Sam Nieves Velez and Sharon Laviare the creative forces behind Nieves Lavi, a New York based womenswear line known for it’s distinct prints and flattering silhouettes. The duo worked with printed silk for designers like Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Donna Karan before developing their own in-house prints for their travel-friendly brand.
How would you describe the Nieves Lavi woman?
She is a downtown girl, whether in reality or just in spirit. She’s creative, with personal sense of style. She is cosmopolitan and travels often. She is adventurous with fashion and makes it her own. She appreciates comfort and quality and has fun getting dressed.
Do your respective cultural backgrounds influence your design aesthetic?
Sharon: Very much! We both draw influences from our cultures. I am Israeli and I always look into the local markets for a new embroidery detail or cool caftan silhouette, and anything gold always find its way into the collection.
Sam, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, draws from his Latin roots, and that adds the colorful vibrant South American island vibe to the collection.
How has your collection evolved over the years?
Our first collection had six silk jersey dresses in six different prints. It was beautiful, but we didn’t have any sales (or sales people). Now, we have about 50 different styles in different fabrications. We have added crepe de chine, silk georgette, wool, cotton and most recently modal. We also expanded our offering to include pants, tops, tunics, caftans and scarves. Now we are distributed all over the U.S. and internationally, including Australia, Japan and the Middle East.
When did the collection officially launch?
Did you always want to pursue a career in fashion?
Sharon: As soon as I realized that there was a career to be made in my favorite pass time-drawing and playing with fabrics.
Sam: I’ve always had an interest in art and design. But, I started my career in aviation to become a pilot, to have a “serious career”, but realized that I was ignoring my real passion for design, and like Sharon, also realized that there could be a career there for me.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The creating something from nothing part. You get to create something new all the time.
My favorite part of the design process is the styling part. We usually design the prints in advance, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done that is not so fun, like planning and sales and production. Designing the line is the icing on the cake.
Can you tell us a bit about your print developing? What methods do you use?
We developed ourselves all the prints, we usually start with a mood page and a theme, and we find images that excite us and the colors that we love and feel are right for the future line.
We look for design elements in vintage stores, books, magazine and art, then we create prints with these images. Often we use the help of graphic designer to transform the idea into an actual print, then we have the artwork printed on selected fabrics.
What makes your prints stand apart from others?
Our prints are very personal. We are involved in all stages of development; each one is an original artwork that we were both involved in every decision about it—size, color, direction and motive. As a result they are vibrant and artistic.
Who are some of your personal favorites in terms of designers and lines?
We love, love Dries Van Noten—he is the prints master. We also love Alexander McQueen, Chloé, Balenciaga, Oscar de la Renta and Dior in the ’50s. We loved the ’50s and ’60s master designers for their craftsmanship and fantasy.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t working in the fashion industry?
Sharon: I would be working with wild animals in Africa.
Sam: I would still be a pilot.
Looking ahead to the next five years, what’s in store for the brand? Adding new categories? Opening a store?
We are thinking about our own store downtown, in Chelsea, the West Village, Soho, the Hamptons…where our girl shops and sometime lives. That is our natural dwelling. We are also planning to open an online store in the near future.
As for adding more categories, we will develop bathing suits and bags for our Resort and Spring collection that would be complementary to our dresses, caftans and pareos. We are striving to be more of a lifestyle brand that will answer all your outfitting needs—corporate to cocktail, beach to bar.