The clothing and textiles from Liam of York have been on our minds for quite some time. With the arrival of an exclusive collection of pillows, purses, and other home goods, let’s just say, choosing just one favorite is just about impossible.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind it?
Liam is a name I have always liked (short for William) and I have a long term love affair with antiquities, so Liam of York came from the combination of those two things. Every season I do a capsule collection of dyed silk pieces; I started practicing the Shibori technique four years ago, and these pieces are hand dyed in my home studio.
Have you always been passionate about design?
I have always been a maker. I grew up crafting with my mom; making candles, painting watercolors, and I have always loved using my hands and making something from nothing.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
I started working in sewing and fashion design in high school through a tech theater class. We had a section on costume design and I was hooked. Then, I took many art classes including life drawing from the age of 14 to understand how to draw the body for my fashion drawings. I continued on to study painting, textiles, and fashion design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I graduated in 2007 with a BFA.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
All my designs start with sourcing fabric which is based on instinct. My designs are intuitive and not trend based; this allows for my pieces to be worn season after season. I believe in buying less, and investing in special pieces. My designs are thoughtful, from the textiles, to the details and finishings. I pay a lot of attention to who is sewing for me and what their life is like. All pieces are made in NYC by Erin, Enia, Liliana, and Keii – my amazing team of sewing contractors.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
I haven’t had any major failures yet. As a startup I am still trying to figure out the right formulas to get my pieces out into the world in a thoughtful and authentic way. I raised money for my first season of Liam of York with a Kickstarter campaign, and there was definitely a learning curve. They call it crowdsourcing for a reason, you need to already have a crowd. That was a big lesson at the time, and a continual one. I am excited to do Renegade to just get out of my home studio, meet new people, and see them interact with my products.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
The biggest sacrifice I have made for my business is time and energy. It’s not easy being a start up. I do everything from sales to PR, to ordering fabrics to pattern making. You have to be a hustler and be willing to do whatever needs to get done. No task or detail is too small. You also have to know when and what to delegate.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
My proudest moment was recently presenting my collection to Saks Fifth Avenue! It was an amazing opportunity and forced me to be able to vocalize what I do and why I do it. My favorite moments have been working with local stores to get my pieces into the world. There are so many designers in the market and I feel lucky every time a store picks me up and takes a chance on me. I also love getting pictures back from my customers wearing their Liam of York #3printrule, #loybabe – I even started a section on my website called Ladies of LOY.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Living in Brooklyn definitely influences my work, I make pieces to wear in real life; to the farmers market, a meeting with a client, to go to work, and to gallery openings and art happenings. These are all things I do myself, and I’m pretty sure everyone does, too. There is so much culture and lifestyle to be inspired by, also so many interesting people doing interesting and amazing things. My favorite thing to do is ride my bike around Brooklyn.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
I have been working in the NYC fashion industry for the last nine years, though all the companies I worked with produced overseas (I produce in NYC), it was invaluable to know the development process from beginning to end.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I have always been making things for myself, so making things for others has been a natural progression. I am very lucky that I have such a supportive network.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I come from a fine arts background, so I look at art and culture. I have been looking at Frank Lloyd Wright architecture for the last 10 years and recently have visited six of his buildings. I also can’t get Storm King, the sculpture garden in Upstate New York. No matter what season I am working on, I always have this idea in my head that I want to shoot my collection amongst the sculptures.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
I’d like to tell my fellow makers to keep doing what they love. We live in such a digital world now and craftsmanship is not the most valued attribute, but it will come back. Do it for yourself because you need to, not for anyone else.