In the early 1980s, I met Sandy Cameron and Terry Schindler, who became long-time friends. They were closing down their manufacturing business, Christopher Ryan, and had a few professional seamstresses who did piecework. I immediately hired them and downsized my in-house operation, as I had been feeling overwhelmed organizing so many people. This allowed us to move to a cottage industry style production. Hilda Fassas and Maria de Silva, both talented seamstresses, began producing my Victorian-style blouses with millions of pin tucks and antique lace. This completely transformed my business; I was able to take on more custom wedding dresses and offer my blouses to stores!
Around this time, my church sponsored a group of immigrants from Laos, and I heard there was a young girl named Alina who could sew in the group. I hired her right away, and she introduced me to her family members, including her mother, grandmother, sisters, cousins, and husband, who have all worked for me over the years. Forty years later, Alina still oversees my production and a team of sewers who work from home, including her sister. Her dedication to quality and lifetime of experience have been invaluable to the Christine brand.
With a reliable production team in place, I decided to try the New York buying circuit. I booked a hotel on 59th, just down from the Plaza, and made appointments with Bergdorf’s, Henri Bendels, Bloomingdales, and Saks. Bergdorf’s was excited to see my small collection of lingerie with tiny rosebuds in vintage colors and immediately bought it. Bendel’s had one day when they would see new and fresh designers, and somehow, I got an appointment. I was thrilled with their reaction to my collection. My appointments with Bloomingdale’s and Saks were also successful. It wasn’t until I got home and spoke to other designers that I realized how out of the norm my experience was. Usually, designers had to visit several times before the stores would consider seeing or purchasing their lines. The success of my appointments confirmed for me the uniqueness of my designs and the soundness of my decision-making up to that point.