Yanina Aubrey is the creative brain behind organic, handcrafted luxury childrenswear brand, Aravore, for babies and children from 0-6 years. Launched in 2005 as a collaboration with her sister Norah, Aravore offers vintage inspired childrenswear, quality infused with timeless, classic design, with each piece being created only from their signature ‘earth kind’ organic cotton and merino wool fabrics and yarns.
Garments are all entirely made by hand with love in Yanina’s London workshop and in one of Yanina’s childhood homes, Asuncion, Paraguay, in support of their ethical farming developments. It is this creation of emotional ties which lies at the heart of the business.
The brand’s AW12 collection gives a nod to the ‘Swinging 60’s’ in a fresh contemporary style. Highlights of the collection include charming collared shift dresses with sweet crochet trims, smart tailoring in their unisex skinny trousers and delightful cosy knit capes. The devil’s in the detail – note the delightful oversized bows on the pussy bow blouses and emerging from the back of the slightly more lux fabric, formal shift dresses.
Anna Westerman spoke to Yanina about the brand and being a children’s designer…..
FLUXLINGS: How did you get into children’s fashion design? Was it a career path you were always interested in or did you have other aspirations as a child?
As a child I wanted to be a dancer, a teacher, an architect…But I also remember doing “fashion shows” with cut out paper dolls and doing full collections including accessories that I would then present to my family in a mini “catwalk”. So, I guess my interest in fashion had been brewing for a while!
I have most definitely always been interested in design, but probably more on the conceptual side. I have always designed and made things as a hobby and I considered architecture & urban design as potential careers. Then I got interested in Asian art, Japanese art in particular and I did a degree in Asian studies with the idea of eventually curating Asian & Latin American art. I spent a few years in Taipei learning Mandarin and being hugely impressed by the entrepreneurial flair of the region. I think that is where the entrepreneurial bug bit me. On my return to London, I took several courses at the London College of Fashion and started thinking about fashion & sustainability.
Beyond design, I think that my interests have always veered also towards projects with a strong social component . I have done work with different NGOs and have also worked on the business side of things. For me, Aravore is no different. It is a long-term design project, but it is also a social project. I think I wouldn’t be interested in one without the other.
FLUXLINGS: What did you initially want to create with the Aravore brand?
I think that initially Aravore was born as a reaction to the overwhelming abundance of mass-produced items available in the market, where not much thought had gone into design or quality or very little else… It was also a reaction to the predominant aesthetic for childrenswear at the height of the boom some 8 years ago, which resulted in slogan ridden baby grows, over-the-top (and quite grown up), flashy outfits…
I wanted Aravore to be –and to offer- the complete opposite. I wanted to give people a luxurious product, but one that offered a more refined, paired-down beauty.
FLUXLINGS: What was influential to you growing up, visually?
I grew up in a fairly bohemian household with books & paintings everywhere. My father was a theatre actor-director & a fiction writer and my mother a career economist who also had a flair for design. I got to meet many artists as a child. We were constantly exposed to creative concepts and ideas and were always encouraged to challenge them. I think that the way I approach design comes from this very questioning background. I look at things and ask why, where, how. I am never quite content with just looking…
But I think that my influences are as varied as my background. I could not really pin point them to a specific place or time. I spent my childhood in different countries in South America, so I think that the light and colours of the incredibly varied landscape out there have probably also left a mark. But the other half of my life has been mainly in the Northern hemisphere, from Canada to East Asia to Europe, so I really think that what I do has a bit of that mixture of influences.
FLUXLINGS: The “Swinging 60’s” is the key influence and inspiration behind your latest collection. Why was this era in particular so appealing to you? How important to you is it as a designer to keep remnants of fashions past alive through present design?
The AW12 collection started forming in my mind last summer, while the riots hit London and other places in the UK. I felt that I wanted to show a different, more optimistic and playful side of London with this collection. And to do that, I wanted to focus on everything that I feel is positive about London: its creative force, its energy, its music.
Given that Aravore’s style has a retro feel to it, the optimism of the “Swinging 60’s” felt like a great starting point to bring forward the points I was trying to make with the collection and I think that many of the shapes and colours from that period work really well for children’s clothing.
In terms of fashion in general, I think that one is constantly re-inventing styles and moods of times gone by. However, I really don’t want our collections to feel like pastiche re-makings of fashion from 50 or 60 years ago. I try to take cues from the past, but try to place them very much in the present and tweak them so that they look contemporary and forward-looking.
My children are undoubtedly an inspiration and a source of motivation for everything I do. I could say that the label started with my oldest child – who has now turned 7. I started thinking about children’s clothing & developing the concept for Aravore when I was pregnant with her. I also have a boy who is now 4, so observing them and taking advice from them has been invaluable. They tend to test & wear most pieces in our collections. And my daughter passes them down to my son. In fact, I really like the idea of having as many unisex pieces as possible.
In terms of my own childhood, being backstage on plays that my parents were working on was really fun and interesting for me. I loved going through the actors’ period costumes and dressing up…I also saw how things were made and then re-made into completely different things: stage curtains that were turned into dresses, a skirt that was turned into a jacket, and so on and so forth… This constant re-cycling, re-inventing and creating were very stimulating and are still a source of inspiration for me now.
Because we make hundreds and not hundreds of thousands of pieces every season, our knitters and seamstress are able to identify and remember pretty much every item they make. I like this human aspect & connection that gets made between the maker and the wearer of the piece. I think it makes a nice contrast to buying something off the shelf somewhere that says nothing about its origin or its journey.
We are also constantly working on strengthening the brand’s positioning both in the UK and abroad. We have developed a very loyal following in the Far East and have also launched the brand in South America 6 months ago. The US market is next in line.
In parallel, we are also looking at developing the couture side of Aravore, with more custom-made pieces for special occasions. It is something that we have been asked to do by customers ever since we started and I think that this it is the right time to have a go and see how it works alongside the main ranges.