Leonora Arslani is a Brooklyn-based designer who launched her own brand, Giovanna, this past summer. After Giovanna’s initial success with a line of rafia slides and mules, Leonora recently expanded into jewelry.
She also happens to be the Senior Apparel Designer at Lela Rose and Head Designer at Lela Rose Bridal — so busy to say the least! Meet the oh-so-talented, and delight, Leonara!
How would you describe your style in three words?
Eclectic, effortless, and classic with a twist
Can you tell me a bit about your brand, Giovanna? Where did the inspiration come from and why did you decide to start with a raffia mule?
The brand is deeply rooted in nostalgia. Giovanna is named after my great aunt, Giovanna. She was well traveled, chic, kind of funky and very loved amongst her nieces and nephews. I grew up inspired by the memory of her through old pictures and stories I was told.
The concept behind the brand was to recreate Giovanna’s personal wardrobe from Italy and her travels around the globe, re-imagined through my nostalgic memories. The idea was to design effortless staples and modern pieces that Giovanna would have worn if she were alive today.
I started with a raffia mule because I fell in love with raffia on my honeymoon in Morocco. The whole thing was very organic and sort of just happened. I came home and couldn’t stop thinking about designing modern styles in this old world technique. I reached out to some amazing artisans I’d met, and they brought my designs to life. I love the fact that raffia weaving is an ancient art form that is still practiced today – that adds to the romance of it all.
After a successful launch with raffia mules & slides in Summer 2019, my small-batch brand expanded beyond footwear, debuting a jewelry capsule for Holiday 2019 inspired by a recent trip to Japan and the concept of Wabi Sabi.
You had your green silk dress made as a one off for yourself when you couldn’t find what you were looking for. As the Senior RTW Designer & Head Bridal Designer @ Lela Rose you are very familiar with pattern making and dress designs. But would you encourage others to do the same? Even without the extensive background in fashion design? How important are well tailored clothes?
To a certain extent, I would encourage others to do the same, but please don’t bite off more than you can chew!
My grandmother was a seamstress, and I grew up watching her make and tailor clothes for many clients. My mom used to make clothing for herself from Butterick patterns when she was younger, and I learned how to hand sew at a very young age and thought it was all common knowledge.
I don’t expect someone with no fashion background to pick up and start making their own clothing from scratch, but I do think there’s room for people to learn; especially the basics, like hemming pants and sewing on a button, for instance!
These simple skills can give you so much fashion freedom. It’s the ability to buy a great vintage piece and tailor it to yourself without spending more on it, or taking your pants up when you finally get the courage to wear them with flats instead of heels all the time!
Born in Brooklyn and still residing there — how does New York inspire you?
I have always loved being from New York and from Brooklyn, in particular. It is ingrained in my being, accent and all. I’m inspired by the melding of different cultures and ideas and where better to get that exposure than in the melting pot that is New York. I’m also heavily inspired, as you must know by now, by my family and personal nostalgia, and I am lucky to have the majority of my family in the New York area.