Click Read More/Comments for additional photos. As the frenzy of fashion week falls upon New York today, what better way to bring in the first official day with an exclusive interview with New York native and Designer of Prova, Irini Arakas. The epitome of cool, former editor and writer of Vogue magazine, Arakas branched out 7 years ago to found Prova, an exclusive line of beautiful luxury accessories including one of a kind, limited edition, hand-sewn silk scarves.
Recipient of the prestigious Ecco Domani award in 2009 for Accessory Design, it didn’t take long before clientele such as First Lady, Michelle Obama to not only take notice but fall in love and rock the Prova line as a regular staple. Prova meaning “to try” in Greek, is the essential building block to any path to success…to try.
Stay with us as Arakas shares everything from advice to budding designers, first encounter with Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour, a plethora of musical taste ranging from Chaka Khan to The Beastie Boys, music/art/books and bourbon as sources to set the designing mood to not “sweating the small stuff”.
In November of 2005, native New Yorker Irini Arakas left her job as a Vogue fashion writer to work full-time on her burgeoning accessories label, PROVA. At that time, PROVA’s debut line of jewelry had just sold out at Barneys for the third time, and numerous stores and magazines were asking Arakas what she was planning for the following season. Today, PROVA is carried in 22 stores worldwide, including Kirna Zabete, Ikram, and Colette; and it has been featured in WWD, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and T Magazine. The line has also expanded from jewelry into scarves, with the fringed, triangular “Sandinistas” (inspired by Clash frontman Joe Strummer), proving particularly popular: they have been seen in the front row of various fashion shows, and have been worn by the First Lady everywhere from Hawaii to Paris. Prova scarves are all hand-sewn in New York City’s garment district. Arakas was also the 2009 winner of the prestigious Ecco Domani award for Accessory Design. Previous winners include Justin Giunta for Subversive and Monique Pean.
Where are you from and what was your “I want to be a _____ when I grow up” memory?
I am from New York City, born and raised. I wanted to be an archeologist when I was really young. I was obsessed with Indiana Jones.
As former Editor and Writer with Vogue, what would you say is the most invaluable lesson you walked away with?
Always have a strong point of view and keep weekly office meetings short, 40 minutes max!
When was the first time you met Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour?
When I interviewed for my position at the magazine, the Vogue offices had just switched over to 4 Times Square. I was so nervous but I enjoyed the interview. She asked me what my favorite movies were…I loved that question. Moonstruck, The Godfather and Fisher King, were my answers.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I always knew I would end up working in a creative environment but I didn’t know I was going to be a designer or work in fashion. I graduated from Vassar College with an art history degree. I thought perhaps I would work in a gallery or museum. When I was a kid, I loved to paint and draw. I took after school painting classes for years with an amazing artist and teacher named Sandra Neblett. She was very inspiring and helped me develop my talent. I haven’t seen her in decades but I will never forget her or how important those after school painting classes were to my appreciation of color and art.
How was Prova conceptualized and what is behind the name?
PROVA began in 2005 and the word “prova” is a Greek word meaning “to try”.
Michelle Obama frequently wears your line. How did find out and how does it feel to know the First Lady loves Prova?
It feels great. Mary Tomer who is the editor of Mrs-O.org is very quick to email me when the first lady pops up wearing a Prova scarf.
Name 3 past or present designers you would love to collaborate with and why?
It would be a dream and so fun to collaborate with artist Nick Cave, his sound suits are breathtaking. Photographer JR, I love street art in general and my work is heavily influenced by graffiti artists, and there is a studio and gallery in Chicago called Project Onward, dedicated to the creative growth of artists with mental and developmental disabilities, collaborating with one of their talented artists would be an ABSOLUTE dream for me.
Who would you love to see rocking your line?
Solange Knowles, M.I.A.,Veronica Webb, Bruce Springsteen, Afrika Bambaataa, and Tyson Chandler, just to name a few of my fashion crushes.
What advice would you give to those in the beginning phases of starting their own line?
Don’t sweat the small stuff and take educated risks. In the beginning, I lost my mind over every little production snafu and delay. You know…Shit fucking happens. Starting your own business is tougher than people think and a lot of it depends on how much hustle you have in your bones. It’s all about self-motivation, discipline and believing in yourself.
Can you give us a sense of the setting or mood your surround yourself with in the mist of designing?
MUSIC! Art books and Bourbon. There is a subtle surfer, sporty, street vibe to the new silk trouser I designed for Spring, so I was looking at a lot of surf photography from the 50s and Aaron Young sculptures. Other artist’s works are always very inspiring to me. Chris Ofili, Aya Takano, and Ghada Amer are some of my favorite artists.
As you are gearing up for Fashion week, what is your number one stress reliever?
Getting my nails done by my friend Maki Sakamoto. I will dream up my new nail designs weeks before Maki comes over to my house, that’s how much I look forward to it. I don’t have a very elaborate beauty routine, so getting my nails done is something I really look forward to. Also nothing takes the edge off of a tough work day like drinking good wine, listening to great music and cooking with my boyfriend.
Currently who is in your playlist and some of your all-time favorite musicians?
While I was designing the Spring collection I was listening to The Meters, Beach House, Escort, Frank Ocean, Hot Chip and The Chromatics. All-time faves: Chaka Khan, Beastie Boys, Pixies, Al Green, Bill Withers, The Killers, Paul Simon, Rick Ross… I mean, I really could go on and ON. Music is always on in my Carroll Gardens apartment and when I am designing in the studio. It is a huge part of the design process.
What are some of your favorite shops?
Colette in Paris, Ikram in Chicago, Blue Tree in New York City. (For Vintage: Portia & Manny and Marmalade.)
What do you see for future of Prova?
I plan on continuing to build the Prova brand, one item at a time. The design, production and development for Prova takes place in New York City which is really important to me. My label is such a true extension of who I am as a person so whether it be a silk trouser or a necklace or a chandelier that I am designing, I want Prova to continue to be a New York City-based operation.
Who or what inspires you?
Other artists, films, music. My friends, Women on the subway, my mother. Street art, and a good dance party can do things for the soul ad recharge me like nobody’s business.
Irini Arakas with her Grandmother