Great Escapes: AERA Founder Tina Bhojwani’s Five Favorite Coffee Table Books Right Now

AERA shoes

*Editor’s note: Every Friday Penta runs a travel feature called Great Escapes, a guide to some of the most beautiful and fascinating places around the world. As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, we’ve decided to focus on escapes closer to home—or, more accurately, in the home—asking notable people about the art, literature, habits, and more that are helping them through this difficult time.

AERA founder
AERA Founder Tina Bhojwani

Tina Bhojwani, co-founder and CEO of luxury vegan shoe brand AERA, recognized the need for change when she saw firsthand the impact the fashion industry had on people and the planet during her 20-plus years working at brands such as Donna Karan, Theory, and Dolce & Gabbana.

With her co-founders—Alvertos Revach, AERA investor and sustainability advisor, and creative director Jean-Michel Cazabat—she launched AERA in 2019 to create what the group calls “a new normal” in fashion.

AERA’s motto is “100% luxury, 110% sustainable,” which refers to the brand’s pledge to offset its environmental impact by 110% without compromising on quality, design, or craftsmanship. AERA partners with SCS Global Services to measure all of the brand’s impacts on the environment, and presents the information on its website, as well as how the brand offsets those impacts.

Celebrities like Emma Roberts and SaoirseRonan have been spotted in AERA’s Audrey flats and Bianca sandals, respectively. All of the shoes are made from cruelty-free, vegan materials in multigenerational family factories in Veneto, Italy, a town with a rich history of luxury shoemaking. AERA is certified carbon negative and fresh water usage negative, and Bhojwani says her team will continue to look for other ways to lessen their impact, such as more innovations in materials, production processes and supply chain traceability.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the AERA CEO has stayed at home with her family in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, but Bhojwani says she has managed to escape the confines of her apartment through her books.

“I have always loved coffee table books for their ability to transport, educate, and inspire us,” she says. “These days, in lieu of travel or visiting museums and exhibitions, I have made time to enjoy many books on subjects that I have been meaning to learn about.”

Bhojwani co-authored a 2009 coffee table book herself, called To India With Love, a collection of love letters to India from influential people, to benefit the families of the victims of the terror attacks which took place in Mumbai in November 2008.

Bhojwani shared her five favorite coffee table books of the moment.

Lo-TEK. “Lo-TEK is an incredible book by Julia Watson, which shows us how indigenous design can be created in symbiosis with nature and ultimately reduce humanity’s negative impact—something I care deeply about. Lo-TEK is derived from Traditional Ecological Knowledge, explores thousands of years of human ingenuity—rural and urban—across 18 countries and shows how such wisdom and innovation works sustainably within complex ecosystems.”

Gio Ponti by Silvana Editoriale. “Gio Ponti was a prolific Milanese architect, designer, artist, and teacher. The book covers his career spanning six decades from the 1920s to the 1970s and showcases his works in Italy and abroad. He is one of the most influential creators of the past century and the volume of work done over the span of his career is impressive. Referred to as “the Godfather of Italian design,” I have been really curious to learn more about his extensive work and influence.”

Ettore Sottsass, by Philippe Thome. “A monograph of the incredible body of work by legendary Italian designer Ettore Sottsass including furniture, jewelry, sculpture, and architecture as well as drawings from his sketchbooks. Known for bold colors, whose influence came from a trip to India, and mixing industrial design with pop culture, he designed the first Italian mainframe computer for Olivetti in 1958 and later founded the Memphis Milano Movement with a group of post modern designers who took a disruptive and more playful approach to design. This book was a gift I received during quarantine.”

Bill Cunningham: On the Street. “A tribute to the iconic fashion lifestyle photographer whom I have always admired. The book contains the first published collection of his photographs from the 1970s to the 2010s, capturing not only fashion styles and trends but also the evolution of culture from the streets of New York and Paris, his two favorite places in the world.”

Hotel Il Pellicano by Juergen Teller. “About the legendary luxury hotel in Tuscany’s Porto Ercole, which sits on a beautiful cove overlooking a secluded bay. It is so alluring that I dream to visit this uber-glamorous spot some day, as for me, it epitomizes the phrase ‘la Dolce Vita.’ The book is chronicled with beautiful photographs by Slim Aarons in the late-’60s to ’90s and John Swope in the mid-’60s to early-’70s.”

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