Rianna Nektaria Kounou and Nina Kuhn met by chance at a vintage furniture fair before quickly realizing that they both shared a passion for vintage, vibrant color, and traveling the world. In 2014, they launched their “Cabinet de Curiosites”, a collection of one-of-a-kind scarf-print pieces that was an instant success, leading them to further expand their offerings cut from patterns of their own design. Here, we sat down with the pair to talk about the brand’s beginnings, its aesthetic, and who they consider to be the RIANNA + NINA woman.
Bergdorf Goodman: How did you two meet and why did you decide to start a brand together?
Rianna Nektaria Kounou: We met five years ago at a vintage furniture fair in Berlin. We both have a huge passion for vintage and in both of our closets you will mainly find our own collection and pieces from the past. When we bumped into each other we were both wearing dresses in colors from head to toe and immediately caught each other’s attention. We started talking and directly felt a strong connection.
After a few fun Greek dinners at Rianna’s home with her family we knew that all we wanted was to start building something together and we knew it had to do with vintage and special and rare fabrics. Rianna has always experimented with scarves—she made some very special Kimonos and dresses out of them and sold them in her vintage store. So we decided to open a small store in Berlin in the spring 2014 and started selling those pieces and interiors. From the beginning it was very important for us that the quality was amazing, that the pieces were handmade in Berlin, and that they were one-of-a-kind because of the vintage fabrics.
BG: How would you describe the RIANNA + NINA aesthetic?
Nina Kuhn: The first thing we hear from a lot of people that see the collections for the first time is: Finally something new! And it’s true, our pieces are very special and that’s the reason why we are getting such wonderful feedback from all of those great women all over the globe. With our vintage pieces we mix the fabrics and always want to tell a story through the prints we combine, so the woman who wears it knows that nobody else will be wearing the same piece she owns. We mix Obi belts from Japan from the 40s with vintage scarves, lace from 1900 and couture silk from the 80s. Since Spring 2018 we also started a collection with our own prints, inspired by so many different things like Greek fairytale books and the decadence of bygone times.
The brand is very us and about our love for vintage, prints, beautiful materials and color.
BG: Can you tell us about the process of making a garment from start (sourcing the fabric) to finish?
RNK: It all starts with sourcing the vintage fabrics, which is like treasure hunting and we travel a lot to find the most delicate materials. We even went to a very small town in Italy last year because there was a woman who collected very special buttons and went to Japan to find a special Obi dealer. Our one-of-a-kinds are real collectibles and we love to surprise our clients and us with new creations.
For our own print collection we print our fabrics in Como, Italy and most important for us was the quality: We use beautiful silk, cotton and the softest wool and would never work with polyester or synthetic fabrics.
Every piece tells a special story and the story continues with the person who wears it.
BG: How have each of your individual backgrounds contributed to the brand?
NK: We are still often surprised how good we match and how perfectly we complement each other. We are so different in so many ways, but there is such a strong connection and we share so many ideas. We learn so much from each other and it’s great that we both have such different backgrounds. Rianna studied costume design in Athens and grew up in a very creative family. Thinking creative is part of her DNA and she even dreams of prints and new shapes and calls me so often in the morning saying: I have an idea! It’s so great to see how natural this is for her.
I have more a business background and worked in the fashion industry for many years before Rianna and I met. It all started with a traineeship at a PR agency for different fashion and luxury brands like Cartier and Etro. I got my Bachelor’s degree in media management, went to NY for six months for an internship at Bill Blass, spent time in Munich and Paris and did my Masters at Bocconi in Milan in Fashion and Design Management. After that I spent four years at the French department store Galeries Lafayette in Berlin, the last two-in-a-half years as Head of Marketing & Communications. I left there when I met Rianna. We just knew we had to start a business together and it was totally meant to be that we bumped into each other that day at the vintage fair.
BG: Who is the RIANNA + NINA woman and what is her lifestyle like?
We are in touch with our wonderful clients every day and are so happy to say: There is no specific RIANNA + NINA woman. The two of us are great examples how different you can be size and age wise and how great you look in exactly the same shapes and colors.
We make extraordinary pieces for people who love to be different and are looking for something that not everybody has. When you love vibrant colors, adore beautiful fabrics, are passionate about vintage and have no fear to get attention, than you are a RIANNA + NINA woman.
Shop the collection in store now on 3.