Last night, Escada hosted an intimate dinner at the Public Hotel on the Lower East Side to celebrate their latest collaboration with Rita Ora – a take on the brand’s signature Heart bag in Ora’s favorite shade of bright, bold red.
Under red lighting, in a room draped in red velvet, Ora’s friends — including Winnie Harlow and Duckie Thot — fawned over the bag, swinging it over their shoulders and posing for pictures, before sitting down to dinner.
Between courses, Ora stood up to thank everyone for coming and shared that a portion of the proceeds from the sales of her Heart bags will go to Women for Women International — a charity that helps female survivors of war rebuild their lives.
The Daily caught up with Ora before dinner to learn more about the collaboration and her personal collection to the charity it benefits.
Tell us about this Escada suit you’re wearing!
I wanted to wear a suit today because it was a really lovely day, and I felt like a little bit of a business woman today. This is some of my own vintage jewelry.
Do you collect vintage jewelry?
I do. I love vintage jewelry. Growing up, I worked in Portobello Market, which is in West London, and so I was always around vintage clothes and finding a good bargain. But vintage jewelry, I’ve realized, is definitely not a bargain. It’s a commitment. It’s been a recent thing, collecting. I like collecting.
Do you collect handbags as well?
When I started being able to afford them, yeah. And now I get to collect my own one which is so cool.
How would you describe your style?
Well, it’s changing. Obviously I’m a little crazy with my tour looks as a musician. My fashion has evolved since starting in the business — it’s my 10th year [in the industry], by the way. Starting [out] I was all about individuality, all about bright colors, all about making things work that people don’t think would work. Mixing my tomboyishness with high fashion dresses and things like that. Now I feel like I’m growing up a little. I’m starting to come at one with my femininity. I’m learning to live in my skin, being a business woman. I always wanted to do music, but then I saw that I could do a lot of other things. My dreams have really expanded. I like to play roles with what I do. There’s music Rita, there’s fashion Rita, and there’s in a meeting, beating people’s asses Rita.
How were you blending all those elements when working on this bag with Escada?
I loved the history of Escada. I really did my research, looking at all the campaigns and looking at the consistency, what the thread was, in everything that Escada did. It was confident women, independent women, strong women. I loved the bold colors that they used to use. It was a risk, and I wanted to bring that history and heritage back. Red was the thread that I saw. It’s their trademark color [with] the gold Escada logo, so I wanted to do everything red. It’s my favorite color too (my favorite lip color). It represents strength, passion, sexuality, confidence, anything — you name it! It’s a very bold color, and if I was to do something with them, I wanted it to feel bold, confident, and strong. So I thought, let’s just dip it all in red.
Were they impressed that you had gone back through their old images?
Yeah. I actually asked to go look at their archives.
Oh cool! What was that like?
Amazing! The jackets are phenomenal — the exaggerated shoulders, the big bottoms. I do that with everything. When I used to work with Adidas I went to Germany and looked at all of their archives and silhouettes and things. I like to learn about what I’m getting involved in.
Do you have a favorite fashion era?
I’m a big hip hop head, so it’s the ’90s. The bigger clothes, the sneakers… pretty, glam faces and hair but with tomboy clothes.
What made you want to support Women for Women International?
I was born in Kosovo, and I immigrated to the UK when I was one. My parents were so hardworking and they made an amazing upbringing for me and my sister and my brother. I learned a lot about my country. My parents were very adamant on teaching us our background. Over the years I learned about the war and how that affected women in my country. Not only that, anywhere in the world, war zones in general and how — without making this interview morbid — soldiers would rape these women. There would be times where the women lost their husbands, all their money, their homes. Sometimes they were left with nothing and had nowhere to go when the war was over. When I met these women… it’s tragic how little help they’ve got. What I wanted to do with Women for Women was help them. For me it’s a very important, passionate subject to give women a platform to know that they’re not alone, and meet each other.
What has been the most rewarding part of using your platform to speak on issues you care about?
I actually see that people listen. It’s one thing to be opinionated and to have an opinion. But when you actually see the result — how it affects people — it becomes 10 times more personal because you see the impact it makes. I got obsessed with knowing that it actually touches my followers and my fans. I really want to do the right thing by that, and do as much as I can to highlight and bring awareness to situations that I know about.
How else do you spend your time when traveling?
I love food, so I always try and taste local places. I Google where Anthony Bourdain has been in every single city [I visit], because he goes to local places. I’m a big foodie, so I go into all the ramen places. It’s super fun. I’m gonna go to South America. I haven’t actually been there before, so I’m gonna go and attack that as well.
Would you say that you and Anthony have similar tastes?
Sometimes I’m like, “Wow! It’s definitely local”. But I’m a huge fan. I always trust wherever he goes. I always like to test it.
Do you cook at all?
Not as much as I’d like to. I feel like I’m a good cook but I don’t feel like my friends think I am.
What kinds of things do you carry around in your handbag?
Headphones — because I never know when I have to listen to a mix or want to play someone something news; Wallet, ID, hotel key of wherever I am, lip balms, my red lipstick (in case I want to change it up at night), and perfume. I’ve been wearing the same perfume for so long — Le Labo Santal 33. I wear it so much I can’t even smell it on me anymore. But apparently you should never be able to smell [your perfume] on yourself. That’s how you know you’ve found your scent.
Escada’s Heart Bag by Rita Ora retails for $1,195, and is available in stores and online now.