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DIY Friday: Lyz Olko goes "Back to the Land"

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DIY Friday: Lyz Olko goes "Back to the Land"

Alexis Krauss

When I think "Do It Yourself" I think Lyz Olko. When you walk into her NYC apartment/studio it's overflowing with hand-sewn tops, meticulously shredded vintage shorts, screen printing supplies, studs galore and piles of reference books and magazines. Lyz can literally do it all when it comes to designing and creating garments. Over the years I've watched her achieve incredible success with her company Obesity + Speed. Now Lyz is embarking on a new DIY designing journey and has recently launched her newest collection "Back to the Land" under the namesake line, "Lyz Olko".  We thrilled that Lyz has taken the time to tell us more "Back to the Land" and share some of her favorite natural beauty tips. Xoxo Alexis

Tell us a bit about your new collection and how your approach to designing changed this time around?

This is the first season of my namesake line, “Lyz Olko”. The title of this collection is “Back to the Land.” There are a few meanings attached to this phrase.The back-to-the-land movement calls for occupants of real property to grow food from the land on a small-scale basis for themselves or for others, and to perhaps live on the land while doing so. It also referred to Distributism, a 1920s and 1930s attempt to find a third way between capitalism and socialism. It was later used to refer to a North American social phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s. This latter back-to-the-land movement was a migration from cities to rural areas that took place in the United States, its greatest vigor being before the mid-1970s (there's also a comet bus issue called back to the land and the cover for some reason popped up in my head too while thinking of what to call the new line). I had these ideas in my head while trying to think of what to call this brand new collection, new mini-season, new concept, and new energy. What "back to land" means for me: back to the original reasons that inspired me to start making clothing in the first place.

I was in my early 20's, had no money but was inspired by the amazing designers who I was friends with and surrounded by, and began to develop my own love for fashion. So I used what materials I had, could steal, thrift or were given to me to start making pieces that referenced and were inspired by the garments around me. I remember I taught myself how to sew a pleated sleeve by studying a Preen top for hours (this was when Preen was a gothier line, and was mostly a lot of dresses and lace and sweat tops with amazing hardware and things sewn on). I loved staying home every night watching movies by directors I learned about in school (or from Tower Video employees) and sewing, honing my craft. I yearned for that simplicity once Obesity + Speed became so big. One of the many reasons I had to walk away and take a break was because I missed taking the time to get inspired and slowwwwwllly make each piece or create a collection. In a way back to the land means like a metaphorical "coming home" for me. 

 How is this collection more sustainable and eco-friendly than your past lines?

I think for some or all of the reasons above recycled and sustainable materials are an integral part of "Back to the Land". With O+S, part of the reason I needed to walk away, and return to a more authentic process, was I had a Lloyd Dobler type of of moment. After poly bagging my 400,000th O+S tee I was like "I don't want to buy, sell or process anything." I don't want to buy anything sold or processed. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed. I don't want to process anything bought, sold." etc.....

I mean I recognize these are all aspects of owning and operating a business, especially one that becomes a larger operation……but I think I just reached a boiling point in terms of how hard  I was working and the quality of how I was spending my time (poly bagging a million shirts was taking too much time away from actually designing…or well living my life). As part of starting a new line, under my own name, with a new energy, I wanted to kind of give new life to things that had already had a couple lives and use recycled fabrics and clothing for a larger portion of the line.  It also cuts down on costs for designer, retailer and customer. Creates less waste. Also I love vintage Levis and am obsessed with army surplus so I get to remake a ton of things I love. 

Anna Sheffield of Bing Bang Jewelry and of Anna Sheffield fine jewelry gave me a large selection of the coolest charms she had excess of to use for trim on all the jackets and denim.  New life! It takes a village!

Its also nice to be conscious and aware of the materials you are using, the longevity of what you are making, and the effect your actions have on others (in a larger sense as well) and the environment. 

Everything else is made in the USA, primarily in New York and LA. I hand dye and sew a lot of it all in my studio, with my assistant designer Nicollette. 

Do you think sustainable fashion will ever be mainstream? 

I really hope so! I think the sustainable trend is still growing and catching on, I also think people are still figuring out what it means. There are many ways of taking strides toward sustainability….using some eco friendly fabrics or methods of production and using even one element of a sustainable resource in your larger production is a start. Every little bit counts! Baby steps….

I feel the same way about personal lifestyle, one step at a time, if it’s cutting out dairy or cutting out buying plastic water bottles and using a refillable thermos….it all counts! 

 Fashion aside, what are some of your favorite clean/natural beauty products/companies?

  • Giovanni (eco chic hair care) I love the smooth as silk deeper moisture conditioner and tea tree oil shampoo.
  • Ling Skin Care
  • Burt's Bees: I'm obsessed with their chapsticks
  • John Masters hair care. Specifically the lavender and avocado intensive conditioner and the evening primrose shampoo.
  • Dr. Hauschka 
  • Derma e Skincare products : I love the evenly radiant dark circle eye cream. 

-Lyz

"Back to the Land" is now available at CURVE NY and LA stores.