One glance and you know a design is Alex Proba. The New York-based multidisciplinary designer and art director’s mastery of colour and pattern is as distinctive as it is in demand, and from London Design Fair to murals all over New York and her own collection of rugs and ceramics, we can’t get enough of her surreal compositions and hand-drawn abstractions.
Alex’s creativity is endless and her prolific process of self-discovery, past and present, includes creating poster a day, a mural a month and a series of unborn objects screaming to be made - and that’s not even her day job!
We take a spin in Alex Proba’s shoes.
You grew up in Germany, studied in Germany and the Netherlands and now live in New York. What has each of these destinations offered you creatively?
This is a very tricky answer. I was mostly in school while in Germany and the Netherlands and wasn’t aware of who I was as a creative. New York completely changed me and helped me define who I am and also who I want to be. In my opinion and experience, I think that New York City is one of the best places in the world to be creative. It’s a melting pot full of amazing and talented people. This forces you to work hard and try to compete with the others. Not in a negative way, more in an emotional and motivational way. It makes you work hard, do things and just go for it. And sometimes it might make you do things that won’t work, but for me failure is what you need to keep moving and growing as a designer or creative. No one should be afraid to fail—it is one of the greatest things we as humans need to learn.
Your previous series of work A Poster A Day and now Unborn Objects both involve a very evolutionary and repetitive process. What has been the most unexpected thing these projects have taught you?I’ve learned to let go. I always had the fear of being judged and so naturally I had a hard time putting my work out into the world. The first year of A Poster A Day especially made me be okay with posting work that might not be perfect or liked by everyone. The first year had only one restriction: time. I posted whatever I got done in 30 minutes. It was so stressful and so freeing at the same time.
Above, Alex Proba x ESSEN Unborn Object 065 featuring The Holiday Slide
Colour and shape are both heroes of your work, which comes first, and do they ever compete?Colour. Colour definitely comes first. At least most of the time. I do define a colour palette for the given assignment first and then start the design process. But honestly, it is trial and error, and most of the time it’s a natural inclination for me to choose one colour over another and I often do not overthink it. I trust my gut and 99% of the time I go with the first colour or pattern chosen. The times that I actually question myself and go back and change things in my designs is when the design actually fails.
I really miss the direct contact I had with my community during the third and fourth year of my A Poster A Day project. I loved the constant contact and designing with a “brief” made by a complete stranger. It brought me closer to them and helped me establish my aesthetic. Now I try to stay as true to myself as possible and hope my community will like it. I am definitely planning a new project where I involve the community again. Stay tuned!
How do you stay engaged with your community/audience, whilst also maintaining a personal relationship with your work?
Describe your ultimate collaboration, who would it be with and what would you create?There are sooo many. But for today I will pick Yayoi Kusama. We would create a multi-story Kusama X Proba wonderland. How amazing would that be? Ahhhhh.
It must unconsciously. Often, I buy things without realising how close they are to my studio aesthetic and then my friends will say: “oh that looks like a Proba piece”.
Does art (yours or that of others) influence the way you dress?
Very. I value good, honest materials that are assembled ethically (and maybe even handmade). Unfortunately, those pieces are most of the times pricier and hard to justify with every purchase.
When purchasing fashion, how concerned are you with how something is made?
What does your shoe collection reveal about your personality?
That I have a close relationship with colour. They are mostly monochromatic, but I have so many and when viewed together they represent a rainbow. Only in sneakers I wear almost only in black.
Photos of Alex above wearing The Luxe Loafer, limited edition run of 60 pairs, hand made in Portugal.