An Interview with Marie Cordella by Nell Alk. Photos by Jason Dail, courtesy of Marie Cordella Design.
You lived in New York on Septemper 11th. What was it like returning to NYC?
It was hard for me. I never really talk about it. I happened to be in the street during 9/11 and saw it happen. [In order to film 24 Hour Catwalk], I happened to fly in on the ten-year anniversary of the attack. It was incredibly intense. Not during filming, but in advance.
How would you describe your relationship with New York a decade after the fact?
I have a complex relationship with New York City. I can’t figure out if it’s based on having lived there during 9/11 or if it’s related to my love of personal space and the general lack of it that I’ve encountered in New York. But, I’ve worked for the last ten years to get where I am right now, which offers a very inspirational view of New York City. I almost feel like this is the first time in my life that I’ve genuinely been like, “I’m moving back to New York.” At the same time, I also think that in 2012 it serves as an advantage not being in New York. That I’m not concerned about being in New York seems to create a buzz.
Do you take cues from the greater fashion arena, or do you mostly go your own way?
I try not to look at all to the fashion industry for inspiration. That’s just piggybacking. I pretty much stay away from researching anything to do with fashion and just live my life. I tend to be more inspired by the things I personally encounter. I started realizing that, when I follow current fashion, it’s hindering to me. Whereas, when I do whatever I want, it tends to be trendsetting. I intentionally stay away from Fashion Week.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge with your work?
Expectations of clients. I do a lot of high-end bridal for people with a lot of money to invest in absolutely mind-blowing couture dresses. The personal buildup of doing something beautifully and then someone waltzing in and being like, “Actually, I changed my mind,” that’s probably the most painful part of my life. I’ll bead a dress for, like, 190 hours, and someone could say they wished the beads were lavender. That’s painful. They will pay me to redo it. But, I value time more than money, and no matter how much you pay me, it doesn’t change the fact that I will sit there and do it myself. It’s a full body experience redoing it. An emotional rollercoaster.
Sounds like you must really love what you do to endure those ups and downs.
I have no choice over who validates what, but people clearly validate dressmaking. You can open Us Weekly, Vanity Fair, a history book. You can go anywhere and, for some reason, people love adorning women’s bodies with beautiful fabrics. I’m incredibly lucky that I happen to love something that’s respected universally in humanity.
Mark your calendars and set your TiVos to Lifetime next Thursday at 10pm and cheer on Marie Cordella as she vies for 24 Hour Catwalk’s $10,000 prize.