tampabay.com

Designer revs up area's creative vibe

Ivanka Ska has opened a store in downtown St. Petersburg and hopes other artists follow.

By PAUL SWIDER
Published March 25, 2007


Women have made it in the business world and no longer need to imitate men, says designer Ivanka Ska, who has opened a new store downtown.

"I always want to look beautiful, but not in pants," said the proprietor of the House of Ska, a boutique, gallery and studio in the corner retail space of the Princess Martha Hotel at 401 First Ave. N. "We don't have to look like men anymore."

Ska, 35, a native of Poland, visited the United States for the first time 17 years ago, stayed and worked in New York sweatshops and as a house cleaner while pursuing citizenship. She found her calling in art and design after moving to St. Petersburg.

Since exploring her creative side with her first fashion show seven years ago, Ska has helped form artist collectives StPeteBam and Gala Corina. She has dabbled in production, organized a modeling agency, and found success as the personal stylist of Leven Rambin, an actor on ABC's All My Children. With a retail outlet, she's closer to her goal of creating a fashion house and turning downtown into a SoHo-like hotbed of creativity.

"I was a starving underground artist for a long time," Ska said. "As a woman in business, there are a lot more obstacles than for men."

Inspired by her time in New York, Ska is a fountain of positive energy as she talks of sparking a flourishing artistic community here and turning Williams Park into a southern version of Central Park.

"I found a person I believed in," said Michael Plummer, president of Pinellas Park's Our Town Inc., who invested about $30,000 to help Ska get started. "I loved her designs, her positive outlook, her view of the future. I thought if anybody ever deserves an opportunity, she does."

Plummer said he was moved by Ska's classic American tale. He said he also appreciated that she is giving to the community, a spirit he looks for in his franchisees and businesses he invests in.

Ska is quick to credit those who have helped. She markets her own work in the store, but also promotes other designers, as well as artists and jewelers.

The store's name comes from her maiden name, Jezierska, which she shortened to Ska so Americans could pronounce it. Ska is also a form of music she likes and a fashion movement.

Ska marvels at where she is and how she got there. With no formal training in design, she simply followed her passion with zeal.

"I had to go through life finding myself," she said. "It's taken awhile. But I found out what I wanted to do and I love it."

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com .

Fast Facts:

 

House of Ska

401 First Ave. N

822-7752