Monday, December 1, 2008

Liesl Gibson and Oliver + S

I believe it was about two Markets ago that Fat Quarter Shop stumbled across the cutest booth of the year, adorned with life-sized retro paper (cardboard) dolls. It turned out to be Oliver + S, and we immediately fell head over heels. Kimberly got sparkly-eyed, no doubt with little Emma in mind. If you haven't seen the Oliver + S children's apparel patterns yet, get ready to start squealing with delight! Liesl Gibson, the mastermind behind these gosh-darn-cutesies joins us today on the Jolly Jabber to talk about her wonderful pattern company. And with a nod to Brooke Shields and VW, we humbly beseech you not to have babies just so you can dress them in her adorable outfits.

I trained as a clothing designer at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) here in New York and worked as a designer for several large companies before my daughter was born.

Once she arrived, I wanted to spend time with her, so I left my job for a while. At the same time I wanted to stay professionally active, so I started designing and sewing clothing for her. I couldn’t find any sewing patterns I liked [for her], so I started making my own. My friends teased me, telling me I should publish the patterns, so I thought I’d look into it a bit. Little did I know what I was getting myself into with that little simple idea!

It’s been a whirlwind since we launched the company one year ago this past October. The first patterns were released in March, and we now have nine patterns available in sizes from birth through children’s 8. We hear wonderful things from our customers; people love the quality of the papers we use, the little dressmaking details that are unique to our patterns, and the detailed instructions that accompany the patterns. I teach beginning sewing, so I write the instructions with those students in mind, leading them through each step of the process and really breaking it down so they can easily achieve those details that make our patterns unique. Sometimes our customers tell me they feel like they took a sewing class after making one of our patterns.

I find inspiration for the designs all over the place. Often it’s my daughter or her friends who inspire my designs, but recently I’ve also been inspired by Godard’s film, “Une Femme est Une Femme”, tearsheets from fashion and other glossy magazines (I’m constantly collecting images and objects that give me ideas in one way or another), and even a book about Jackie O’s wardrobe designed by Oleg Cassini. All these elements came together to inspire two new patterns that will be available next March. You can see a preview of the patterns on the Oliver + S blog.

Our fall collection, which is available now, was inspired by the film “Chocolat” and by a Japanese fabric collection. Finding that inspiration and interpreting my ideas into sew-able designs is one of the best parts of my job.

But the thing I love most about what I do it the chance to see the finished garments that other people make using our patterns. To that end, we set up a Flickr group so that you can share your creations. Fabric and color choices can completely change the look of a pattern, and it’s so exciting to see other people’s choices. I often hear from other people who were inspired by something they saw on the Flickr group as well.

If you’re looking for a quick holiday gift for a little girl, try our free pattern, the Lazy Days Skirt, and while you’re visiting the website you can sign up for our monthly newsletter as well.


Cheers and happy holidays!
Liesl Gibson
Oliver + S
Oliver + S blog

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