Small Brand Spotlight: The Sustainable Brooklyn-based Label From An Industry Veteran

by Freya Drohan

After a decade working at Lela Rose, designer Leonora Arslani knew it was time to launch her own venture. While she’s still at Lela Rose, Arslani started Giovanna last year, inspired by her great-aunt and her effortless personal style which was shaped by her worldly travels. While the brand has already gained significant traction for its raffia mules, Giovanna is now expanding into chic ready to wear, utilizing deadstock fabrics to make a capsule collection of face masks, house dresses, and more. We caught up with the designer to learn more about the fledgling label and its values.   

So, firstly, tell us who Giovanna is and how she inspired the label?
Giovanna was my great aunt; my grandmother’s sister. She loved to travel and had a great sense of style. I have always been inspired by old photographs of her and the rest of my family, there is a huge sense of nostalgia there for me.

Leonora Arslani (courtesy)

You’ve been at Lela Rose for 10 years, starting as assistant designer. What has your time there taught you about launching your own venture?
 Yes! I have been there for so long and have worked my way up from assistant designer to director of design. Being that Lela Rose is a small company, I have been so lucky to have my hands in so much, and work with a close-knit team where I have learned something from everyone.

When did you know it was the right time to start your own brand?
I realized that I wanted to try something of my own and got the feeling that if I didn’t try then I would eventually regret it.

Can you sum up the Giovanna ethos in a sentence?
Nostalgic clothing for the modern day with sustainability in mind.


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🌈 Rainbow Power 🌈 with @young_emperors! 😍😍😍Made to order. Get yours!

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Tell us about Giovanna’s current offering.
I started with woven raffia shoes, added jewelry the next year, and now my clothing capsules.

What are the best sellers right now?
The best sellers have been the Venus mule in black and natural, and the squiggle earrings in mother of pearl. I think they are both classic with a twist. I am excited to see how the RTW is received!

Are there plans to add more categories?
For now I would like to focus on clothing, but you never know!

Leonora Arslani in a Giovanna dress (courtesy)

Do you plan to follow a traditional fashion calendar/show format or will you be forging your own path?
I started the brand by going my own way and I am going to continue that path for as long as I can. I don’t want to create any more waste in this over-saturated industry and having control over the format is key.

How does both your Brooklyn upbringing and your parents’ heritage inspire the brand?
It’s really important for me to take inspiration from what I know and what I love. I feel so lucky to have parents that married outside of their own culture. It gives me a lot to work with!

How important is it to you to work with Brooklyn-based seamstresses? 
It sort of organically worked out that the seamstress was so close to me in Brooklyn, but it is helpful working with someone locally so I can work in small batches, which I love. And I can also ride my bike to drop off and pick up!


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Are all items made to order? Will this always remain?
For now, things will be made to order. Hopefully I can grow this brand and commit to having stock that I know will sell. But until then made to order is best since I can keep things small and reduce waste.

Can you let us in on what’s to come in the future?
I am really a believer of ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ so I am going to take my time and follow my gut on things and see where the brand takes me. I don’t have any expectations but am very proud of how far it has come in the past year!

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