By Meredith Corning
Christelle Cenatiempo is a native of Montpellier, France now living and working in Los Angeles. Her line of hand-crafted corsets exude an old-world craftsmanship, originality and glamour. Titelle has been involved with LA Fashion Week and Downtown LA Artwalk and seems to be making a big splash in today’s market. Her luxurious designs can be purchased from her latest collections or custom-made to suit individual needs.
It is said your passion for creation was born from a love of pin-up and 50’s style. What is it about this time period that intrigues you?
Definitely women from this era and the novel image they conveyed: provocative but not vulgar, highlighting the best of themselves, raising their finest assets, while assuming it all. Simultaneously a doll, a housewife and a lover – the common woman from the 50’s gave a fresh and powerful image of herself – revealing all her strengths and weaknesses with a hint of irony, thus making herself even more attractive…I think.
The famous pictures of illustrator Gil Elvgren have traveled the world and eras, and fashion from the 50’s would have probably not remained so modish otherwise. Of course, I draw my inspiration from various sources, but the “femme fatale” theme, the glamour and female codes can always be found in my collections.
Can you describe your line of corsets and what makes the Titelle craftsmanship different from the rest?
I create corsets for men and women looking for singularity. Inspired by old techniques, I hand down the art of detail and elegance through modern design, as I believe that true luxury lives in original creation. I want to match my customers ‘personalities and offer a feelings in the corset and wedding dresses I design: from a fragile, pure, romantic to a colorful, glitter style. As they are lucky enough to deal with a genuine “craftswoman,” my customers can and actually do feel free to personalize, customize and request anything specific that is on their mind. Now, every custom order implies a collaborative effort and a new story to share…especially with my brides. And if only because of the importance of this human relationship element in the design creation process, I believe no ready-to-wear fashion store offer will ever be able to truly compete here.
As I want to give my clients the opportunity to feel different for any great occasion (a wedding, a celebration, a show, a secret rendezvous…etc.), I am fully dedicated to ensuring that the garment will make this important event one to be remembered. Wearing a crafted and tailored corset attracts attention and compliments. Would you like to try and find out on your own?
(Yes, I would!)
Originally from France, you have now moved your studio to Los Angeles, California. What are the main differences in selling and marketing your product when observing the market in both locations?
Differences are noticeable. Here in California, I have access to greater opportunities in terms of visibility and sales. More than that, American people are manifestly more enthusiastic than the French about my work. However, despite receiving such excellent feedback on my new collections, fashion shows and appearances – this higher amount of appreciation expressed by US customers has not translated into as many “direct sales” as I could have expected based on my experience with the French. It turns out that French customers are generally less expressive initially, but often more “determined” and actually more likely to make the choice of working with me, simply because they fell in love with the brand.
In terms of budget, US customers are ready to invest a bigger amount than the French, especially brides who are extremely passionate about their wedding and thus ready to invest more into unique designs. Learning from these observations and being influenced by both cultures, my marketing strategies have varied accordingly, while my collections blend and reflect these differences more and more over time.
Living in a dynamic city like Los Angeles also means that it is a constant challenge to maintain your visibility, enlarge your network, persevere, achieve good results and not let anyone else take your spot…a very interesting and rewarding adventure indeed!
What has been your best tool in gaining clientele?
I would say… the internet, of course! Social networks make for really nice opportunities but I should highlight merchant sites like the dedicated craft shop platform www.etsy.com or its French counterpartwww.alittlemarket.com, which have made it possible for many “conscious” customers from around the world get to know my work and reach me directly without having to know me personally.
Besides, a lot of my clients found me through their own researches online – especially using Google Images – which is why I pay particular attention to my pictures’ labeling and website SEO, among other things.
Your recent photo shoot with photographer, Emmanuelle Choussy, is romantic and sultry. How important do you feel imagery is for your business?
Imagery is definitely a key aspect of my business, as pictures are the first contact with my clients. Everyone needs to dream and images can make you dream by introducing you to new atmospheres, new themes and new stories. We all watch movies, read books, visit museums and feel pleasure through imagery (and imaginary), with a view to escaping into ephemeral worlds, which I attempt to achieve through my own art.
Now, from my perspective, a photo series is much more than the end product as the creation process involved to turn ideas and concepts into reality proves to be the most rewarding part of the whole experience. When I collaborate with photographers, make-up artists, hairstylists and models, we create a new world together – interpreting and putting in common our initial ideas. This is exactly how true passion lives and blossoms: sharing and orchestrating your visions and best skills as part of a team! I had many occasions to work with the talented Emmanuelle Choussy and I think she “lives” the shooting sessions the same way I do…that is: giving her best and expressing her feelings fully.