Claudine DeSola, Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, and Alysia Reiner are the women behind LIVARI – a zero waste womenswear label produced sustainably in New York. The three women approach the line full of ideas and experience from their very different day jobs, but with the same passion for protecting the environment. LIVARI made its NYFW debut in September and showed a collection of classic separates and modern dresses and a few red carpet friendly looks.
How did the three of you come together for this project?
Alysia: IT’S THE MAGIC OF CLAUDINE! Claudine invited Tabitha & I to coffee because she knows we are both such environmentalists and world changers for women and before we left we decided a capsule collection of boundary breaking women driven zero waste magic was our goal – I can’t believe we did it in 4 months?!?!?
In what ways was sustainability a passion for each of you?
Alysia: It has always been something I am passionate about – I LOVE OUR PLANET – the beauty which we cannot take for granted, I live teach and fight for it. I built a green home, I lead the green committee at my daughter’s school, and particularly in our world today, we all must be activist to protect the earth.
Tabitha: I grew up in Trinidad with very little. Coming to live in America was an explosion of consumerism for me and at first, I indulged in the more is more philosophy liberally. As I started to realize my place as a responsible co-creator in the world, I realized that my role was not based in consuming more but in encouraging and living a more thoughtful life led by efforts to make this world and our habits more sustainable in the long run.
What would you say are some of the key components to a functional collaborative effort?
Alysia: We support each other, encourage each other, we create safe space for each other – there are no bad ideas!
Tabitha: Listening with an open mind. I think Alysia said it perfectly. There are no bad ideas. We try to listen to each other and though some ideas are shelved for a following season or tweaked, I think the three of us really respect and appreciate each other’s fashion sensibilities.
What does your “community approach” to design entail?
Alysia: In that first meeting we decided that before we designed a single item of clothing we would have a focus group to ask women what they want – what they love and hate- about clothes, shopping, fashion, the parts of their body they love to show off and love to camouflage…
What are some of the defining design elements of Livari?
Alysia: The creativity that comes from zero waste! The magic of making things out of what would have been in a landfill. Classic silhouettes with modern touches and flair. And for me especially it was so fun designing red carpet dresses I want to wear!
Tabitha: Zero Waste, thoughtful living. Ethical living for the empowered woman. Versatility. Easy.
Why do you think multifunctional clothing is so important for the modern woman?
Alysia: Its all about versatility, having less in your closet that you can use more ways!
What unique role do each of you play in the Livari label?
Alysia: I am an idea person; and sometimes I have crazy ones but I love that my partners always are encouraging! Be it a fab looking dress you can breast feed easily in or a red carpet dress where you can rip off the long skirt to have a short dress to dance in at the after party!
Tabitha: I execute the creative ideas. I have a background in design and production with my own label so I’m usually the one who takes ideas from the three of us, sketches it out and works on making them into the beautiful garments we all envision.
What do you think it will take to get more labels to make the shift to ethical means of production – what role do consumers play in these efforts?
Claudine: More people are checking their labels and taking their power back as a consumer and what they “consume” and in general being more thoughtful. There is a respect I believe for locally made, ethically made, sustainable fashion and in our case zero waste. I think more people are checking their labels and with Livari you can even meet the person who will directly be making your product. I think having that “experience” with the clothing will be really special and hopefully there will an attachment to garment since customer was involved in making the garment and meeting the person behind the Brother sewing machine.
Tabitha: I think consumers are the driving force behind labels making that shift to ethical production. We are seeing a shift in the awareness of shoppers. Women now want to know the story behind the clothes they buy and they are requiring brands step up to the plate in terms of making sure their garments have a positive impact in the community and the environment. Consumers have the power to change the market. They just need to realize it.
Given the current social climate, do you feel a particular need to advocate for female entrepreneurship?
Alysia: YES!! I was invited to the White House by the Obama administration to talk about the importance of entrepreneurship and it is so deeply important for women particularly support each other’s dreams!
Tabitha: For sure. Women are still on average paid less than men so we advocate for setting your own path and doing your own thing so that you set the standards yourself. The three of us are all entrepreneurs and we enjoy seeing other women thrive and be successful. That’s why with Livari, we made it a priority to work with as many female entrepreneurs as possible. Talented women like Cynthia Albert from Weaving Hand who wove our scraps into a new fabric and Magdalena Santos from Magdalena COncepts who printed our t-shirts made it delightful for us to share our platform with other women and support them in their businesses.
What were you most looking forward to with your NYFW launch?
Alysia: Sharing our dream.
Tabitha: That moment when the first model hits the runway and sharing our vision with the world, and all the amazing fabrics and pieces we’ve worked hard on to give sustainability its moment in the spotlight.