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RIANNA + NINA: Exclusive Stories Behind Their Treasure Hunts

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“I enjoy discovering something that makes my heart beat just a little faster; for example, the extraordinary fabrics of a unique manufacturer or designer,” says Rianna Kounou, co-founder and lead designer for luxury fashion brand RIANNA + NINA.

RIANNA + NINA’s mission is to present beautiful quality designs that can be cherished for generations to come.

Kounou met Nina Knaudt, the boutique’s co-founder, in 2013 at a vintage furniture fair. The two were instantly drawn to each other’s vibrant, eclectic sense of style.

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Founders Rianna Kounou and Nina Knaudt.

Celebrities like Madonna, Rihanna, and Jared Leto have since worn their creations, which are currently sold in stores and luxury hotels around the world.

Fashion styled by past memories

Kounou grew up in Greece surrounded by costumes for film and theatre. Her parents owned a vintage shop in Athens, and that’s where her love of traditional craftsmanship and old world fashion began.

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In turn, Knaudt worked with top luxury brands like Cartier and Etro. When they began their partnership, they brought together a shared passion for old-style clothing.

“I grew up exploring the beauty of these past eras. Discovering the stories and imagining the people who once owned these objects excites me. Through working with these vintage materials, we continue to add chapters to these tales,” Kounou says.

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RIANNA + NINA has just opened their first store at Palais Royal, 34 Rue De Montpensier, 75001 Paris

For example, RIANNA + NINA’s volant dresses are made from vintage silk scarves, all hand-picked by Kounou.

“Every dress is unique and can only exist once. Wearing such a dress is an experience—it feels like putting on a collage of past memories and stories,” Knaudt says.

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Old world heritage

When Kounou and Knaudt first decided to print their original designs, they knew Como, Italy was the perfect fit.

“What fascinates me about the region is the heritage of its silk production and embroidery that began in the 17th century. This is a culture that lives on to this day. We felt this while working with the family-owned manufacturer. It’s a quality like no other,” Kounou says.

Both the unique pieces and original prints are made at Kounou and Knaudt’s atelier in Berlin, Germany. Each piece is made to order by a small team of master artisans with years of experience.

“Traditional handicraft techniques fascinate us. Craftsmanship has been passed down through generations. When you discover a beautiful handmade item, you can feel the maker’s relationship with the object,” Knaudt says.

People and their stories

Kounou and Knaudt’s adventures in search of rare, vintage items are as enjoyable as the treasures they create. “What fascinates us most when treasure-hunting are the people and stories behind the pieces we collect,” Kounou says.

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A small button factory in Italy once contacted them to see if they wanted to source archive buttons for their collection. “During our trip to Italy, we visited the factory, got to know the owners, and shared their stories,” Kounou says.

One summer, Kounou and Knaudt travelled to visit Mentis, which was once Greece’s foremost specialist in passementerie, the art of ornate decorative trimming.

“Mentis carries a long tradition of Greek silk production, a heritage we cherish and are proud to be part of. To meet the artisans who work on these centuries-old machines and to get to know the [owner] family impresses me every time,” Knaudt says.

Kounou and Knaudt have been working with Mentis since they first launched RIANNA + NINA.

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As they grow, they’re constantly on the lookout for new materials for their creations.

“We love to go treasure-hunting when we travel. Discovering new antique stores or vintage markets is one of our favourite things to do together,” Knaudt says.

 

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 111

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