Allina Liu

“I want everyone to feel comfortable wearing my designs! For me, it’s really about seeing how people style it in their own way. I truly love that,” said New York-based fashion designer, Allina Liu, in regards to her hopes for her eponymous brand. 

The accomplished entrepreneur launched her “submersive, soft, romantic” label in 2015 and has since released 6 stunning collections. 

While “Allina Liu” is only six years old, the visionary has been working towards this passion project all her life as she revealed that she has always wanted to be a fashion designer. 

“I remember the pivotal moment of seeing Vera Wang in Vogue and being absolutely in love with her wedding dresses,” divulged Liu, “I asked my mom to order me the cheapest mannequin I could find and started draping as soon as it came.”

Liu also credits her entrepreneurial father for her career path and work ethic saying, “I think that runs in my blood”.

From skimming the glossy pages of magazines to now having her work featured in the worlds’ most iconic publications, like Vogue and Marie Claire, the dedicated designer exclusively disclosed several factors that have contributed to her success.

Looking back, Liu acknowledged that most of her work came to fruition because of her “stuffy” childhood. 

Although she was born in Manhattan, Liu had spent her formative years growing up in Westchester County. Due to its predominantly white demographic, Liu said, “I used to be really closed up and self-conscious about everything I did. I got teased often because of how I looked and my eyes, etc. but I think it actually helped. I hated being Chinese for such a long time but I’m so glad I learned to love it eventually.”

“It’s imperative to remember your roots.”

The native New Yorker continued on to admit that her culture and life at home had also played a role in how she now explores the confluence of opposites through her designs, “I grew up in a traditional Chinese household. It was odd though because I was born here, so I had to learn what was acceptable in both a Chinese family and Western society. My parents never talked to me about sex, sexuality, gender biases, even race, so while I was growing up, I’d say I was pretty sheltered and naïve to all things ‘taboo’.”

As Liu got older and attended art school for university, she said that she learned about artists like Ren Hang and Nobuyoshi Araki and immediately fell in love with their work, “Their photos are so raw and visceral.”

The Maryland Institute College of Art graduate recalled that the most crucial experience that has helped her to create her brand came from her time interning and working for fashion houses, like The Row, Thakoon, Rebecca Taylor, and J.Crew. Liu expressed that these opportunities allowed her to learn how businesses actually operate, “As a kid, I always thought you’d be draping or running around with fabrics, and while you do get to do that, it’s a lot more computer work and Microsoft Excel than you think!”

In terms of her design process, Liu revealed that it is “kind of like a zigzag. A lot of times it feels like 1 step forward and 3 steps back. I start by sketching on the days I feel like it. I realized that pushing myself to sketch when I’m not feeling creative doesn’t produce anything but stress and anxiety.”

Liu finds mood boards to be a critical component to her process as well and said that on them, she is able to include images from artists that have strongly inspired her design aesthetic, “It helps create a color palette for me and I can build on top of that. Ren Hang, Do-ho Suh, and 17th-century Dutch portraiture may seem like an odd mix but they do all have an underlying sensuality to them. All of Do-ho Suh’s work is about transparency and I think that translates into my work very often. I love using sheer fabrics like organza in order to convey his work through mine.”

In the beginning stages of her namesake brand, Liu said she was a bit more experimental which led to her work not being as practical or as wearable as it is now. However, after some time, Liu realized the way people buy clothing has changed and began to craft the direct-to-consumer business model that she follows to this day, “It became about lowering my price point but still creating pieces that were well crafted and thoughtfully designed. Most importantly, it was about not overproducing in order to reduce waste.”

“I do my best to source specific fabrics that are created from recycled materials,” said Liu who is devoted to making her brand as sustainable as it can be, “All the cotton pieces are made from recycled fibers and although the price is (ironically) a bit higher for sustainable fabrics, I truly believe it’s worth the cost. Fashion has cost the world a lot in terms of sustainability and I don’t want to be a contributing factor by overproducing and not monitoring fair working conditions.”

