Liv+Work: Discussions With Designer Liv Grant

liv+work

Liv Grant is an entrepreneur, force of artistic reckoning, and creator of Liv+Work. Her designs reflect values steeped in American craftsmanship and the beauty of nature. She recently sat down with the The DM and gave us the scoop on her exquisite creations and how she is changing the textile industry with her fresh spin on art media.


Hi, Liv! Glad you could join us! The first question I really wanted to ask is how did the idea of Liv+Work come about? 

Oh, well, I’ve been doing art since I was little. My mom is an interior decorator, and our family business is a marching band uniform manufacturing plant here in Wichita, Kansas, and so I kind of grew up in the creative field. All of my family, they’re all entrepreneurs. My mom works by herself. My dad runs the family business. My brother is an entrepreneur; he’s a chef. So, I kind of grew up with that, and I just knew that one day, somehow, I was going to be my own boss and have my own company and be creating something with my hands. I just knew like the general idea of it, but once I started making stuff (I was living in Chicago for the past three years), it kind of formed into this little online boutique shop that sells homewares and clothing accessory. 

You have an extensive background in textiles because you mentioned your family had a marching band uniform company. How do you think that’s prepared you for this field? 

Well, in a few ways: In this factory that we have here…we’ve had this business for 115 years…and you see a bolt of fabric come in, and on the other side of a factory a four-piece uniform comes out there. So, you get to see from nothing to something, totally handmade production line, and so I’ve always been thinking about making products versus gallery stuff. For example, when I was at KU in the textile program, a lot of my fellow textile designer majors were making gallery pieces, like you choose installation that would only be found in the gallery, and I was really talking about making something that was art but functional and a product, like someone could buy that easily. So, I’ve been more product driven. 

Liv+Work

People are still kind of saying “as you’re growing your business you should really hone in one thing,” and I just kind of disagree with that.

What kinds of feelings, perspectives do you want the Liv+Work products to evoke? 

Well, a sense of uniqueness. Every piece is handmade, and so there are going to be these little human flaws in every one of them and differences. I try to make them similar, but even if I make two matching pieces, they’ll be different, so definitely they own something that’s totally unique to them. No one else will ever have something like that, and a lot of my parts are pretty loud…the colors and the shades and the textures and how different they are. They can [also] feel some sense of pride in owning something that someone from America made with their hands and with American materials or even if it’s right down to being local, like someone here in Kansas or people who know me in Chicago because I lived there for 3 years. They feel a sense of connection. Oh I know this person or my friend knows them, and they can feel proud about owning something that’s local and handmade. 

You talk about things being unique, and I noticed you do work with a lot of different mediums. Is variety really important to you? 

Yeah, it is, which was sort of an accident and it’s sort of a curse at the same time. All through school all my teachers were like “Pick one thing; you can’t do ceramics and painting and selling and graphics” and all of these things, and I was always like “why not?” and people are still kind of saying “as you’re growing your business you should really hone in one thing,” and I just kind of disagree with that. I think the more I can offer people the better, and I feel super grateful that I’m drawn to all these different mediums.

As a designer, what is the most important thing you’ve learned? 

I think I’ve learned not to chase trends, [but] I do look at things for inspiration, like New York Fashion Week. I feel like if I were just constantly chasing the trends and doing whatever people like then I might get kind of sunk down and hidden with all of the other designers, and so, I think a little bit of it is that you just need to do what you like, and I think people really appreciate feeling like it’s a genuine product, like I didn’t just regurgitate this from some other designer that I saw or whatever. I think they get excited that it’s something new and something from the heart and something that I drew up in my sketchbook and then it came to life, and I’m excited about that, so I think they feel the genuine excitement about something unique.

You mentioned fashion week as a source of inspiration, what other things inspire you? 

Nature inspires me a lot, whether I’m working with natural materials is a really big thing. It sort of is something that I like but also by coincidence. My dye that I use – I dye all my fabrics, it all comes in white and I then I dye it all these different crazy colors – only reacts to natural fibers, which is good because that’s what I like, so nature inspires me. My dip dyed napkins were inspired while I was sitting in my apartment in Chicago and looked out my window at the high-rise next to me, and all this rain was sheeting down their window and I kind of got this image of just kind of dip dyed dripping thing. So, nature inspires me a lot, and people inspire me a lot. I can see what people are wearing and what makes them feel good, what makes women feel sexy and men feel powerful and people want to invite other friends over to their home because they feel like it’s unique and something special and they’re proud of it, and I watch people’s mannerisms and how confident they get when they’re wearing something or adorning their house with something that’s fabulous. So, people’s behaviors are really a big thing for me. 

Since you really enjoy evoking sexiness and beauty, so what do you enjoy most about what you do? 

Well, I think the process that I touch every part of a product. Whether it’s a simple pillow and it’s just basically one piece of fabric and a dipper or it’s some major constructed thing with a bunch of different material in it, like a weaving, I touch every single part of that, including the conception of it. It becomes a really personal project, every single piece, and when I see someone wearing it or hanging it in their home and they take a picture of it and they Instagram it or something, it’s like such a personal connection.

How would you describe the design philosophy for Liv+Work? 

The three pillars of my shop are that the materials are quality. They have to be quality, and that might mean that it’s 100% silk or 100% wool or whatever. It has to be American made, which of course it is because I make it, but all of my materials are sourced from American companies, so all my fabrics are from California, and my dippers are from New York. I make sure that that’s confirmed. I do a lot of research and dig through the trenches to find materials that I could find in China or Taiwan or whatever, but I take extra time and money to do that, so it’s really important to me. Everything is handmade. People have approached me to print my designs on fabric, which I’m not opposed to. I don’t want to do it personally for my business, but I could really produce a lot more that way, but it’s really important to me to be hands-on about it. So, those are really key values in my business for every product. 

What’s next for you? 

In the next month or two, I’ll be releasing a ginormous new collection for spring and summer, and it will be the biggest collection yet and there will be a lot of clothing, actually. It kind of happened on accident, but there’s going to be a lot of stuff to adorn your body with and feel awesome and sexy.


 

We love that Liv is a young female entrepreneur with a focus on creating unique products made from American materials. Check out Liv’s stellar designs here on The DM and make sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

 

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Kenya Evans

by Kenya Evans

Special Contributor. Kenya has been a writer for as long as she could remember. A fashionista with a love of the arts, Kenya’s background in social justice inspires her to help make the world a better place, one written word at a time. When not writing, she can be seen on underground stages across Chicago as a tribal belly dancer and classical Indian dance student of Bharatnatyam.