When Ariana Rockefeller’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection hits the runway, some of the prints may look familiar to those in the art world. “I am inspired by my family’s artwork as always,” the 31-year-old fashion designer tells Haute Living. And who can blame her? When you’re the great-granddaughter of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller—the driving force behind the Museum of Modern Art—discussing art is more than just a past time, it’s a birthright.
“Art often came into the conversation during dinner,” she recalls. “From a young age, I was accustomed to having discussions about form, color and technique. I was very comfortable with analyzing art works for myself and forming a distinct opinion and taste of my own.” In addition to discussing artwork with her family, Rockefeller continued to develop her artistic voice by studying visual arts at Columbia University. “Though you can be inspired by other artists and visionaries, to be an artist and designer means that you cannot just use someone else’s formula for creating,” she explains. “You need to create your own aesthetic and viewpoint from which you develop and manifest your projects.”
Featuring classic silhouettes, chic prints and vibrant colors, Rockefeller says that her upcoming line is based on an east coast garden cocktail party. And of course, art. “There is a drawing by Constantin Guys, which influenced certain styles in the collection,” she reveals. “The French drawings of the late 1800’s are a particular interest of mine.”
“If I am not dressed up in the city, I am usually in riding pants and boots,”
Though a bad review can make or break a designer’s career, Rockefeller makes it a point not to put too much weight on the opinions of others—a lesson she learned from her great grandmother. “Her approach to collecting and admiring art was to trust her instincts and collect things that she loved and found beautiful, not necessarily just because someone else said it was good art,” she says proudly. “I trust my instincts and design pieces that I want to wear and have in my closet. You have to have integrity in this business and follow your own aesthetic. Life is too short to try and please everyone.”
When Rockefeller isn’t sketching new styles in her studio or scouring the city for inspiring fabrics—her favorite part of the design process—she serves on the board of her family’s philanthropic foundations and contributes to The Shriners Hospital for Children. “I volunteer at the hospital in Los Angeles and try to raise awareness for this incredible organization, which provides free care to disabled children whose families are not able to afford treatment and support for conditions such as cerebral palsy, cleft palate, lost limbs or severe burns,” she notes. “My father-in-law is a Shriner and my husband is a Mason. My brother-in-law was treated at the Springfield, MA hospital for very mild cerebral palsy.”
In her down time, Rockefeller likes to escape the concrete jungle of Manhattan and ride horses. “If I am not dressed up in the city, I am usually in riding pants and boots,” she admits, joking about the casual nature of her everyday style. The polar opposite, she says, of her 98-year-old grandfather, David Rockefeller. “My grandfather is the most elegant, dapper person in my family certainly,” she declares. “He always has a freshly pressed shirt, a pocket square in his coat pocket, and sees it as a sign of respect to put on a jacket for dinner. Fashion is how one presents themselves to the world, and to be well dressed for any occasion is gracious and shows respect to the people around you.”