Liz Black’s timeless aesthetic comprising pure, minimal forms and elegant lines has won her in only four years a loyal celebrity fan base and impressive fashion credentials. Last year, she was invited to participate in the Commonwealth Games’ Fashion Showcase, and was commissioned a set of exclusive pieces by renowned luxury e-tailer Luisa Via Roma. She also created capsule collection for British retail giant River Island, making her the first Venezuelan and Latin American fashion designer ever to collaborate with a major high street brand.
By Graciela Martin. Photography Angelika Wierzbicka. Makeup Virginia Bertolani. Hair Yusuke Morioka.
Fashion editor Graciela Martin. Model Emory Ault @Premier London.
The day of our interview, Liz is holding a press day for her Autumn Winter 2014 collection “Fashion meets Paranoia”, inspired by the life and work of legendary Spanish artist Salvador Dalí. As you entered her West London showroom, you were greeted by huge pair of ruby red lips which constituted the bottom half of a dress. Next to the stylish pout, arranged as a circle in the center of the space, there was an impeccably layered nude organza piece meant to be a lobster, a square-shaped telephone dress and a tan leather frock with Dali’s oversized mustache emerging from the chest. The last two and the lips dress were ordered exclusively by Luisa via Roma. “For them, we made the lips and the mustache smaller so they could be more wearable,” she says.
Choosing Dalí as inspiration doesn’t come as a major surprise, specially after she has mentioned repeatedly that her work is greatly informed by art, “whenever I can I visit a museum or go to an exhibition, specially if I’m in Paris for fashion week. I’m attracted to forms and I’m passionate about history. I enjoy observing art and architecture, it makes me think about new ideas and each is a universe of possibilities”, she adds.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]”This is my first time working for the high street, it has been an incredible experience to collaborate with River Island; the energy of the company is amazing.”[/su_pullquote]
Nevertheless what never ceases to amaze is how she can achieve such wearability regardless of her unexpected interpretations of a theme. “My next collection is inspired in insects”, she says as she gives me a very privileged peak of the walls of her workshop, completely covered with images of bright, oddly shaped animals like a shiny green beetle, a black and red caterpillar, a fly, bumblebees and ants. Insects? what would that look like? were the questions that came to mind. The answer, or a part of it , was across the room in sketches and toiles of soon to be dresses. And from what I saw, the brightly colored palette combined with black and her signature structural shapes rendered any insect desirable.
The day before Liz’s AW14 press event, her collaboration with River Island was formally announced. The Vogue.com site was the first to break the news and since, the interview requests had been pouring in, so we paused our conversation so she could talk to a reporter of a Middle Eastern channel. “I was inspired by the last Russian Imperial family, with my collection for River Island I identified women with Anastasia who was brave and a great inspiration for many” she said to the journalist as she flipped back her long, straight, black hair. Liz’s nine piece capsule collection constitutes a complete wardrobe with a muff- sleeved coat, signature sleek dresses, abstract prints, strappy, leather stiletto sandals and an oval clutch which emulated a Fabergé egg.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]”It was important to me that this collection felt like my own, because I want young people to like it, and then if they really like it they might want to look at my stand-alone collections as well”.[/su_pullquote]
In the past other London-based talents like Eudon Choi, Katie Eary and Joseph Turvey have been part of River Island’s Design Forum initiative. “This is my first time working for the high street, it has been an incredible experience to collaborate with River Island; the energy of the company is amazing.” she states.
In order to make her pieces viable for a high street collection, Liz applied her exceptional figure flattering cuts to more affordable materials. “I always use leather in my collections, but for River Island we employed a material that is similar to leather instead. It was important to me that this collection felt like my own, because I want young people to like it, and then if they really like it they might want to look at my stand-alone collections as well”.
It’s hard to believe that before venturing into fashion, Liz graduated and worked as an orthodontist in her home country. Loved changed her fate when she married Scottish born Alan Black fourteen years ago and moved to London. After a few years in the British capital she decided to take the risk of following her longtime dream of becoming a fashion designer. “Being an orthodontist was a wish of my parents to continue a family tradition. I had an opportunity that led me to take the risk in fashion design” she recalls.
She recalls her desire to design has been present since her childhood, ” When I was a little girl, I admired Carolina Herrera because I used to design my own clothing and my mother used to call me the second Carolina Herrera, also because Carolina is my middle name and that’s how my family calls me.”
The raven-haired designer completed a BA in Fashion Design from the world-famous Central Saint Martins in 2010, and trained at Diane von Furstenberg in New York and Emilio de la Morena before setting up her own womenswear label in 2011. The same year she was hand-picked by Roland Mouret as a semi-finalist for the emerging talents competition Fashion Fringe and Lady Gaga wore Liz’s gravity-defiying “circle” dress from her debut collection. In 2013 she was nominated in the ‘Creative Excellence’ category at the Scottish Fashion Awards, and this year Scotland welcomed her again to take part in the Commowealth Games’ fashion showcase in Glasgow.
Liz comes from a family of strong women. And as one of character and conviction herself, it’s logical for this reflected in her designs and not to tie herself to passing fads. “I don’t usually look at what other designers are doing not to get intoxicated with trends, I follow my instinct and trust my vision to create a collection that responds to a same concept. My secret is to keep doing what I truly love and to continue to respect my style, which is generally minimalistic, classic and elegant.”
“If you are truly passionate about fashion, work hard and do it. Prepare yourself training at a good university or as an apprentice of a respected designer or both. “It’s more fun for me to put together a story rather than just assembling one garment.”
This article originally appeared in Vanda issue 01.