By Ameera Steward
For The Birmingham Times
Birmingham designer Olivia Anthony is LIVing her best life with a streetwear brand that is bringing back iconic looks, feels, and concepts from the 90s and the 2000s, and she’s doing it unapologetically.
Through the brand Anthony designs hats, sweatpants, hoodies, t-shirts, and other pieces full of color that may inspire her customers to just, LIV.
“I make my pieces for loud, bold, creative people who are unapologetically themselves…it’s like a love language, whoever sees [the brand] and connects to it – that’s who my customers [are],” she said.
The 32-year-old started her business LIV Streetwear in 2012 out of the trunk of her car without knowing that her designs would caress the backs of celebrities such as singer SZA and light up the walls of stores such as Footlocker.
“I try not to keep it in a box of an age because my mom and dad are 70 and they rock it…no age, no height, no size – it’s unisex, it’s gender-fluid, it’s just for whoever wants to live,” Anthony said. “I love changing my look so my brand is definitely [the epitome of] that.”
Speaking of her parents, Anthony comes from a family of fashion lovers, she said. Her mom and dad are the ones who ingrained ‘you are what you look like’ in her.
““I’m a mommy and daddy’s girl,” she added. “They love fashion so for all of us to share that…I’m just happy that I have two parents that are in love, that just show me the blueprint of everything.”
In addition to her parents setting the standard for what fashion is and looks like, her older sister, Jennifer Anthony Williams, is the one who introduced her to what living in the 90s was really like.
“We’re super close, we act like we’re two years apart,” said Anthony referring to her sister who is actually 10 years older. When [ Anthony and her parents] were going to pick [her sister] up at parties… “I use to walk through [her sister’s] high school and you would have thought I went there because she used to have to take me everywhere with her.”
Although fashion was “always subconsciously there,” Anthony set foot on Alabama State University’s in 2008 with the dream of being a dancer, her first love since the age of two. Her goal was to major in Theater, Arts, Dance in college, become a member of the Stingettes (a member of ASU’s dance team). But Anthony quickly learned that dance may have been her first love, but it wasn’t her soulmate. (She finished her degree in Theater, Arts, Dance and realized her goal of becoming a Stingette, but she “fell out of love” with dance. “It wasn’t [fulfilling],” she said.
Around 2010, fate stepped in. While Anthony and some of her friends visited Panama City Beach, Fla they attended a concert at BET’s Spring Bling (a two-day extravaganza with different events for college students to attend during Spring Break.
“I saw people with microphones, and I was like ‘how can I be a part of and they were like talk to this guy…I went up to him and I was like I want to intern, he was like here’s my email, I emailed him [and] was in the game.”
He told her to come to LA for the BET Awards. It just so happened that her cousin was a make-up artist in LA as well and offered to get her an internship on a movie set since she had an interest in style and fashion.
After she returned from LA, she found out that ASU was bringing back a modeling group called Elite, “which is where I really grew up.” Anthony and two other students became the head stylists and put on fashion shows.
“That’s when it was like…’okay this is really what I want to do’ and that’s when I launched OliviaAnthony.com.” she said.
With the launch of her website, Anthony said she had models wear her logo – male models with no shirt and the logo painted on them, “and then I had models wearing the t-shirt and people were like ‘I want a shirt.’”
After people kept asking, she decided to sell the t-shirts.
“So, I use to drive my car, post up on campus, and sell…t-shirts out of the trunk,” Anthony said. “And it was born.”
When Anthony decided to sell t-shirts out of her car, she was still interested in styling. She said she made the website for people in New York to see her work, “so [that] I could get more work in styling.”
Trial And Error
Moving from selling t-shirts to the brand we see now was a period of trial and error.
“I had to learn as I went,” said Anthony. “I just learned the business of how to make a screen-printing shirt and …I use to do a lot of stuff by myself like…ironing things on…sewing patches on, and going to different tailors and letting them freak stuff up.”
In 2020, during the pandemic, she received an email from Footlocker about being involved in their Women Behind Her Label initiative where they sold her designs on their website along with two other brands. A year later she was approached by Footlocker again.
“I felt really honored because this is a new initiative that they’ve started and I was growing with them,” Anthony said. “I’m excited for LIV Streetwear because I just feel like there’s so much more for it to be.”
After Anthony graduated from ASU, she moved to New York – scared but she persevered.
“The night of my graduation, I came back to Birmingham, and I went to a party and I just started crying in the party [and] I was like ‘I can’t stay here,’” she said. “I just felt like I had to get away so I transferred my job from Montgomery to the BCBG in the Summit.”
She stayed the entire summer in Birmingham, and then moved. But the move to NYC was not easy – her roommate said she could not come the day Anthony moved. She ended up staying with her prophyte [of the AKA sorority] and said she had to make a choice, “do I go back home? Or do I thug it out?”
In addition to her roommate backing out, her job would not answer when it was time for her to transfer to the New York location – “the only thing I had going for me was that I was interning at fashion week.”
But the thing about deciding to really live, you inspire people along the way. Anthony’s move inspired a friend of hers to move, and he ended up getting her a job at Bloomingdales which she eventually quit to work at Complex Media, but said, “I was like ‘oh I can’t do this…this is not for me, this is not it.’”
“You know, when you really want something, it doesn’t matter how hard it is, and I just knew my heart wasn’t fully engulfed in styling,” Anthony said. “But, I’m happy that I know how to style so I can style my own shoots [and] when I make a collection I don’t just make pieces, I make looks.”
She continued, “that’s why I love journeys.”
“I feel like I’m still on [my journey] and I’m always going to be on it but I feel like people want to skip steps…I’m still in my tough season. It looks beautiful but I’m still in a tough [position]…Nobody wants a boring story [for instance] Big Bertha, the car that I was selling out [of], it was a 1990s Mercedes Benz, no air – I used to sing [the song] No Air by Jordan [Sparks] and Chris Brown when I used to get in that car…that’s [a part of her story] where people can be like ‘okay I can relate.’ It makes it real,” Anthony said.
“The only way through the storm is you have to drive through [it]..if you stay, you’re forfeiting, you’re stunting your growth.”
Social Media: @LIVSTREETWEAR (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) @_liv4olivia_ (Instagram)