience the delicious signature cupcakes, pastel coloured French macarons and Belgian hand painted chocolates together with the signature tea blends that were designed especially for my store.
I decided to introduce high tea and within a short amount it became the main activity of the store. The High Tea Collection of products are an evolution of this concept, and my desire has been to provide beautiful vintage inspired tea ware and matching accessories in gorgeous keepsake boxes reminiscent of days gone by.
The Where A Girl Goes store is a one stop shop for ladies to indulge and celebrate life, love and creativity.
What do your High Tea events consist of?
We like to be unique in our high tea offering and provide several options to tailor for individual needs, depending on whether someone wants an indulgence of sweet delights or whether they wish to add gourmet sandwiches and champagne. We also offer the opportunity to upgrade their experience with a creative workshop, games or even have a card and astrology reading.
You have a gorgeous range of crockery on your website. Was designing these a natural extension of your High Tea events?
The High Tea collection of homewares was definitely a natural extension of the concept. I initially created an exclusive range of pastel pink and white tea cups for my tea salon and received numerous requests to purchase the product. I then decided to make the product available to everyone and began to extend the colour offering to suit everyone’s taste, from soft pastels, vibrant colours, to bold black and white.
Furthermore, you can also purchase gourmet tea blends in pretty packaging as well as gold plated vintage inspired cutlery which is just new to the range.
What sorts of things do brides learn in your workshops?
Brides can learn to make their own DIY invitations with expert tips on paper styling, working with colour and pattern, creating unique layering and decorative effects, as well as printing assistance. They will have exclusive access to the Cristina Re papers and accessories as well as inspirational books and tools. Furthermore, we like to spoil our guests with coffee and cake from the Tea Salon to make the experience memorable and special!
What is the most satisfying aspect of your workshops?
I definitely feel rewarded to see people having fun and enjoying their time with us. It has always been a mission for me to inspire people to be the best they can be and express their creativity and find the artist within. It gives me great joy to see happy customers that keep coming back.
I also love knowing that they will receive the best service and the opportunity to shop and indulge as a reward for all their hard work.
You also have a range of body products, candles and books. It must have been very exciting to extend your creativity, writing (or designing) the books and designing the body products and candles! Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from my travels around the world, in particular Rome (I was born in Rome and lived and studied in Italy for a number of years), Paris and Asia. I am inspired by nature, by the flora and fauna of Australia and many other beautiful countries. I am influenced by art & design from the past, and am also a big fan of beautiful interior design and draw inspiration from old vintage fabrics and wallpaper. You could say I also love fashion and beautiful packaging, and follow trends from around the world to help me create my new ranges.
My style is a little eclectic, as I like to mix modern with vintage, and also like to mix pretty pastels with bold bright patterns- less is never more for me, and you can say I love to be extravagant and indulgent in making things visually beautiful.
Are brides in other States able to source your products online, or through other outlets?
Yes, my product is readily available to most department and chain stores around Australia, as well as specialty boutique invitation stores. The products can also be purchased on our online store.
What are your dreams for Cristina Re in five years time?
My long term goals are to further expand my line of giftware products by continuing to offer innovative and beautiful lines that tell a unique story. I would also like to expand internationally so that everyone around the world can purchase the product.
I see myself continuing to write and self publish inspirational books, as well as working with my partner Jason in creative film making, with the hope of making a difference in the world with the work that I do.
Thank you Cristina for taking the time to answer our questions. To find out more about Cristina and her exciting business, explore her website.
All images from Cristina Re