Q&A With Jennifer Stucko, founder of prota fiori
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in New Jersey and I live in New York City on the Upper West Side.
What did you do before starting Prota Fiori?
Prior to starting Prota Fiori, I spent a decade in the world of luxury fashion and footwear at iconic fashion houses such as Giorgio Armani, Valentino and Ralph Lauren. I gained insight and expertise into traditional Italian luxury shoe making in my latest position as General Manager at US of A Testoni, the 100 year old men’s luxury footwear brand from Bologna, Italy until 2018.
Tell us about your company. When did you launch? Where are you based? Why did you start it?
In early 2018 I was becoming increasingly aware of the negative and massively devastating effects that the fashion industry has on the environment. Currently, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, which is greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined. This information really struck me.
Working in the Italian luxury footwear space, I was naturally following new footwear trends - especially the rise of athleisure and sneaker direct-to-consumer sustainable footwear brands. I identified a gap in the luxury footwear market which led me to a pivotal question: “How will Italian luxury shoe making preserve its craft with sustainability in mind and at its core?" I was inspired to preserve Italian luxury shoe making by marrying it with the future of sustainability - something that not only represents what I stand for, what I value, and what I believe in, but ultimately reduces a negative footprint on the environment and encourages conscious consumerism. My wish was to make a positive impact with authenticity. As a result, Prota Fiori was born, a brand built as a catalyst to disrupt the way luxury footwear is produced in Italy and make a positive impact in our fight against environmental waste and climate change. We are pioneers of change by applying environmentally-friendly materials to the Italian luxury shoemaking.
Prota Fiori, which means “protect the flowers," commits to prioritizing Mother Earth using the surplus supply of plant fibers in its approach to footwear design & production. We are the only footwear brand to assemble shoes made up of a combination of up-cycled grape and apple man-made skins as a leather alternative within the women’s luxury footwear category. Our commitment to the use of plant-based leather alternatives (our grape and apple man-made skins) has a similar, yet more intensive and complex production technique than leather.
It was a long road to determining which sustainable raw materials we would use to build my supply chain, but after months of research, quality control, and testing, we were confident in the grape and apple skins’ top quality, durability and performance. Our raw materials are best in class and used by top luxury brand leaders in automotive, aircraft, watches, and furniture. The brand has an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) minded business practice. Today the brand maintains Pending B Corporation Certification and fulfills 13 of the 17 UN SDGs, and a social impact garden located in Sicily, Italy.
What has your last year looked like? How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
As 2020 unfolded, I found myself stepping up more than ever versus stepping back. I took the opportunity to continue to build a strong foundation for Prota Fiori and seek more ways that I can build a business for change in the fashion industry. We launched in April of 2020, right at the cusp of the world changing. I took some of the riskiest, yet calculated decisions I’ve ever made. The things I learned in my life leading up to this moment came into full force -how to deal with uncertainty, have a positive mindset, and the importance of relationships.
What is your current mantra?
My current mantra is one that I have had for years and it is “I trust myself, I trust the process and I trust the universe."
What are some routines you’ve been enjoying lately?
I practice daily yoga and meditation to maintain my overall mental, physical and spiritual well-being. I have been practicing for almost a decade and it is a part of my life and routine that I certainly cannot live without! I have also started incorporating weekly candle light and aromatherapy baths, which are a real treat in the midst of busy workdays. I also love a good, long walk in Central Park with a girlfriend!
What is your go-to outfit?
My go-to outfit in the past year starts from the shoe up. I typically wear my Prota Fiori Azalea mules or our new ballet flats: Camelia or Magnolia, paired with a form fitting denim, a vintage belt and a turtleneck. Now that we’re moving into Spring, I love throwing on a floral blouse. I also love to complete my look with a chic scrunchie or headband. This adds some extra pep to my step!
Any books, movies, tv shows or podcasts to recommend?
I recently read Erwan Rambourg’s book, “Future Luxe” and I really enjoyed it. It was an informative read about the future of the luxury industry.
I am not a big fan of TV, however I watched the entire series of Emily in Paris during one weekend. It is fun, flashy, full of fashion, and a comic relief. It reminds me of my first work trips working in Milan!
I highly recommend Leonardo DiCaprio’s climate change documentary called “Before The Flood." This movie was life changing for me.
I really enjoy listening to the Prof G Show with Scott Galloway. He is a brilliant, intellectual, and an emotionally intelligent thought leader in the world of business.
Are you planning any trips this year? What places are you most looking forward to visiting when life opens back up again?
I am planning a holiday in Italy. I look forward to the simple things during my holiday - the Mediterranean Sea, Aperitivo with a fresh Aperol Spritz, sunshine, and slow living.
Congratulations on launching your spring collection! What was your biggest inspiration? What is your favorite bag?
I oversee the design as Creative Director. My vision with each design is to convey understated elegance, beauty, and femininity with Mother Earth in mind. Each design is a sophisticated yet playful interpretation of feminine beauty with a “la dolce vita” spirit. I am enamored by the old Hollywood lady-like European stylish flair and easy approach to life from the 1950s. I have taken this period of time as the inspiration for the brand’s lifestyle.
My muses include Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, but my childhood memories from my Italian relatives’ love and affection of Sophia Lauren strongly influence the creative direction. I love not only what these women stood for and where they came from, but also their timeless elegance and beauty within. I love getting lost in their films - it’s a dreamy tip back in time.
Below are Jennifer's Modatrova favorites.