LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Mina d'Ornano - Dressing for Drama


Actress, playwright, director and designer – Mina d'Ornano of luxury womenswear label Mina Poe brings her sense of drama to the wardrobe, creating unique wearable masterpieces of a timeless style.

Mina d'Ornano's definition of luxury:
If it's based on etymology, luxury would refer to abundance, excessive sumptuousness, etc.. However, to me, luxury means a certain lightness, the smell of a perfume, the softness of a stole, the radiance of a favorite color and comfort.

If luxury were…

A place
Paris by night, and somewhere on a hill where you can see the whole city

A person
A free woman

A moment

To see Mina d'Ornano amid her collection in her boutique – MinaPoe - on Paris's most famous fashion street, rue St. Honoré, is like seeing a little girl at play with her dressing up box. She giddily glides from dresses to cardigans, then on to accessories as if each piece is an integral element of her fantasy play world. However, there is nothing naïve about d'Ornano or her carefully crafted couture dresses, separates and accessories that transcend beyond the fickle fads of fashion to become both treasured favorites and timeless classics.

Born in Belgrade to a theatrical family – her father a theater director, her mother a former actress (her two brothers also follow the family tradition) – d'Ornano moved to Paris with her mother at the age of four. During her youth she studied theater at the city's famed Conservatoire National d'Art Dramatique de Paris and took to the stage as an actress, writer and theater director. It was during her student years that she was inspired to take up dressmaking, "I learned little by little. I was still studying acting at the conservatoire. I liked beautiful things but I couldn't afford them and I couldn't find things that satisfied me, so I wanted to make them," she recalls. "I never had any training, I learned to sew by myself. It was funny because in the beginning I was given a sewing machine as a gift, but I couldn't even thread a bobbin. I thought ‘what am I doing?"

She began experimenting, first with a pair of trousers "I had a dinner party and I wanted to wear this pair of trousers, which I had been working on for three days, but three hours before the dinner, the trousers were still not good, so they ended up being rushed. In the end I used a belt to hold them up. It was a disaster, but it was funny!" she laughs. Although she now has her own atelier of skilled seamstresses, and employs artisan lacemakers from her homeland, she believes that the early experiments were fundamental to the launch of MinaPoe in 2002. "I couldn't have just started something without knowing anything" she admits. Today she relies on her trusted atelier, leaving her to ponder over the creative aspect of each design.

Mixing the finest silks from France and Italy and delicately woven textiles from Japan, she adds her own prints and motifs each season, many of which she draws from her Slavik roots. Each season sees a dominant motif – hearts are the theme for the current collection. "Inspiration can come from everywhere, from a flower, an exhibition, a painting or a sculpture. When I go to Indonesia I can find a detail on a temple, or a motif that can make me think of something, not necessarily as a motif, but even the shape of a pair of trousers, or a shoe," she reveals. "Inspiration is really quite miraculous because one cannot imagine how the mind can see something and think of something completely different – two different ways of seeing – and this is what is beautiful."

Bohemian with a sophisticated, grown-up aspect best sums up the MinaPoe style. Like their thespian creator, whether an elegant evening function, or casual daytime attire, each piece is so versatile it effortlessly adapts to its given role. Take the shawl-like cashmere cardigans, a basic of the collection, which is perfect for pairing with both jeans or a chic little number, making it an ideal investment piece. Inspired by the 20th designer Elsa Schiaparelli, d'Ornano takes inspiration from the past to create her own future classics. "Antiques must never die, they must travel from one time to another. There is no point in taking a beautiful dress and making it exactly the same, but to create it with new details, new fabrics and new technology, to retranslate, modernize and rejuvenate it is interesting,"she believes. "Everyone is inspired by the past, we have to be. What is avant garde is minimalist, and this is difficult for my imagination. I love wearing vintage and mixing styles."

Ironically, her success as a fashion designer has led her back to her first love, the theater, with a focus firmly fixed on character dressing, which comes through in every outfit. "Now that I'm doing new theater projects, I can see that my approach hasn't changed. Before I had a very important approach to the way that my characters dressed, it was part of their behavior. The outside was like their shell and was as important to me, as a director, as the inside. Both of them were telling the story, and now that I am involved in fashion, still my characters are relying a lot on those little details. In theater there are different methods, I think that when you know how your character is dressed and what she loves, then it's easy, you don't have to think anymore about acting, you can tell your story." Maybe that's why each MinaPoe design is more than garment, it becomes part of our character.

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