Heritage and class, bright and beautiful, with a modern touch of elegance, are just a few of the descriptive’s that come to mind, when I think of the amazing emerging New York fashion designer Ariana Rockefeller…After, a couple of times, of our trying to connect, (once even while in Tennessee – whilst I was visiting my father, who happened to be in a nearby proximity, while she was also in the state with her family). And then again in Los Angeles we missed one another by a day… Conclusively now that we’re both in NYC, at the exact same time, I knew it was a triumph that I would finally get to meet and also have an in person interview, with this very talented, humble spirit, to find out and share all the latest, on her gorgeous new handbag line, and her amazing life lessons.
I understand you graduated from Columbia University in Political Science and a Visual Arts Degree. Immediately following school you became very proactive in philanthropic work while living in Northern Brazil, where you volunteered at an elementary school run by a non-profit organization. Tell us more about these steps, and how it impacted your vision with designing and giving back today?
Collaborations are so big today and it’s tremendously exciting to have that right now. I love that it is possible to do the work, and have the fashion cross over into the philanthropic sphere, and I think it’s wonderful! When I graduated from Columbia, I decided to travel, and obtain even further knowledge from that experience, as well as work at the United Nations. This experience gifted me, with a more grounding and global perspective. All the traveling in Brazil, and Paris – provided me with a stronger, more well rounded, sense of self. The culmination of school, city, country life (near horses), and the work force helped me hone what my style was, and is today. I think when you’re traveling especially, you really have to figure out what you need, and what works for your life, and how you can pack it all into a suitcase. Packing makes you think about what and how, you want to feel, and look—- It makes you fine-tune your style. I think those voyages helped me precisely figure out what I wanted, how I felt comfortable, and most beautiful, for myself. It also taught me practicality because you have to be—you’re walking everywhere and living out of a suitcase. I was able to figure out my modern sense of style, fashion with a sense of function. Wayfaring to other cultures and countries helped me calibrate what I wanted and felt most comfortable in, including my own skin.
Are there any charities that are near and dear to your heart today?
ARIANA ROCKEFELLER: I’ve been involved with The Humane Society Equine Welfare Protection Program. The Equine Protection Department campaigns to safeguard the welfare of horses. They crusade to end cruelty and abuse, horse slaughter, and irresponsible breeding while encouraging responsible horse ownership and providing support and resources to the horse rescue community I also work with The Dutchess Sanctuary. They are operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with The HSUS—it is a 1,120-acre facility located outside of Oakland, Ore., that was established in 2008 as an oasis for about 200 formerly abused, abandoned, neglected, and homeless horses. They’re both truly wonderful and do great work.
How do you best describe how you culminate your artistry and expression from your heritage?
ARIANA ROCKEFELLER: I would like it to feel like an extension of me, while honoring the sensibilities of my family and their long-time understated elegance. We’re a family that has devoted themselves to our commitment for the love of arts, public service, and a general philanthropic mindset that really bonds us together. We are one of the only American families (Industrial Revolution Era) that have stayed together for seven generations.
Esthetically, my goal is to represent a classic yet youthful and modern feel, and reflect what a member of the Rockefeller family might wear. I wanted my brand to pay an homage to not only my family, but also how I go about my business and I’m proud of where it started and where it’s gone—and feel blessed that the support from my family, has been wonderful. Moving forward, my generation the modern generation can really understand what the modern Rockefeller is with honoring what the heritage was. My great grandmother would have worn this, and perhaps my future daughter or nieces and nephews would wear it. It crosses seven generations and more, hopefully.
What’s one thing you’ll never stop doing?
ARIANA ROCKEFELLER: I’ll never stop riding and being around horses, or being involved with them. My grandfather still drives his carriage horses; it’s a” two-in-hand” which means he has two horses in a horse drawn carriage. He rides them around Westchester where there are carriage roads that my great grandfather built. He and his affinity with the animals, inspires me so much, that we even did part of the brand’s photo shoot in the carriage houses with my horses.
What was the inaugural inception, for the thought behind the Ariana Rockefeller Handbag? What were the type of bags you wanted to create? Who’s the woman you are dressing?
I think it stemmed from my need for the perfect bag in my day-to-day life. Whether it was a day consisting of running around the city, or attending a horse show, I felt like I needed a chic carryall. From that, I decided to create a collection of bags that catered to all kinds of needs, such as a functional daytime cross-body style (which can be worn at night, or during the day), or the stylish, yet a bit more formal, evening clutch. In total, there are four essential styles, in the Ariana Rockefeller handbag collection: the cross-body, the clutch, the tote and the satchel (which encapsulates my idea of beauty and sophistication), sort of my vision of a beautiful business woman, that represents the stylish feeling of my brand. I like to think it pays respect to the women I grew up with, especially my grandmother (Peggy McGrath Rockefeller), but still keeps a contemporary feel, and keeps with the evolving times such as myself. So, the girl I guess really is me. I’ve created hand bags that I want in my daily life, and also that I know my friends would love and wear—so it’s really true to myself and my aesthetic.
What are your favorite pieces?
I truly enjoyed designing each piece, for a specific need, it’s tough for me to say which one or two are my favorites. If I had to choose, I’d say my first choice would be the clutch. It’s great for a red carpet event, or a cocktail party. My second choice would either be the tote or satchel. They are both equally beautiful… the satchel has the hardware inspired from my horse’s bridle, which I love. I feel every piece of the equestrian tack, and equipment are timelessly elegant, and well made that that was really what I wanted, to have behind the handbags. I wanted a focus on the craftsmanship, the durability and how these pieces convey an always sophisticated and smart look. I like to think the tote and satchel are what I consider foundational pieces. The satchel has a sort of a ladylike daytime bag appeal, and the tote because you can throw everything in there from your iPad, to a pair of spurs, or horse treats!
Article for Huffington Post