I don’t come from the fashion world, but my mother Sunny Crawford von Bülow and grandmother Annie Laurie Aitken had innate style. They knew what looked good on them, valued beautiful craftsmanship and understood that you can be comfortable and still look fabulous. These early lessons trained my eye and helped inspire my line. I wanted clothes that were effortless, 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.
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 — the brand — was born, with my daughter Sunny Kneissl joining 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 reveals but also partially conceals the body and the soft touch of textiles on the skin.
Meanwhile, the prints are an organic extension of my life and my work as an artist, a path I began a decade ago. I have always loved art, but — despite having a great-grandfather and a grandmother who was a gifted sculptress — I didn’t think I could create it. A drawing class changed this. 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 women, it’s another reward. When a 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.
Our goal is to help all women realize that 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 we’re going to do them more effectively when we’re at our best — and, frankly, there is too much fun to be had to be focused exclusively on what you’re wearing.
This passion for creating clothes that boost a woman’s confidence also underpins my philanthropic work, specifically my work with women who have experienced violence, because the thing that those crimes take away from women is their self-esteem. The National Center for Victims of Crime, which I founded in 1985, works to remedy this loss, while the Brain Trauma Foundation (originally the Sunny Von Bülow Coma and Head Trauma Research Institute), which I founded in 1986, supports ongoing research on traumatic brain injuries. Together with my conservation efforts, these causes advance my ultimate aim as a mother and daughter: to leave the world a better place.