Olivia Anthony's LIV Streetwear Is An Ode to Black Creativity and the '90s
Read our interview with the fearless creative.
Olivia Anthony watched streetwear bloom before her very eyes. Despite streetwear’s diverse origin story, the industry seemed to have forgotten its roots. A rich marriage between surf wear, Asian street style, European haute couture and hip-hop created the casual wear we consider street fashion. As a young girl in the American south, Anthony watched this fusion happen and began to form her own ideas of what it means to be a black woman with style.
Beginning with a spark that began in college Anthony created LIV Streetwear to pay homage to a time she loves dearly — the ’90s. The clothing is bold and graphic referencing the logo-heavy apparel that was popular late in the decade. She pairs these features with her own flair that includes manipulating color, shape and fit to produce cozy gear you won’t want to take off. We got a chance to talk with Olivia Anthony about her style inspiration, being a black woman in fashion and what it means to work hard. Read on below and enjoy photos from our lookbook with breakout model India Graham.
What’s one of your first fashion memories?
My earliest fashion memories would be getting ready for school with my mother. I remember while she was doing my hair she would watch the Style Channel where they has fashion shows like Dior and Chanel running early in the morning. So I’m watching this at like nine or ten years old, subconsciously taking in all these amazing, avant-garde types of fashion.
How did your style develop? Who are some of your inspirations and fashion role models?
I feel like my style constantly develops with each time period. In high-school I went through this whole ’80s rope chain-Nike SB Dunk’s-Pastry sneakers-wild type of Pharrell skateboard stage. I literary had a skateboard even though I didn’t know how to skate. Later in college I was more focused on labels and getting into my sex appeal. Then I got to New York and it totally turned me out. I shaved my head, I went blond, I went purple — I really got to have fun and express myself. I feel like that’s how I found my style that I have today. Personal style is always evolving which is why I don’t think I can ever get bored with myself.
As far as inspirations, I get inspired by anyone who is different and challenges me to think to myself: “Well how can I stand out”? I love people that standout, that’s why my brand is different because it’s for those types of people that are bold. Honestly, I really don’t have many fashion role models besides my mom.
What inspired you to start House of Olivia Anthony and later LIV Streetwear?
A lot of the new followers of the brand don’t know that I actually started LIV Streetwear back in 2012. The website launched during college and I had a couple of people model my logo on a T-shirt at the launch party. When people started to approach me about actually purchasing the T-shirts that’s when it became a whole big thing. When I first moved to New York I was working as a stylist, I wanted to make something I absolutely loved. That’s what really gave me the urge to take my brand to the next level. Basically House of Olivia Anthony was created in that moment. It’s really been a great experience to watch both of them grow and evolve.
“A lot of things that I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of are now being embraced and walked down the runway. That’s why I named my last collection “My Love Letter to Our Culture” to pay homage to that.”
What’s your creation process like? How do you come up with references for your next line?
It changes with every collection. I design pieces that I would love to wear and that’s the beauty of being a designer. Whatever you feel is missing in fashion you get to create it. Usually anything inspires me; it could be the oddest thing like a French manicure or a guy walking down the street wearing a lime green hat. Any simple little detail can trigger my creative juices. From there I begin to create a story. I view myself as a storyteller when it comes to presenting my clothes and every collection always pulls some reference from the ’90s. In essence that’s what my whole brand is inspired by.
How does color play a role in your design?
Color plays a humongous role in my designs. Color truly inspires me. In New York it’s always one extreme to the next. A lot of people might want to wear black all the time but I feel like it takes a bold son of a gun to walk down the street looking like a blueberry or yellow sunshine that lights up the whole block. That takes power, that takes light. I want my clothes to bring light and be all about living out loud, being expressive and the best way to do that is through color.
In fashion, nothing under the sun is new. People reinvent previous trends and reintroduce it to the next generation. How do you feel about the resurgence of ’90s fashion?
I’m excited that the ’90s aesthetic is back. I feel like I might have been early as f*ck because I was always rockin’ 90s stuff way back when. My brand has been centered around this era, so the simple fact that its come full circle is great, it sort of lets me know where I am branding-wise.
I watched my older sister when she was in high school go through ’90s trends, from her rocking Tommy Hilfiger to her matching outfits with her boyfriend. I love that I can take all these different elements and reuse them to tell a story to the younger generation. I recently did a shoot based off taking pictures in the mall, my two models were under 21 and they had no idea what mall pictures were. I’m young as well but I’m happy to have had a glimpse of that era. A lot of people reference the ’60s or the ’70s even though they might not have necessarily been there. However seeing it with my own eyes and now being able to put my soul into creating and telling a story to those whom might not have witnessed it, that’s beautiful to me.
I also think it’s also important because it lets people learn about the influence that our culture had on a lot of things that are trending today, like grills, baby hairs, twerking etc. A lot of things that I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of are now being embraced and walked down the runway. That’s why I named my last collection “My Love Letter to Our Culture” to pay homage to that.
There aren’t many women in your position? Why do you think that is?
There is a lack, and I honestly don’t know why. I don’t have the answer. I think all I can do is be myself and show them that it can be done as a black womn in streetwear and on the higher end. Hopefully by me showing them more will follow. By living through my truth I hope that I inspire some other women to grab their team, grab the people that are around them and jump off faith and start doing what they want to do. Issa Rae said something really inspiring, she said a lot of people try to reach up and connect with people higher than them instead of looking to their left and their right and building with what they have close to them. So maybe its resources or a lot of things I really don’t know, but all I know is I’m going to try my hardest to reach my destination so hopefully I can inspire others to do the same thing.
Do you have any advice for young girls who wish to start their own labels or pursue a career in fashion?
My advice for young women or anyone who wants to start something is to be consistent. With any business, when it starts getting hard people tend to give up or get steered away. I feel in most cases they might feel “Well it’s just not the right time”, but it’s never going to be the right time. You’re never going to have the resources that you think you may need. If you stay consistent you will start to see it grow. I always tell people it’s just like planting seeds, if you plant a seed you have to nurture it and watch it grow. We live in a microwave world where people expect things to just grow overnight and when they don’t see growth happening they begin to just plant other seeds all over the place. When you go back to look at the garden there are no flowers, just seeds everywhere and that’s because they never nurtured the first one. It’s about following through and being consistent. We live in a world where nothing is perfect, I mean sh*t’s gonna happen but you can’t let anything defeat you. You have to keep going because that’s the only way you will see progress with anything you do in life.