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Lucky For Life: Olympia and Ariadne Irving

There’s a reason the friendship bracelet has long been the sartorial symbol of platonic love. Colorful, characterful and one-of-a-kind, it’s an apt embodiment of what true connection feels like. As we get older and our relationships (hopefully) mature, there’s something lovely about the humble friendship bracelet evolving with us. A favorite for over twenty years, the Lucky bracelets’ personalizable charms and intricate woven style are the grown-up version of a childhood favorite.

Here, we take a closer look at some of the dynamic duos we admire, whether they’re friends, sisters, or mothers and daughters. Because let’s face it, there’s something about the bond between women—how it blossoms, survives and thrives over time—that’s just so intriguing.

New York-born, London-based, sisters Olympia and Ariadne have always been obsessed with setting a beautiful table, but they’ve approached the task from different angles. While Olympia started out in restaurants, helping run Ferdi in Paris and London, Ariadne honed her aesthetic as an editor at the interior design magazine Cabana. In 2018, they joined forces with both each other and their mother, a renowned textile designer, to form the much-loved homeware brand, Carolina Irving & Daughters. We talked to the sisters about the joys and pitfalls of working with family, their love of travel and how they stay close through it all.

What I admire the most about Olympia is the fact that all she wants in life is for the people around her to be happy. And that she holds my passport for me when we go traveling.
Olympia and Ariadne Irving

Would you describe your relationship as a typical sister-sister relationship? How has your dynamic evolved over time?

Just Google the book: Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.

What's it like working with family? What are the joys? What are the challenges?

Working with family is wonderful. Being able to be completely honest is a huge plus and saves a lot of time. We are all very outspoken, so sometimes getting your voice heard can be challenging. And therefore emotion can enter the conversation very quickly and turn into a disagreement (most of the time not even about the task at hand). Employees of a company tend to act much more professionally! We’ll usually take a few hours to cool down, then realise the enormous benefits of working together - and forget what the fight was about!

When was the last time you called the other and why?

We speak about 50 times a day on the phone, if we happen to not be together, which is very rare. We even speak on the phone when we are in the same house (but that comes down to laziness!)

What’s your favorite trip you’ve ever taken together?

Olympia: Wow, there are so many! One of the top ones has to be our trips to Egypt, specifically to Siwa. We started going with our mother when we were around 13 years old every year for Christmas and then stopped, but last year we decided to go back with friends, and it was the most magical and fun trip!
Ariadne: Something quite bonding about this past trip to Siwa was the fact that we went without our mother for the first time—so we were able to create a whole new set of memories with friends this time around, showing them our favorite place on earth. Olympia and I shared a room, of course, so even our little walks up to breakfast in the morning when everyone was still asleep were special moments, surrounded by the most naturally beautiful place. We both have a huge passion for history, so to be in the oasis where Alexander the Great consulted the Oracle before his conquests is pretty epic in itself!

What is the last gift you gave the other and what was the occasion?

Ariadne: A Contax camera
Olympia: I commissioned a custom piece by the artist Katy Stubbs, through my friend Alma Zevi’s gallery. It’s a sort of amphora vase depicting the Myth of Ariadne and the Minotaur.

Is there a book or movie that recently made an impact on you? Have you recommended it to the other?

Ariadne: Yes! Calypso by David Sedaris. It’s absolutely hysterical, in a dark way, but also so moving in the way he speaks about family. My father recommended it to me and I recommended it to Olympia; she absolutely loved it.

What’s the best advice you’ve either gotten from or given to your sister?

Olympia: Cry me a river. Or, build a bridge and get over it!
Ariadne: I’m so superstitious so I always say: Don’t even think of anything bad because it will go into the universe and come true. NO NEGATIVITY!

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What is a special memory of or with your sister you cherish?

Ariadne: Olympia was recently in hospital due to Covid for a few weeks, which is definitely not my special memory of my sister, but what was was the moment she arrived home from the hospital. She was greeted by my father who flew in from New York and my mother, who came in from Paris, and our best friend Remy. It was such a beautiful moment filled with so much emotion from all of us, but in the best way imaginable.

What do you admire most about each other?

Olympia: I admire her loyalty and honesty (even though sometimes she can be too loyal and too honest!).
Ariadne: What I admire the most about Olympia is the fact that all she wants in life is for the people around her to be happy. And that she holds my passport for me when we go traveling.

What word, song, book, or image best captures your relationship?

The song “I Love you Always Forever” by Donna Lewis.

Do you have any nicknames for each other? If so, what are they?

Olympia: Nicknames, or... more like alter egos! The nicknames are based on what mood we are in. I only have two, Olympia or Heston (don’t ask) but Ariadne, on the other hand, has about 20! Nanette being the most used, but Lynette, for example, is used when she is in “work mode” and only speaks in email jargon. ‘Circle back, piggyback on that conversation, EOD etcetera’. The others include and are not limited to: Kiki, Nannie boo, Nanouk of the North, Nana, Rose Petal (when she’s in Los Angeles). We spend a lot of time together...

Let’s say you have to get a tattoo that captures your relationship (or perhaps you already have!). What would it be?

Ariadne: We, of course, have them! Olympia has my initials on her neck and my middle name, Bean, on her wrist. I have her initials on my finger.

What colours and symbols did you pick for your Lucky bracelets and why?

Ariadne: I picked the Happiness symbol which is a smiley face charm. For me, happiness is the root of all good things in life—it is hard to define and can mean many different things to many different people. To me, it’s an emotional state in which I feel joyful, safe, lucky, positive, surrounded by friends and family and, of course, the love of my life, my dog Pepito. Happiness is something we all strive and work for, therefore I am deeply invested in it.

Olympia and Ariadne and their dog Pepito

Olympia: I picked the Travel palm tree symbol. I have always been obsessed with travel, and especially after this year and a half it has been one of the main things on my mind. I can’t wait to start discovering the world again.

Irving Daughters on holiday in the countryside