At the root of “Hot Skwash by Daria” is Daria’s unabashed creative spirit and true love of art. Every original design, new product and innovative idea stems from Daria the young girl, the mother and the designer/entrepreneur.
It isn’t hard to find Daria Knowles in the company’s “home-style” manufacturing facility in Tigard, OR. Daria is not your typical entrepreneur. Accompanying her infectious high-pitched laugh, she states “I’m the un-showered, unfettered one wearing the bandana in the back – wherever that may be!” proving her point by redirecting your attention with pride to her oversized knitted wool sweater that she knit when she was 14. “Most visitors think I’m just one of the team members, and they’re right.” She pauses with contemplation to look out the window, to emphasize the following point, “This place . . . and group of incredible women . . . is literally an extension of my home and family. I can’t wait to get here every morning, which is probably why my daily work appearance is the last thing on my mind!”
Humble, charismatic and approachable, a shrinking violet Daria Knowles is not. Her vision and passion for life and art run deep, be it for her love of texture, color and textiles, to her family, community and business models that give back more than they take – this woman loves what she does. And her story, with its energy and art, is as infectious as her laugh.
Daria Pehlivanian was born in Denville, New Jersey in 1969. Early in her childhood she showed glimmers of both entrepreneurship and creative design talent. At the age of 10, she was already knitting hats and mittens and selling them to friends and neighbors.
A mother and father’s legacy
Beyond her B.A. earned in art history at the University of Arizona, Daria largely credits her love and appreciation of art to her parents. Cultivated throughout her childhood in New Jersey Daria fondly recalls sitting at the butcher block table with her mother learning to bead flowers, knit and sew. Daria’s mother, Patricia, was an artist in her own right. She was well know in her community for her Faberge style eggs. They were elaborate designs with jewels, music boxes and lights. “She was an amazing artist,” smiles Daria. Her father, Robert, was born and raised in New York City. His love of opera and art history was fundamental to Daria’s passion for art. Regularly he would take Daria and her siblings to the city, spending countless hours wandering the Metropolitan, MOMA, Guggenheim and Rizzoli’s. “He loved to take us to the Opera at Lincoln Center. It was really special to enjoy that with him.”
Daria casually adds another unique piece of life trivia and source of inspiration. “Many don’t know that I also spent a good portion of my youth as a competitive figure skater. Much of what I loved about figure skating was the opportunity to move with beautiful music and wear all the beautiful costumes.” Art and creativity was all around this Jersey Girl. The influences can easily be seen in the growing Hot Skwash by Daria collections. Swarovski crystals, fabrics from around the world and De Beers bridal trims are just a few of the ingredients for the luxury brand.
For Daria, art is indeed a representation of life, and she embraces the notion that life has provided her with a large variety of experiences (good and bad) that have contributed to her personal journey and work.