When Andrea Lieberman launched A.L.C. in 2009, the fashion world quickly embraced her vision for the modern woman’s wardrobe. But long before Bergdorfs and Barneys started stocking her designs, Leiberman was already an established industry player.
The Parsons graduate actually started in retail with her own NYC boutique Culture and Reality, which sold bits ‘n pieces inspired by her extensive travels. Eventually Lieberman’s discerning eye led her into the world of styling, where she skyrocketed to fame working with big name clients like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson. In fact, Lieberman was responsible for J.Lo, who was a client of hers at the time, wearing that now-iconic green Versace number to the Grammys.
It’s not hard to see the designer’s styling background and love of travel in A.L.C. She has a knack for producing a mix of sleek and feminine pieces (think leather pants, floaty tops, thin knits) that mix and match perfectly. We caught up with Lieberman to learn more about how she seeks inspiration everywhere from Africa to New York and how she built her brand.
What was your relationship with fashion when you were young? Was it always important to you?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to end up in fashion. I received my first sewing machine on my 16th birthday and immediately started to design and create my own pieces. I went on to study fashion design and always knew that I would eventually launch my own collection.
Tell us about your time at Parsons.
I felt that it was important to understand every aspect of the business in order to be successful. At Parsons my education went beyond just design, and I was able to learn about everything from marketing to sales which was a huge help as I began to think about building a brand.
You went into retail before starting your label, how did that come about?
I lived in Africa for two years when I was 24 and found the experience to be completely inspiring. I loved the craftsmanship and textiles and met so many talented women who created beautiful jewelry and clothing. When I moved back to New York I opened a retail store called Culture and Reality where I could sell the tribal jewelry and pieces I made using African fabrics and techniques.
And you also worked as a stylist, tell us about how that fit in.
I started styling when I was in my early 20s as a favor for friends and acquaintances. It soon became a full time job and I embraced the opportunity to travel around the world and work with some truly incredible people. I learned a lot about what women want to wear and what they feel comfortable in. If I had a vision for a specific piece but couldn’t find it, I would just make it and that experience helped give me the confidence to launch my own label.
When and why did you decide to launch A.L.C?
I launched A.L.C in 2008. I had been styling for many years and I was ready to settle down, start a family and stay in one place for a while. It was a very organic experience, I just felt like the time was right and that my career and education up to that point had prepared me to go out on my own.
How do you describe the ethos of the label?
I always say A.L.C is for an urban nomad who wants to wear clothes that make her feel comfortable and confident. I like to think my pieces can be easily incorporated into her lifestyle and travels, wherever they might take her.
What were some early challenges you faced as a designer?
When I first started there was so much I wanted to do and so many styles I wanted to create. Learning what was practical from a budget standpoint as well as what actually sold was crucial. I think it can take time to learn who your customer is and how to design with that customer in mind.
Where do you draw inspiration when starting a new collection?