With Trump in office and what feels like a neverending cycle of natural disasters on the news, it’s not hard to feel unsafe anymore. Lyz Olko‘s solution? Creativity and community. With her latest collection, the New York-based designer explores what makes her feel safe. After cutting out pictures from survival manuals and revisiting past Hussein Chalayan collections, Olko realized it’s the people she loves that inspire her the most—and give her the most comfort. Building on that sentiment, she invited all of her closest friends (who just happen to be really great artists, like Alexandra Marzella and Carly Mark) to collaborate on a zine. Featuring submissions from a series of Downtown names, including Marzella and Mark, along with Richard Kern, Everything is Going to be Fine reads like a cool kid’s New York City survival guide. And Lyz Olko S/S ’18 is the uniform.
View some exclusive excerpts from the zine above, and read our interview with Olko, below.
Tell me about the new collection.
My latest collection explores the illusion of safety and the way we protect ourselves through clothes, through tribes, and navigate through a very shaky world.
What inspired it?
I was playing a lot with the idea of personal and emotional safety, and have also been really inspired by Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, which is a young adult book about a girl stranded alone on an island off the California coast. I loved the book as a kid. The idea of how one young woman needs no one, is self-sufficient, builds a shelter of whalebones, fishes, builds a fire—it’s both a story of personal journey and developing basic survival skills, which led me to the wilderness survival themes like the snake venom, how to build a fire, etc. and also to the question, ‘What do I need to be okay, to feel safe?’
Why’d you decide to do it now?
This collection has to be now. Because of the political environment, it’s the right time for people. I grew up feeling unsafe in a lot of ways, and I understand being afraid. So for me, safety and money have always been part of my emotional landscape. But it’s not a bepersonal issue anymore—emotional safety and physical safety have fused into one single idea right now. It’s something everyone is grappling with.
What was on your moodboard this season?
Hussein Chalayan past collections, wilderness survival codes and symbols, ‘50s army survival manuals, Island of the Blue Dolphins book jackets, New Order album covers, survival skills for living off the grid.
How does this collection compare to your previous work?
Each collection is emblematic of how I’m feeling at the time of the beginning of the inspiration process. I think the construction and concepts evolve each season—I learn as I go. Each season is like a new beginning and I think of it like a class at school—everyone I work with is a teacher to me in some way.
Describe Lyz Olko in 3 words.
Determined. Honest. Intuitive. Bonus: Movie-Lover.
Who do you see as the Lyz Olko man and/or woman this season?
The collaborators in the zine are a great example of who I would love to see as the ‘Lyz Olko Clothing Wearer’—people who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, help others, are creative masterminds, talented and cool and smart.
Tell me about the zine. How’d you get the idea for it?
I love books and movies and my magazine archive, and I wanted to tell a story, but not just my own. I wanted to collaborate with my friends, people I admire and love and who inspire me. And zines are this great informal way of being able to tell a story however you like—drawings, photos, writing, whatever.
How did you decide who to include?
I found a lot of love and safety in putting the zine together because it was a huge collaboration. People did it because they cared. The irony is, it made me feel safe and filled with love and gratitude and even more—it inspired me and cost almost no money. But I think that’s art—old friends, new friends, the people you trust to work with your creative vision always, and then the new people who come into the mix because they trust you and want to work with you. And you create things together that you wouldn’t on your own—it’s truly beautiful.
What was the goal behind it?
To write a narrative and then create with others to tell the complete story.
How does it tie in with the ethos of the collection?
Collaboration, being of service, sharing vulnerabilities, stories, making art, connection, survival, handmade—my friend Adam Werner has great answers in the zine that I feel embody its ethos: ‘In order to feel safe I need community. Money cannot buy a sense of belonging. To a community, religion, people, culture or city—it is hard to be yourself when you feel as if you do not belong.’
Do you think fashion should be political?
I think any creative form is a powerful way to have a voice and take action to create positive change.
What do you see as your role as a designer, particularly during hyper-political times?
To create, to be of service where I can, to inspire, to learn, to tell a story, to broaden the network of strong community and incredible friends I have and make all who help and inspire each other. To keep thinking and taking my time to be inspired—to not rush the process, to not jump on trends, stay unique and stay the course, and continue to love what I do.