Pratt Institute 2018
From crafting her own jewelry and footwear to hand dying her own fabrics, Liv Ryan is proving that young designers really can–and should– do it all.
Liv Ryan is a rare bird in New York’s emerging designer landscape. The recent Pratt grad is actually a born and bred New Yorker. Growing up in the city with artist parents, Ryan was aware of her geographical advantage at an early age and chose to stay in NYC for design school despite encouragement from some to seek her creative education elsewhere. After her most recent collection caught our eye, we decided to chat with Ryan about her work, her inspirations, and the challenges of gaining a foothold in an ever-evolving industry.
You grew up in a very artistic household–but did you always know that you would pursue design?
Definitely not. I’d studied theatre and costume design at LaGuardia High School but it wasn’t even on my radar as a career path. But I visited Pratt and it just felt so right. I remember a speech given by the department chair where she said, “it’s totally ok if you don’t know how to design, sew or draw. We’re going to teach you all these things.” I think a lot of people have a negative view of fashion that it’s elitist, but it’s very much it’s own art form and that’s how Pratt taught me to approach design, with less focus on the industry at large and more of an emphasis on being creative and using clothing as the outlet for my art.
It’s unusual to see a young designer already diving into accessories. How did that come about?
I actually took an accessories class my senior year and thought, well, if I’m making all of these pieces then I want them to go with my collection. I knew right away I wanted to do earrings because most of my collection was very streetwear-heavy and had a tomboy feel to it, which is very much how I dress. I wanted to play with the balance between the feminine and masculine elements and an elegant ceramic earring seemed the best way to do that. As for the shoes, I repurposed a rib knit and softened the platforms by applying gesso to the soles, which I was unsure about but it turned out quite malleable and lovely. A happy design “mistake.”
You’ve talked a bit about straddling the line between masculine and feminine design elements but your most recent collection was labeled as menswear. Have you seen an interest from female clients?
A lot of my work I think of as unisex but I’d never done a strictly menswear collection so I wanted to challenge myself. It could definitely go either way, and though that seems to be a larger industry trend, I personally try not to pay to much attention to trend. Most of my inspiration doesn’t come from clothing but from visual art and my surroundings. But particularly in New York, this whole streetwear aesthetic is so big, as it was for me as a child growing up. So many people are now non-binary in general, not wishing to associate with a particular gender. I have male friends who’ve placed orders for skirts or dresses, not seeing the garments as inherently feminine. Associating a garment with a specific gender is only a product of the industry at large.