If there's one thing we know for sure about Maria Cuscuna, she is a born fighter. After many attempts in the design industry, starting her own venture "Papier Fashionista" has proven to be her calling all along. With an ongoing business that keeps growing, with children at home she continues to prove that grit, resilience and a strong mindset can overcome anything and will lead to success if you believe in yourself.
Tell us about yourself.
My Name is Maria Cuscuna and I am the Founder and Designer of Papier Fashionista. I grew up in Montreal East End of the city. My Parents are both Italian . As a little girl I would always admire fashion models and their clothing ... I watched fashion television a million times thinking one day I will create these clothes that models will model down the catwalk . Growing up as an adolescent in the 80s and being the eldest of 3 siblings has brought me to face lifes' obstacles in so many different ways. The one special thing about this era was that it a loud you to bring out your creativity, and being a rock music fan , I got creative in the early 90s Wearing puffy long hair combat boots and construction sweaters. With Skin tight jeans that would match one of my favorite rock band t-shirts. Fashion has always played a big role in anything I did. I created my own unique style ever where I went because of fashion . I was never one to follow... always thought of myself as a leader. I remember one time I wasn’t so sure about what I wanted to do with my career. So what did I do ? I created a fashion show donated some of our profits to the children's hospital at the age of 19 . It was actually a big hit we got about 600 people that supported us. There was always something so unique about creative talent that had a special place in my heart which I’ve always appreciated and supported till this day. Creativity is a gift and I believe we all carry it. We just have to look for it within our hearts.
Did you always know you would own your own business?
After high school I decided to get my masters in fashion design. Right after graduating I was working in the fashion design industry for about 12 years, before Papier Fashionista was born. That’s where I developed love for color and printing techniques especially when I was in charge of buyer presentations. I would spend hours recreating visual showrooms with very little budgets ... I’ve worked really closely with some great designers who never wanted to see me grow. If I ever learned anything from any of them I think it was “never marry your product “ I spent many countless hours behind designers as an assistant as a pattern maker and as a graphic designer. I gave so much of my life to endless nights for someone else’s dreams to come true. At the time The fashion industry blew up in so many ways . Unfortunately Coming out with a degree in fashion design when the year of imports was born was extremely ruff. I found it very difficult to understand the amount of abuse that employees would have to deal with. Such as labour abuse and verbal abuse. I think I must have cried every day . I then realized this wasn’t the industry I wanted to be apart of this was not me . I was born to lead not to follow. I was always a strong believer in things happening for a reason and my reason all began nine years ago.
After working at a furniture company as an assistant design, I was about five years in, my position there was juggling different design tasks. I finally thought after so many bad experiences that this was it , a great place to work and really settle down. I got married to my high school best friend and just as we decided on starting a family together we were blessed with the news that we were pregnant. After 5 months of being pregnant, I got called in by the president of the company advising me that my design position was being abolished. I was devastated, Cried my eyes out. Felt so lost and afraid at what was next ? ... I was a new wife and going to now be a new mom in this crazy world with no job and a career-less woman. At the age of 32 design was all I had ever known it was in my blood.
When was Papier Fashionista Born?
“I WAS GLAD THEY FIRED ME”. I still remember that bitter sweet beautiful day . Walking into the presidents office and hearing those painfully tear dropping words. The day the furniture company decided to fire me while I was five months pregnant was the best day of my life. I probably would have never had a reason to start Papier Fashionista. I still thank them till this day.
What services do you offer currently?
We are happy to say we specialize in wedding invitations from laser cut designs to creating designs from scratch. These high end hand made invitations require careful assembly. We only use unique types of prints such as Hot Stamp printing , UV printing, luxurious letterpress techniques and Beautiful laser cut invitations with colour quality press that is usually applied to table menus and table seating charts. All these printing techniques can be applied to endless high quality card stock papers to choose from in many different textures and colours. We also have materials such as wood and plexi glass. We cater to weddings, bridal showers, bar- mitzvah, baby showers, cooperate and religious events.
What makes you different from the market ?
The first thing I think of when I think about Papier Fashionista is how blessed I am to meet and be apart of so many different lives and unique ideas, how special each client is and the trust and inspiration they leave me with to create is priceless. Whenever I look back at the invitations designs that were created specifically for the couple, it’s like a sense of happiness: creativity, and I feel so blessed for meaningful friendships that are built along the way. I appreciate the moments and the reactions that they bring when we bring their love stories to life. It’s just nice …The experience with Papier Fashionista comes from passion our designs come from the heart. Our goal is to find the latest trends in the market and accommodate accordingly by adding a small twist to making each design uniquely yours. I strongly believe you will not find that anywhere else. We are not just a piece of paper.
What does success represent to you?
Success to me means looking back at all my tasks all my experiences in life’s moments and thinking “I could not have done it better ...” there should be no regrets good or bad in anything you do . Success is part of an experience and I experience it everyday.
What’s next for Papier Fashionista?
I feel like I am on a new life path, and I don’t know where it’s leading me. I have a feeling that I’m going down some type of path that might compliment my stationery business. However I don’t know how I want to share that part of my creativity with the world yet. Whether it’s a store, or some type of experience I can offer people, I just love hosting and I love making new experience with friends. We will see!
How do you stay motivated?
Everyday I struggle with this question. Truth is everyone has their own kind of different struggles. So it’s hard to really use a method that works every time unless it’s close to your heart... I am a huge coffee lover so I’ll always have a cup to help me start my day. Get my thoughts fresh and together ... When I am not working on new projects for Papier Fashionista you can find me sipping my Starbucks coffee and really. I try to take alot of coffee breaks through out the day. Taking moments of gratitude is so important. I strongly believe that if we practice this more often our motivation will come naturally. We need to detach from what stresses us in order to be productive. Sometimes I close my eyes and remember that bitter sweet day when I was fired it actually still brings tears to my eyes. And I think those tears will always bring back that fire in my soul... I think back to all those long hours I put in someone else’s dreams. And now I am very great full that I have the opportunity to put the same
amount of hours into my own dreams. Probably more and then that fresh scent of my sons and husbands smile that opens my
eyes to the truth of my reality. They are the reason I do what I do. Gd has blessed me with these two beautiful souls that have been on my team since day one. They never stopped believing in me and when I look in the mirror every day I try to remember why I’m here and every day I tell myself you can do this. There are times where it’s hard and emotionally draining but when you love something so much it doesn’t feel like work. Motivation lives within us so If you are looking for that one person who will change your life forever, take a look in mirror.
Photo Credit - Alexandre Paskanoi