To stunning effect.
Seeing couture up close and personal is always a bit of a trip, especially if you’re a fashion fan. The work is so intricate and so special, it often feels more like art than clothes, better suited to being mounted in a museum than living your life. Had they have launched in time, the dresses from new line Cucculelli Shaheen would have been right at home in the environs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during Ex Machina exhibit, which studied the intersection between technology and its hand in fashion. It's exactly what the brand does, and to mind-blowing effect.
First, the backstory. The label was started just months ago by husband-and-wife team Anthony Cucculelli and Anna Rose Shaheen, who are both extremely good-looking and frighteningly cool. One had worked at Roberto Cavalli, the other at Emilio Pucci in Florence—in other words, they have the chops. They were inspired to work together and start something of their own on a trip to India. But the concept really came together late last year. “Anthony did a design collaboration with a company out in L.A. that did 3-D body scanning, and we were really inspired by the technology,” recounts Shaheen. “How cool is it that this technology can actually be used with proper couture technique of beading gowns? It is so much faster, so you save a lot of time, so we can keep the cost down.”
Beyond the truly jaw-dropping gowns they've made (we’ll get to those in a second), it’s their use of this body-scanning technology that makes us wish the Met would have just waited a year so that the clothes could have gotten the audience they deserve. Using the technology, your body is scanned using three six-foot poles that are “basically like little tripods that have infrared cameras on them,” explains Cucculelli. Using these, in one second, a customer’s body is scanned within a fraction of a millimeter. “All of the patterns have been scanned in and pre-graded,” he continues. “When a woman gets scanned, it is able to grade every part of your body individually. It’s really intuitive. Normally, to do this you would go to a pattern maker with a list of measurements. You can make a dress off of 10 or so measurements, but when you have every single point of measure, you can be very accurate.”
What you end up with—if you’re one of their very lucky customers, that is—is a gown that fits you as though it’s your own skin, empowered by technology and then sewn and embroidered by hand in a workshop in Mumbai.
But back to the gowns, because when we arrived at their live-work dream space (when it comes to making things—anything—look pretty, the couple knows what they’re doing), that was really what we were there for. And yes, they are works of art that could easily be hanging in a gallery—the embroidery is truly incredible to see close up. But the gowns are also very personal.
For one thing, the designers made every pattern and embroidery drawing and mapping by hand—and then rearranging embroideries on the dress (“like a Rubik’s Cube”). For another, inspired by alchemy, each of the embroideries, like those of lotus flowers, roses, and sunbursts, have meanings of their own, and their wedding gown, the collection’s pièce de resistence, has a constellation embroidery that can be made into the exact constellation that appears in the sky on the night of your own nuptials. How dreamy is that?
But it gets even better, because each dress is customizable to the nth degree. Take, for example, one of their first customers, Hannah Bronfman, who just so happened to commission a Cucculelli Shaheen gown to wear to a major upcoming and very personal event. “She loved the collection, but she wanted something really special that she couldn’t find anywhere else,” says Shaheen. “She is doing a special motif; we picked out a special color for her, special materials. She really gets what we are trying to do with the meanings behind each dress.” It’s not in a museum, but this is the kind of thing dresses this special are really for.