Alex Proba

On Dressing: Alex Proba

Alex is a multidisciplinary designer and art director from Lüdenscheid, Germany. She studied spatial and graphic design at the Akademie Mode und Design Hamburg Germany, and product and furniture design at Design Academy Eindhoven Netherlands. In 2011, she moved to New York, where she worked for a number of companies. Alex was an Art Director at Kickstarter and worked as Design Director at Mother New York. Most recently, she was an Art Director at NIKE, Global Brand. Alex recently relocated to Portland and we were lucky to feature her work for our last window display in our former shop location. We visited her in her home studio prior to our current quarantine, to learn about her perspective on personal style, what inspires her, and an update on how she is adapting her practice in the era of Coronavirus.

FM: Where are you from and how has that shaped or inspired you creatively?

AP: I am from a family of doctors. When I was about sixteen years old, I studied as an exchange student in Ohio where I learned to appreciate art and craft more than other times in my life. I started drawing, painting and experimenting with materials and objects. I felt something special when creating. After I came back home to Germany, I didn’t stop creating.

My parents thought of my newfound creativity as a hobby but I didn’t. But when it was time to decide on a career, I initially chose the expected route to become a doctor. After spending some time in the sciences, I started to explore the world of Spatial and Graphic design as well as product and furniture. And I feel so incredibly fortunate to have chosen the path that’s right for me and I feel very lucky to be able to do work I love.

But what actually happened was that I’ve started my career by getting into med school. Very quickly I realized that medicine wasn’t the path I truly wanted to take and so I took my chances and followed my heart by applying for design school in Hamburg, Germany. And then it just fell all together from there. It was the best decision I’ve made.

I studied Spatial Design in undergrad which was a mix of architecture and graphic design. And then I went on to study Contextual Design (furniture & product) at the Design Academy Eindhoven

FM: Is there one piece that you used to own and wish you still did?

AP: Fiorucci Angels T-Shirt (we bought it in Verona, Italy when I was probably 14)

“ I’ve learned how to be inspired by not visual and design-y things but by simple conversations with people, their stories and their emotions as well as smell. ”

FM: What’s the best piece of fashion advice you’ve ever been given?

AP: To never wear anything uncomfortable, even if it's expected of you. No matter how magical the piece, the truth of how you feel will shine through.

FM: How does your work shape your personal style?

AP: This is a funny question. I would have to say not at all. I actually dress the opposite to my work. People who don’t know me expect me to be all patterned and colorful and even have tattoos but i have none of it and most of my wardrobe is pretty muted neutral colors. Every now and then I wear colors and patterns—but that is rare and mostly in the summer.

FM: What informs your creative work? Where do you find inspiration? + Tell us about your creative process

AP: I am first and foremost a visual designer/artist and all my creations are supposed to evoke an emotion. My work is a celebration of color and pattern which I would see as a positive stimulation of the senses.

I am working in so many different mediums from graphic design, spatial design, murals to furniture. It’s very hard to find one specific source of inspiration. Back in school I used to look into literature and design history for inspiration but that has drastically changed—I’ve learned how to be inspired by not visual and design-y things but by simple conversations with people, their stories and their emotions as well as smell. That also leads to materials - I love researching materials and their properties - to feel and see them at the same time inspires me. In general I have to say that it isn’t necessarily visual inspiration that brings out an idea in me — it can be way more abstract than that for me. Sometimes all I need is a phone call with my grandmother to get my creative flow going. I don’t have a process to be honest. I am a maker at heart and when I make I am the happiest. I try to create things every single day, even if it’s only sketches of ideas, at least it is something. Sometimes there are moments where I use my creativity as personal therapy—sometimes when I am stuck with a project or an assignment I try to switch gears and create something off topic for a little while. A process would break me. I trust my gut and 99% of the time I go with the first chosen design, pattern or color. The times that I actually question myself and go back and change it in my designs is when the design actually fails.

“ I try to create things every single day, even if it’s only sketches of ideas, at least it is something. Sometimes there are moments where I use my creativity as personal therapy—sometimes when I am stuck with a project or an assignment I try to switch gears and create something off topic for a little while. ”

FM: Where in the world do you feel most inspired?

AP: Morocco was one of the places recently that completely blew my mind. It wasn’t even about their own craft world but more the colors, the towns, the cities, and smells of their food. It’s a magical place and me and my partner decided to try to go back once a year to refuel our senses.

FM: What have you learnt about yourself as your business or practice has grown?

AP: That managing people and being a mentor and inspiration for others is the hardest part of my job. I’ve never thought that this would be the hardest part of running a studio.

FM: What is your favorite piece of clothing? And why?

AP: A jumpsuit. I can wear it out and I can paint in it.

FM: How does Portland inspire the way you dress?

AP: It’s a place like no other place I've been to I must say. After being in NYC for 11 years it has been an interesting time in terms of personal style here in Portland. Portland is way more forgiving about wearing comfy/outdoorsy clothes. I weirdly wear more “athleisure” clothes here than I have ever before.

FM: What does being ‘comfortable’ and ‘confident’ with your sense of style mean to you?

AP: Comfortable = Confident

“ My daily routine is to check on family and the news, then pick one thing a day to work on, which somehow goes back to my A Poster A Day project, ha. ”

 

FM: What does quarantine look like for you? What are some thoughts/feelings/ideas that are arising for you during this period of change and uncertainty?

AP: It’s been quite a surreal time. Most of my projects involve travel so therefore they are cancelled or postponed. I still try to keep busy designing and challenging my creativity. I feel like now is the time to try to stay positive for the world around us. It’s easier said than done — my whole family is in Germany and it’s been hard to be so far away from them, especially since my mom and dad are doctors and I’m incredibly worried about them. But I think we should use the time we spend isolated and scared to try to work on projects we always wanted to do but never had the time to. Let’s look at this time as a gift. Do things that make you happy and that might make someone else happy as well. My daily routine is to check on family and the news, then pick one thing a day to work on, which somehow goes back to my A Poster A Day project, ha. Obviously this isn’t possible for everyone for obvious reasons — time, work, kids, sickness, money, food, etc. — so try to be kind and offer help to people who are less privileged and lucky than we are. We’ve also just adopted a little rescue pup from Texas and he is keeping us quite occupied as well.

FM: How has quarantine changed your practice so far and do you imagine it impacting your practice in the long run?

AP: As mentioned above most of my projects have been postponed or cancelled as I would need to travel for them. Also the production of my home goods and products has been paused as many countries have lock-downs and stay at home orders. I am trying to stay positive and am hopeful that some projects will come back once the world has healed but I do think that things won’t just get back to where they were before Covid-19. We will all have to shift gears and strategize and become creative with how we work.

Learn more about Studio Proba HERE.

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