Creative Spotlight: Rawan Rihani of Aurora Vestita
Interview by Alexa Wilson
Rawan Rihani’s work at Aurora Vestita could as easily come out of Bianca Jagger’s wardrobe as it could be carved into stone on a sculpture of Hera. Named after the goddess of the dawn and the Italian word for clothes, Aurora Vestita brings together the ethereal femininity and power of goddess, Rihani's Middle-Eastern and Italian heritage, as well as the free-spirited nostalgia of the 1970's. All at once modern, vintage, and ancient--that’s the appeal of Aurora Vestita.
How was your transition from floral designer to fashion designer?
Well, actually I never stopped doing both! What happened was, I studied fashion and left Rhode Island to pursue a fashion design career in NYC. After working in the industry under other company names, I got really tired and felt unfulfilled. At RISD, where I studied fashion, we were very much hands-on and allowed all the freedom of expression in our work. So when I came to NY and adjusted to the constricted corporate design world, I was really unfulfilled and knew I needed a change.
I left the industry and took a job at a local flower shop in Brooklyn, it was a cure to my soul! I’ve always loved flowers, but I had no idea until I tried it that I would find so much fulfillment in working with them. Every arrangement is so satisfying, to work with your hands, with the Earth’s flowers, and bring art into it. It became my passion.
At the same time as my falling in love with this new craft, I continued working with fashion design at home by making special pieces, dresses, veils, headdresses and headpieces for friends on tour with bands, friends getting married and clients who wanted custom-made clothing. This also is something I found so much more gratifying, to make these special pieces with meaning rather than to turn numbers and orders in the corporate fashion world.
There seems to be a real respect for the Earth in your practices at Aurora Vestita. Why is it important for you and other brands to make ethical, sustainable decisions when it comes to sourcing materials, etc?
Also to me, to be progressive and futuristic is actually to take care of our earth and our bodies. This is why it is important to me to use only natural fiber fabrics and also natural dyes. It is healthier on your skin and your body, allowing your skin to breathe, and it is better for our environment and the Earth.
What feeling do you want to evoke in women when they wear your clothes?
I want women to feel beautiful and goddess-like when wearing my line. I want them to feel gorgeous and cool at the same time. I want them to feel like a free spirit and timeless beauty and want to dance and move in the clothes.
Greek mythology is a recurring theme in Aurora Vestita, both in the name and in the flowing, ethereal silhouettes. How do you approach designing clothing with such a strong connection to the past while maintaining it’s modernity?
I’ve always been so inspired by ancient Greece/Rome and the classical art that emerges from that time. I think my personal style also has always been connected to the drapey tunics/ ancient draped silk and pleated garments of that era meets the 70's. Maybe it is in the choice of colors and silks and details of the cut of the silhouettes that modernizes this inspiration.
I read that you were largely inspired by photos of your family from the 1970's in Italy and Jordan. Can you tell me more about this?
My mom, dad, Aunt and Uncle trotted around Rome for weeks in the 70's, each couple in love and hanging out at restaurants late eating pasta, drinking wine, smoking cigarettes in the coolest outfits. Seriously their style was so chic and cool. Their story of love and their adventure in Rome always resonated with me. When I look at the polaroids of them, I feel so inspired.
The following years each couple married, their dresses were so chic and ethereal, bohemian and modern at the same time. They have always had a place in my heart.
Were they images you’d seen your whole life or something you stumbled upon and just got a rush of inspiration?
Pretty much I’ve been inspired by these images and their clothing my whole life. It was 10 years after I graduated from RISD with the fashion degree when I realized that my passion for the same aesthetic clothing was still so super strong. I realized I wanted to create a platform and voice in my own clothing line. A collection that brings you to ancient Rome meets the cultured streets in Italy in the 70's of chic free-spirited people in love eating pasta and smoking cigarettes, and thus Aurora Vestita was born!
You’ve got a background in painting, floristry, and design. Are you able to compartmentalize these things or do they tend to seep into each other and inspire one another?
I love that one day I am focusing on working with flowers and the next is the Vestita day and I’m doing a fitting and designing. I’ve always been into doing a variety of things and also continue to paint and draw, direct photoshoots, etc. I identify myself as an artist first and then after that I do flowers and clothing etc. I believe all artists should explore and continue to work with different mediums. You are able to get new ideas and a more rounded experience that you can bring into any medium of art and design .
Do you have advice for anyone hoping to start their own line?
Believe in yourself and don’t give up. Focus also on your own point of view, don’t be afraid to honor your individuality and share that uniqueness in your work.
One person, one place, and one thing that inspires you.
My husband Zac, he’s a musician/artist (his band is called Fancy Colors), and always inspires me with his musical, beautiful world. To me, he is a painter but with music.
Wadi Rum desert in Jordan at night.
Love, gratitude, and kindness.
Many of your pieces look like they’ve come out of a classical painting. Who are your favorite artists?
As for painters: Botticelli, John William Godward, Cabanel, Mucha, Klimt, Frida Kahlo, also ancient Roman Sculpture. And performance art dancers like Pina Bausch and Isadora Duncan.
*All images courtesy of Aurora Vestita