The designer’s commitment to sustainability as well as her brand’s unique aesthetic and romanticized silhouettes have garnered her loyal customers that include trendsetting celebrities, Cardi B and Justine Skye. 

In regards to her namesake brand’s unique selling point, Liu believes it is that “clothing should be worn, not hung in a closet collecting dust. There are a lot of talented designers and incredible brands right now, but I think the price point is a huge factor, especially due to the pandemic. It’s not just about making beautiful things, it’s about being able to provide them at a reasonable cost.”

Liu went on to explain how she feels the pandemic has changed her perception of the fashion industry as well as her brand, “I don’t believe in the traditional fashion business model anymore. I think presenting collections a year in advance is a really dated concept (as is fashion week). People know what they want, and they want it now. The issue in this industry also heavily lies in its elitism. I hate that fashion week alienates people by having “lists” for the shows and perpetuates the fact that you need to be famous in order to enjoy the benefits. It’s critical to me to evolve with the times and adapt. As Dave Chapelle said: ‘Modern problems require modern solutions'”.

The designer believes that the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of slow fashion, “I think society has become more aware of the damage that fast fashion can cause, even if it’s significantly cheaper. There are a lot of made-to-order brands now that are doing incredibly well because of that business model. I think it’s because people are starting to love the idea that something was made specifically for them. I was told early in my career that made-to-order wasn’t a “real business” and while I don’t fully participate in that business model, I think only making a handful of each piece is a good place to start.”

Liu’s most recent collection features sets and dresses that exude sensuality and elegance while also optimizing comfort. Fortunately, Liu’s designs can be worn year-round an attribute that she says is important to her brands’ development, “ I love being non-seasonal because it gives me so much more time to really develop a piece from start to finish instead of panicking about finishing an entire collection before the market week starts.”

Overall, Liu has found that her brand has evolved heavily ever since she started to become more comfortable in her own skin, “It’s been interesting to watch how personal growth affects my designs.”

As Liu continues to design and release more of her work, she hopes to convey that you can be a part of her brands’ world without any prerequisites, “I focus heavily on the imagery and how everything’s shot and presented so it’s romantic and subversive at the same time. I hope people identify with that and want to be part of the growing community!”

Style Spotlight

Allina Liu

Allina Liu photographed by Bridget Badore for The Assemblist x The Style Line

CM: How would you describe your personal style? Is it similar to that of your brand? Is there a favorite garment of yours that you have created?

AL: My personal style is non-existent. I don’t really care about what I wear for some reason. It’s usually a hoodie and jeans, except recently it’s been a hoodie and leggings because I haven’t left the apartment in months. I definitely don’t convey my brand. Not because I don’t believe in it, but because I treat it as escapism, I think. It’s a great feeling to be able to immerse yourself in a world that you created. My favorite piece is probably the Camilla Dress. It’s very much on brand and I love how it came out!

CM: What has been your greatest accomplishment and lesson you have learned through your brand? Has there been anything in the industry that you have had to overcome?

AL: Failure. I think I’ve failed…so many times. Once my professor in college told me I’d fail over and over again and maybe things just weren’t meant to be. Inspiring, I know. It’s been such a journey and imposter syndrome is VERY real but I think failing has been my greatest accomplishment if that makes any sense. It’s humbled me and I’ve only learned and grown from it.

CM: Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion designers?

AL: Don’t stop believing- Journey. Kidding- but not really. Keep at it. It takes so much time to grow a brand and to understand where you fit in. Once you have that foundation though, it’s all about cultivating the community you created.

CM: You have already accomplished so much and have created a beautiful brand, what’s next for you and your brand? What else do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?

AL: Thank you so much! I actually work in Tech full-time and hope to continue to do both, but we’ll see what happens! Until then though, I’m just playing everything by ear. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that life is incredibly unpredictable, and you have to be able to adapt.

I hope in the next 5 years to grow the brands’ community and continue to make people happy with my clothes!

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