A dream becomes fashion reality for Arianne Brown, the designer behind Ramona LaRue

Arianne Brown is the visionary behind the popular Miami-based brand Ramona LaRue—however, the artist-turned-designer didn’t set out to make fashion her livelihood. The idea for her designs first came to her in a dream.

Brown grew up watching her mother, Mona, hand-paint silk dresses that they then sold on the streets of Coconut Grove in the 1970s and ’80s. After her mother died in the mid-2000s following a four-year battle with cancer, Brown was plagued for months by nightmares. Her mother had left her with nothing but jean shorts and a trunk full of paints, she says. It would be the better part of a year before she opened them.

When she finally put brush to canvas, she painted a horse.

“I went to sleep that night, and it wasn’t a bad dream for the first time in so long,” she says. “In my dream, my mom was standing next to me saying, ‘See, you don’t need me. You know what to do.’ I grabbed one piece of silk in my dream and dipped it in a tub of paint, and I pulled it out and it was an already-made dress with a print on it.

“I woke up [the next morning] having this goal of what I wanted to do.”

A decade after launching her first collection, in the fall of 2008, Brown continues to honor her mother’s legacy with artfully inspired and bold silk creations—dresses, skirts, separates and more.

“It’s a love story between a mother and daughter,” she says of her ever-growing business.

In literally bringing her dream to life, Brown initially took the advice of a friend and went into the wholesale business. But she didn’t like working on designs months in advance. By the time the dresses were produced and ready to sell, they felt old. She also didn’t like having to order hundreds of yards of fabric and have the designs painted in China and India because she was left with an overstock of dresses.

Today, the dresses are designed and manufactured in her midtown Miami studio, which also functions as the original boutique—one of five Ramona LaRue stores across South Florida, including ones in Coconut Grove, Miami Beach, Boca Raton and Delray Beach. The brand has also had pop-up locations on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and Lincoln Road in Miami.

She designed the studio/store with furniture she refurbished and works there daily with people who have become her family, including her six cats. They laugh, cry and drink scotch together every day, she says.

Brown sells much of her merchandise on Instagram, at least to younger customers in their 30s. But she’s also sold to 75-year-old women.

“My clothes are very timeless,” she says. “They’re very artistic, but you don’t look like a hippie. You look chic and elegant.”

Brown likes that she can come up with designs on her own timeline that are constantly changing. She can design a dress in a day, or throw paint around the house for two weeks or a month until inspiration strikes for a new print. Plus, she can produce a targeted supply, so her products are limited edition.

“I don’t feel like a designer, an owner, any of the above. I feel like this is my home, I’m an artist, and women happen to love my clothes,” she says as she grins. “When I see women wearing Ramona LaRue, it’s like my mother is still walking the streets of Coconut Grove.”


Lifestyle Likes

The accessories page at ramonalarue.com features an entire series of items that’s for the birds. The print on the weekender tote below ($79.50) is replicated on a yoga mat, beach towel, shower curtain and more.