couture+love+madness designer Cristina Tridente

Finesse model Madz Ando wears a couture+love+madness dress in Cristina Tridente's signature glitzy style.

Finesse model Madz Ando wears a couture+love+madness dress in Cristina Tridente's signature glitzy style.

Being in the new guard of Adelaide's fashion designing pack is exhausting. Just ask couture+love+madness designer Cristina Tridente, who works seven days a week.

It wasn't always like this. Three years ago, Tridente was another ambitious fashion graduate with a degree in her fist and nowhere to run with it. Now, she's the coordinator of Adelaide Fashion Festival, and runs her couture+love+madness label on the side, working until midnight most weeknights to pack everything into her life. So other than Red Bull, what fuels Adelaide's one-woman fashion factory? Passion.

"It's what I've wanted my whole life... If you don't have the passion you're not going to make it. There's 100 other people that will," she says.

Fishtail silhouettes feature heavily in Tridente's designs, such as this one worn by Finesse face Charlotte Kleut

Fishtail silhouettes feature heavily in Tridente's designs, such as this one worn by Finesse face Charlotte Kleut

You get the sense that this idea of passion is a mantra for her when the days get rough. And rough they must be, for when I ask if she ever gets tempted to drop out, she titters nervously.

"I thought about it (quitting) and I thought if I stop because I find it to be too hard, who loses out? I lose out at the end of the day if I give up."

Out of Tridente's TafeSA fashion design class of 2009, only five still work in the industry; the other 28 are mostly in retail. So what made her any different?

"I realised early on that it's a really hard industry and there's not a lot of work, especially in Adelaide," she says.

"I had to become adaptable quite quickly to doing other roles, so I've done personal styling, visual merchandising, freelance pattern making, (been a) freelance machinist. It's better to do something in your field than to do something completely different."

Though her label has already met a level of success, she continues to balance it with the huge job of putting together the annual Adelaide Fashion Festival. Adelaide's fashion week may be smaller than most, but just like any city, there's plenty of arse kissing to deal with.

"People think it's just like that on movies, [but] it's actually like that," Tridente says of bitchiness in fashion.

"I'm still the youngest person as part of AFF and it's hard, especially when you're dealing with suppliers who are in their forties and they don't want to listen to a 20-something."

This age divide is definitive of the current state of Adelaide fashion, which is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance of young designers. While scene stalwarts like Alexis George and Sally Phillips continue to be the centre of attention, there’s a new crop of young guns fighting to change the scene. From the rise and rise of Australian Fashion Labels to the international spotlight on Paolo Sebastian, the divide between old and new has never been more stark.

It’s Tridente’s job to bring those clashing perspectives, aesthetics and egos together for one week of the year at Adelaide Fashion Festival. Under her helm for the past three years, the fashion week has become a celebration that has spread from one street in the Eastern suburbs to a 10-day festival across the entire city.

“I feel like I'm doing my part a little bit for the Adelaide fashion industry by pushing it to grow,” she says.

But the more it grows, the more likely she’ll have to give something up. Over the past 12 months, Tridente estimates that she has personally designed and made more dresses than any other year.

 “It's a bit of a juggling act… As the label grows it's going to get harder,” she says.

“I don't think I really expected it (couture+love+madness) to have grown so fast but it's what I've wanted for forever so I can't complain.”

 

Don't expect any dull colours from Tridente.

Don't expect any dull colours from Tridente.

At the opening night of Adelaide Fashion Festival 2012, couture+love+madness was acknowledged as one of the state's most significant up-and-coming labels.

At the opening night of Adelaide Fashion Festival 2012, couture+love+madness was acknowledged as one of the state's most significant up-and-coming labels.

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