Text by Heather Buchanan
It’s not surprising that Ariana Rockefeller is a Gemini – you are as likely to find her in mud covered boots in her horse Stuart’s stall as in a gown of her own design at the Met Gala. AR, Ariana’s eponymous ready-to-wear fashion line has expanded to offer a collection of highly coveted handbags with an equestrian flair.
“It’s been a good fusion of my two passions, fashion and horses,” explains Ariana who competes in the 1.20 adult jumper division in Wellington, Florida in the winter and the East Coast in the summer. She certainly didn’t have to look far for design ideas. “It’s really fun to take inspiration from my horse’s tack,” she says, “I even went to Bevel and bought a curb chain to use as a reference for the Oxer Satchel bag.”
Made in America is fitting for both her family and her fashion line. Her clothes are made in the Garment Center and the hand bags made in Brooklyn. “It has been important to me to keep things made in New York not only for my own integrity as the designer,” says Ariana who lives in Manhattan with her husband, “but so I can better oversee the process being close by.”
The AR brand also has two sides to its goal – quality and accessibility. She explains, “Maintaining the brand experience, the quality and also the price point, has been my mission. I always want the product to be ‘accessible luxury.’ Our business model has been to sell through my website and pop up stores so we don’t have to have a huge mark up.”
One of the highlights of the new hand bag collection was working with former Reed Krakoff designer Bassam Ali. Ariana comments, “He’s fantastic to work with. From the beginning, he and I were on the same page about quality and creating a beautiful product, and he really let me guide the creative process. He would make suggestions from a technical standpoint, and I learned a lot. I got an education in the craft of handbags and leatherwork.”
The line reflects her personal aesthetic style of classic, simple, and good old-fashioned American. Her go to outfit is a pair of jeans and a sweater and it’s her time in the barn that’s her way to de-stress. She also admits to a guilty pleasure of watching home renovation shows on HGTV.
Philanthropy is important to Ariana who is involved with equine and animal welfare charities as well as sitting on the board of her grandfather’s David Rockefeller Fund which works with prison reform. Recently, Ariana was invited to the Nexus Global Youth Summit which works to unite young investors, social entrepreneurs, and allies to catalyze new leadership and accelerate global solutions. “It was such an amazing thing to be part of,” says Ariana, “I got to meet different people from different countries with different points of view. It’s great to learn and talk and gain various perspectives outside of your comfort zone and interests. It gives me great hope.”
As a young woman in business, what is Ariana’s greatest challenge? “I’m really bad at firing people,” she admits, “I’m a people pleaser, and I want to make everyone happy. Being a tough boss is not a natural hat for me to wear.”
And greatest reward? “Putting in the hours every day and seeing something grow from that. Also all the people I’ve met through my business and the friends I’ve made. Seeing your creation is such an exciting and rewarding process.”