It’s not everyday that one comes across a designer who strives to keep the environment at the forefront while making trendsetting pieces. Meet NYC fashionista Lyz Olko, who’s taking the underground NYC scene by storm. Though a New Jersey native, Lyz has been calling NYC home for over 10 years, finding her inspiration in the everyday hustle & bustle of the tempestuous Big Apple. Having always been into the art world, Lyz’s fashion onset actually happened by chance. After a stylist purchased a shirt for Gwen Steffani that Lyz had made, word got out that she had a clothing line. Soon enough, she lived up to the rumors. Now a few years later and two lines under her belt, Lyz’s items have become staples for young celebrities like Kristen Stewart, Sky Ferreira and Miley Cyrus.
However, what is most fascinating and admirable about Lyz is her ecofriendly approach to making her garments. Some of her pieces are made from recycled fabrics and materials that she has picked herself from thrift stores around the country, like her army jackets, denim, and vintage slip dresses that are cut and sewn in with new lace. She uses sustainable methods of production with her other items too, which are cut and sew in NYC and LA. The result is a line of army jackets and distressed tees and hoodies, ripped denim with floral patches, camo and embroidery. A style, slightly feminine, slightly tomboyish, fuming with 90s nostalgia and rebellion, with elements of punk, grunge, and skateboard culture. Every item is made with the intention of creating less waste in the world.
Her items can be found at American Two Shot, UNKNWN Miami, Assembly New York & LA, Frankie the Shop NYC, and her website.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Liz who was kind enough to answer a few questions. Get to know Lyz in our Q&A below.
How did you get into fashion? What inspired you to start making clothes in the first place?
Lyz: I moved to New York City after graduating high school to attend The School of Visual Arts. My intention was to become a photographer. I started with a foundation year, where you study different art mediums, like painting, figure drawing, photography, art history etc. After this foundation year, I became more interested in drawing and painting and began making mixed media books incorporating photos, painting and drawing and collage. Then I discovered film and I was obsessed. I had a incredible teacher, Amy Taubin, who taught a “Women in Film” class, which peaked my interest. I then fell into a rabbit hole of film obsession and watched EVERYTHING I could get my hands on, from Tartovsky to Scorsese to Bergman to Altman to Coppola to Spheeris, the list goes on. I’m still in the rabbit hole too. You can never stop learning about directors and movies. Film is a huge influence on my art and my clothing line.
I accidentally started a clothing line after a stylist bought a shirt for Gwen Stefani to wear, which I had made. I was still in school at the time and worked at various clothing stores to support myself. Soon after, my clothing line grew into a full business. The name of my first line is “Obesity + Speed”, which I had for about 12-15 years. I then launched a new label in 2015 under my name that is a significant departure from O+S. “Lyz Olko” has a new sensibility. Everything is made in the US and much of it in my studio in NYC with the intention of creating as little waste as possible, and having a strong focus on the environment and sustainable methods of production. The newest collection, AW16 titled “Days of Heaven” (referencing the Altman film), is composed mostly of lace detailed dresses, reconstructed blazers with lace insets, quilted army jackets and sweaters that pay homage to the traditional art of quilting.
What designers or trends did you look up to while growing up?
I loved and love: Raf Simons, Margiela, Gaultier, Issey, BLESS, Vivienne Westwood, Bernhard Wilhelm, Miguel Adrover, Balenciaga / Nicholas Ghesquire and his Callaghan Collection. I love Celine, Stephen Sprouse, Cosmic Wonder, Rodarte.
How has living in NYC influenced your fashion sense. Are there any elements from your hometown of Rockaway, NJ that you’ve incorporated into your pieces?
I think who I am is closely linked to what I create.
We love that you use recycled materials for your garments! What prompted you to take this approach?
I wanted to go back to what first inspired me to create and design clothes. I wanted to take my time to make each piece with love and by hand. Each one is a little different, finding perfection in the imperfections. I want to have a greater impact in a positive way on the environment and on people. How can I use every piece of material? How can I reconstruct something? What creates less waste? How can I lower costs and be resourceful? I am also vegan and conscious of the effects my daily actions have on the world around me. It’s all linked!
Some of your pieces have been worn by such big names as Sky Ferreira, Kendall Jenner, and Kristen Stewart. How does it feel to see these young celebrities wearing your clothes?
It’s always exciting to see someone in a Lyz Olko piece! Especially if it’s someone I am a fan of.
What are top 3 items you think everyone should have in their closet?
Lyz Olko Denim, A favorite tee (maybe one of our destroyed tees!) and something you know you can put on and not think about and always feel comfortable and good about yourself! Also sneakers.
What’s on your playlist these days?
Nas, The Prettiots, Biggie, Drake, The new Beyonce is really great and I was not a huge fan before Lemonade. Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Sister Nancy, Kanye Life of Pablo, New Order, 50 Cent, Mykki Blanco, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Jadakiss, Prayers. This is a selection on my current gym playlist.
What’s in store for the rest of 2016?
This is going to be a great year! I am working on Spring 2016 and on a few photo projects and a book. I hope to collaborate with more rad people and travel more and have new experiences. I’ve been working with different artists as well helping them with their projects, which is extremely inspiring and fun. Any new challenge any new projects, bring it on! I just want to keep growing and doing what I love. The Days of Heaven Collection will be in stores Late August / Early September.
Visit Lyz’s website for full collections and purchasing info.
Follow Lyz on Instagram & Twitter: @LyzOlko