Chic dressing is timeless. We all know that. What makes personal style is the confident attitude that is also worn. Ala von Auersperg is a designer who loves to create ageless pieces that can be worn forever, so our vintage style arbiter Lance Avery Morgan went behind the seams with this design dynamo.
photography courtesy of AlA VON AUERSPERG
When you are the daughter of a society style icon like designer Ala von Auersperg , expectations can be high. Her mother Sunny Crawford von Bülow, who was known as a leading style setter of her day in the 1950s through the 1970s, greatly influenced von Auersperg’s design aesthetic. “My mother was always beautifully dressed whether at home or out and about,” shares Ala von Auersperg. “She had wonderful taste and knew what kinds of clothing suited her. Her love of the kaftans that she wore around the house inspired me to start designing kaftans of my own.”
She’s quick to admit, “My mother answered the call for something both beautiful and comfortable. So I wanted to create something that emulated her version of looking relaxed and effortlessly flawless at home rather than disheveled and unkempt.” Making sure to acknowledge the family’s rich history of having a keen sense of style and the indelible print it left on her, which has naturally passed on to her artful designs, she reiterates, “They valued beautiful craftsmanship, knew what looked good on them, and understood that you can be casual and still look fabulous. These early lessons trained my eye and helped inspire my line.”
In an era where many travel commercially while wearing “athleisure” wear (to be kind about it), von Auersperg feels her designs offer her clients more without compromising comfort. She states, “I had been working with the designer Antonio Gual for years, creating such pieces for myself, when in 2015 he suggested applying my original nature and travel-inspired artworks onto them.” From there, Ala Von Auersperg (AVA), the brand, was born. Shortly thereafter, my daughter, Sunny Kneissl Zweig, joined the team as our in-house stylist. Since day one, we have focused on making women feel wonderful in the feminine flow of the fabric, the transparency that not only reveals, but also partially conceals the body and the soft touch of textiles on the skin.” Ease is key as she muses, “I wanted clothes that were uncomplicated, yet elegant and versatile: you should be able to wear a garment to the beach, make it fancier if you go out, then add another layer to make it even dressier for a special occasion.”
The vibrant prints and flattering construction almost guarantee a special feeling when a woman wears an Ala von Auersperg creation. Her fabrication choices recollect the balmy days of Palm Beach and warm nights of Palm Springs of a bygone era, which is part of the appeal of her designs: reinterpreted glamour. “The prints are an organic extension of my life and my work as an artist, a path I began a decade ago,” she notes. “I have always loved art, but despite having a great-grandfather and grandmother who were both gifted sculptors I didn’t think art was something I could create. A drawing class changed that and I began painting the flowers in my garden, the coral at our home in Antigua and flora from my travels and I just loved it. It takes me out of the everyday, and then, when I see the prints on a woman, it’s another reward. When she moves, so does the print and she becomes the work of art. That’s why we say “Wear AVA and become your own masterpiece.”
In fact, she says, “Our goal is to help all women realize they can be glamorous, no matter their size or age. AVA is about enjoying life as you are and being the best version of yourself, because when a woman looks her best, she feels better about herself. We all have roles to play and will perform them more effectively when we’re at our best. Quite frankly, there is too much fun to be experienced in life, which can be missed when one is focused exclusively on what she is wearing.”
That design aesthetic has led von Auersperg’s clothing line to be so successful, while also supporting a greater purpose. “This passion for creating clothes that boost a woman’s confidence also underpins my philanthropic work, specifically with women who have experienced violence, as those crimes rob their self-esteem as well,” she confides. “The National Center for Victims of Crime, which I co-founded in 1985, works to remedy this loss. The Brain Trauma Foundation (originally the Sunny Von Bülow Coma and Head Trauma Research Institute), which I founded in 1986 in honor of my mother, supports ongoing research on traumatic brain injuries. These causes advance my ultimate goal in life as a daughter, mother, and grandmother, which is to leave the world a better place.” And certainly, a more stylish one, too.