By Jasmine Shaw
For the Birmingham Times
When you think of “Southern Belle,” the images that may come to mind are big hats and lace gloves, which fashion designer Olivia Anthony embraces with flair. Hailing from Birmingham’s east side, this CEO and business owner tells her story through big, bold looks.
“LIV Streetwear is a [fashion] brand that was founded in 2012,” said Anthony, 28. “The mission is to create a consistent and recognizable global brand that inspires people to be bold and [LIV] outside of the box.”
After seven years in business, LIV Streetwear has caught the eye of many: it has been worn by R&B artist Kehlani and collaborated with brands like Teen Vogue and Blink Fitness.
“[R&B artist] SZA wearing my clothes, styled by Ziggy Mack Johnson, was pretty memorable,” Anthony said. “People were literally shouting me out screaming, ‘Those are LIV’s pants!’ That made me realize there may be plenty of polo shirts available, but there is only one Ralph Lauren.”
Anthony’s muse for her brand are memories of growing up in the 1990s. Paying homage to styles like high-top fades and big jewelry, LIV Streetwear works to recapture a time when memories were made without Wi-Fi.
“Outside the Box”
“It’s about living outside the box. If you can’t express yourself through clothing, then you have lost your individuality,” Anthony said. “My signature is always and forever inspired by the ’90s [era] DNA. In my collection, the overalls are my staple, along with bold and vibrant colors.”
She’s also owner of “House of Olivia Anthony,” her higher-end editorial collection that was founded in New York City, N.Y., in 2016. Her brands are two different worlds “but still sisters,” she said.
Anthony credits her passion for fashion to the designers she saw on her television screen throughout her childhood.
“My mother, Felicia, is a fashionista,” she said. “I remember her doing my hair while watching the Style channel. [I loved seeing] Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and so many others I look up to.”
After three years as a dancer in the Huffman High School band, Anthony attended Alabama State University (ASU), where she continued to showcase her majorette skills as a Stingette in the Mighty Marching Hornet band.
As a child, Anthony often felt misunderstood when her peers failed to see beyond their differences and criticized her fashion choices. She now encourages others to live life confidently by embracing what makes them unique: “I want people to understand that you don’t have to be what the world tells you to be. Be Bold. Be Brave. Be You. LIV UR LIFE.”
Anthony got her start during her college years, when she visited a cousin in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2009.
“She was a makeup artist, and she allowed me to come on set with her,” Anthony said. “I assisted the stylist, [and] from that moment I knew this was the industry I wanted to be in.”
When Anthony returned to ASU, she worked diligently to launch a website that would showcase her growing designs. She also began working with the ASU Elite Models, a student-run organization that provided guidance and sponsored events to highlight budding talent.
“After graduation, I took a big leap and moved to New York City,” she reflects. “I interned at places like Complex in order to learn the industry.”
Growing up in Roebuck in a family that encouraged and supported her creative aspirations allowed Anthony to develop a self-assurance that keeps her grounded.
“I think people can sense that as soon as they are in my presence,” she said. “The situations and obstacles I encounter, including the blessings, are all in each collection I create. It’s about hard work, dedication, and patience.”
For example, moving to New York was a big obstacle because she lived on a friend’s couch for eight months, “but my faith got me through,” she said.
Recognizing entrepreneurship as a dream that comes with many challenges, Anthony has built an invaluable team to help take her brand to the next level.
“I have such an amazing team! They are the best!” she said. “As a leader, I’m learning that I have to allow people to do their jobs and step back for a second. I’m learning that there is a difference between friendships and business. Keeping them separate [is key].”
Motivated by Family
With her five-member team and her business based in New York, Anthony has set her sights on establishing offices internationally and in her hometown of Birmingham. Still, she continues to be motivated by her family.
“My mom, my dad, my sister, and everyone else in my family plays a huge role [in my success] because they support me through everything! If it was dance or fashion they were there,” she said.
After honing her skills as a stylist with New York City-based brands like BCBG, Anthony went on to create a more avant-garde collection that contrasts her staple of streetwear and helps diversify her audience. Staying close to mentors like April Walker, creator of the ’90s brands Walker Wear, allows Anthony to develop the faithfulness to remain an innovator in her field.
“Faith is everything!” she said. “My brand is built on faith. My favorite verse is actually tattooed on my shoulder—Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.’”