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“And you’re done,” said Anthony Cucculelli, surprising me. I was standing in leggings and a sports bra, in between three discreet 3-D scanning towers at the studio of Cucculelli Shaheen. I had thought it might take more than the second or so it took to scan me from head to toe.
Within minutes, a 3-D rendering of my body appeared on a nearby monitor. It could be rotated 360 degrees, and eventually used to create a nearly perfect pattern for one of Cucculelli Shaheen gorgeous gowns. The process of using 3-D scanning to take measurements would speed up the made-to-measure process from six-to-nine months to just around four weeks.
The womenswear brand, founded by Cucculelli and Anna Shaheen (partners in work and in life), has created a process that is set to revolutionize the couture industry, while making it more sustainable. With nearly perfect patternmaking, the supply chain is streamlined, thereby decreasing fabric waste. As a rule, they don’t do production runs—once a client chooses the dress, they can go straight to production.
Such an advanced approach to fashion may sound a bit cold, but Cucculelli Shaheen’s collections are anything but. Dripping in details, covered in beautiful beadwork and embroidery, they are the dresses most women dream about. Founded in 2016, the brand has managed to fly above seasonal restrictions. Creating three collections so far (available exclusively online on Modaoperandi.com), they have quickly become a favorite for weddings, galas, and red carpets.
After changing back into my street clothes post-scan, I sat down with Cucculelli and Shaheen to learn more about how they are reshaping the world of couture.
WHITEWALL: Why did you want to incorporate 3-D scanning into the custom couture process?
ANTHONY CUCCULELLI: We saw it as an opportunity to really change the way couture is made. We are taking an old-fashioned process and revolutionizing it. With the 3-D scanning, we can speed up the process and make dresses that perfectly fit with measurements that are 99.9 percent correct. It takes a very antiquated process and makes it totally new and modern.
WW: Can you walk us through the process—from scanning to the final piece?
ANNA SHAHEEN: We first make an appointment with our client. Sometimes we have an idea of what they have in mind, usually for a specific event. They’ll come here to the studio, and we’ll do the scan, which is a very quick and painless process; it takes less than a second. We use an infrared camera, which takes points of measure on the body. Then we take those points of measure and make a pattern based on the 3-D measurements.
Once we have that data, we will usually decide what color our client wants, certain placement, details of the embroidery, and then we’ll adjust those placements onto her pattern.
WW: What are the old-world craftsmanship details that are signatures of the brand?
AS: One of our more popular styles is our Constellation dress. It was a true collaboration between myself and Anthony. We loved the idea of doing an embroidery per customer, and per special event. The Constellation artwork on the dress changes depending on the location and the time of event. It’s perfect for a wedding. We can actually put the bride and groom’s initials into the skirt. We can add their rising signs or their astrological signs.
AC: What we end up with is an accurate sky map of all of the constellations that are in the night sky during the client’s event. We typically do it for 10 o’clock at night, so the client can literally look up into the sky and see the exact constellations that are on the dress.
WW: Does the 3-D scan allow for a more sustainable approach to couture as well?
AS: The 3-D tech elevates the craftsmanship in that it allows us to streamline our supply chain. So rather than doing multiple fittings and taking a long time in the process, we’re able to get an almost-perfect pattern from the scan because we’re getting so many points of measure. We usually do the scan, adjust the pattern, and then we go straight to the final sample and do a fitting with the final sample with the client.
AC: We’re taking what is normally a six- to nine-month process, and delivering in four weeks.
WW: What are some points of inspiration for your three collections?
AS: We were in Paris in September and went to the Gustave Moreau museum. Moreau is one of Anthony’s favorite artists.
AC: When we walked away from it, we did some more research, looking at his own inspirations. We even found some of the books he was inspired by. We felt like there was a common thread between what he was inspired by and what we were inspired by.
AS: It became about the study of inspiration—what are his inspirations and how does he work? He had all of these old research books from the early 1800s, some even going back to the 1600s. The colors in the illustrations are beautiful. We loved that idea that he was taking inspiration for his paintings from these archival books.
AC: A lot of our inspiration comes from travel. Anna and I spent a lot of our early years together traveling. We were always going to Istanbul and Turkey and Morocco, finding these secret little hidden, architectural gems. At the end of the day, we decorate dresses. We wanted to get into the same mindset of people who have been doing this for hundreds of years. It was about getting into the mindset of what we do and embracing it.
AS: We try to take each dress as a study in the symbol that we’re using. Taking the time to think about, “What do these things mean?”
AC: If we’re drawing a lotus flower, we try to link it to the people who were drawing the lotus flower in Egyptian times and studying what it meant to them and what was the symbolism.
AS: Nowadays, everything goes so quickly. The dresses take a long time, a lot of work, and we try to do the same thing on our end, too, to really take the time and consideration so that the dresses can really sing.
WW: Why is Moda Operandi the right sales platform for you?
AS: We love working with Moda Operandi. They were our very first retail partner. They took a chance on us. Their whole entire platform is basically a trunk show of made-to-measure collections, so it’s perfect for the type of clothing that we do. Their clients are very used to ordering ahead of time and ordering from a sample.
As each garment we do is made-to-order, we don’t do production runs. Once the client chooses the dress, we go straight to production, so it allows us really to streamline the supply and demand.