Wow, you’ve already asked so many good questions! I’m working to categorize them and will try to answer just as many as I can in the weeks to come. In the meantime, keep them coming! You can email me your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since I’m working really hard right now to catch up with our spring pattern development schedule (I fell behind by a bit with the new Liesl + Co. patterns), I’m going to answer some of the easy questions today and next week, and then I’ll compose some longer posts to answer your more in-depth questions when I have a little more time.
I would love to know what is the most popular Oliver + S pattern of all time?
It’s a little difficult to answer this since some patterns have been available for longer than others, but the Tea Party Sundress has been enormously successful, as has been the Ice Cream Dress. I’m guessing the Roller Skate Dress will join their ranks some day!
From where do you draw inspiration for new patterns?
I get inspiration from all over the place. As an apparel designer, I certainly pay attention to what’s happening in the fashion world and in trend forecasting, I read a lot of books and magazines, I look at art, and I watch people here in New York. I think my favorite inspiration source may be just people-watching. And I don’t mean seeing what someone is wearing and copying it; it’s more about seeing a great detail someplace and being inspired by that particular element, or noticing how someone puts together an outfit and being inspired by the attitude or by that particular way of wearing something.
How much of your family’s wardrobe is made by you?
A lot of S’s clothing is handmade from my patterns, but I don’t get a lot of time to sew for fun anymore. And I’m really close to the Liesl + Co. and Lisette sample sizes, so I can wear a lot of our samples when we’re finished with them. I don’t design the patterns to fit me. I’m just fortunate that I’ve always been close to sample size for any company where I’ve worked. My own company, included.
What is a day in the life of Liesl?
A usual day begins with a snuggle in bed with S before we get up, have breakfast (Todd makes S breakfast while I shower), get dressed, and I take S to the school bus stop. Once she’s safely on the bus, I head to the studio via the subway. At the studio, I usually spend the morning checking email, discussing projects and managing our employees, writing blog posts, handling social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. We always sit down as a team to have lunch together at the big cutting table in the studio, and then in the afternoon I do my “real” work on the patterns: writing instructions, drawing illustrations, grading, etc. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I leave at 5:10 to get S from her after school program where she takes fun classes like art and stop motion animation and cooking. On Thursdays and Fridays, S doesn’t go to after school, so Todd and I take turns going home earlier to spend time with her. We always make dinner and eat together as a family, then S does homework, and hopefully we have a little time to hang out before it’s her bedtime. Once S is in bed, I usually sit down to do a few more hours of work before going to bed myself. I do my best work in the evenings when there are no distractions and no one asking questions! So my life is probably not all that different from your life, aside from the fact that I write patterns instead of sewing them at night. Right?
Why did your parents choose Liesl? Or are you actually Elizabeth?
My real name is Liesl. I think my parents were inspired by The Sound of Music, but it turns out that Liesl was also my Grandma’s nickname (called that by her German father) when she was little. Apparently it’s a German diminutive–sort of a cute name to call a little girl. I worked for a German publishing company when I was in my 20’s and wanted to be taken seriously as a science book editor, but all the Germans would say, “Oh, little Leeezul” in a sing-songy way that didn’t make me feel very professional at all!
Did you ever have in mind or dream of starting a pattern or clothing design company, or was that something that just kind of grew out of designing your daughter’s clothes?
I always wanted to have my own company, but I certainly never envisioned making sewing patterns. My company developed entirely from designing for S. After working in the fashion industry for a number of years, I didn’t (and don’t) have any romantic notions about the fashion industry, and I still really have no interest in manufacturing apparel and all that would entail. But sewing patterns were terribly out of date when I launched Oliver + S, and it’s been exciting to be part of the growing interest and popularity of sewing since I started the company.
How do you find time for all of your sewing projects that you want to make? My list and projects are a mile high long. So, I’m curious how you fit all of your projects in.
Oh, I don’t! Every so often I get an idea I just can’t pass up, and I buy fabric for it. But usually I can’t make time for that particular project and the fabric gets used for something completely different. I just don’t have time to sew the fun stuff anymore. But I have plenty of ideas for someday!