Olivia La Roche
It would be an understatement to say that Olivia La Roche wears many hats—though we can’t say that we’ve ever seen her in one. With experience in all sides of fashion e-commerce and content creation, the California native recently opened her own eponymous vintage online shop, premised upon re-contextualizing period pieces for the modern eye.
Tell us a bit about your background. What first drew you to vintage?
I grew up in Northern California in a tiny hippy town about 20 minutes from the coast. An apple town actually, not a lot going on. We also lived in Europe part-time, so it was a nice contrast for a restless kid. My mom is an environmentalist, and in turn, I was constantly around bags of things that people were getting rid of, that she was trying to save from the landfill. Most of my first treasures were found this way or at clothing swaps, recycling centers, and thrift stores. I went through a brief stage as a teen where I wanted new things, but other than that I've been diehard vintage most of my life. It feels better to me. More room to experiment, more opportunities to think outside the box and less investment on the line. If you love a vintage piece, you keep it forever because you love it not because you paid a lot or it has some label you think is important.
You studied art history at University. How does this background inform your work today? What would you say to people that think that fashion and art are mutually exclusive?
Fashion is a world where people who studied art can actually work. I appreciate the industry for that. I have an art history and fine art studio degree and the idea of making a name as an artist or working as an art professional wasn't appealing to me when I graduated. I believe that art and fashion are essentially the same. Sadly, I think that art and fashion are capitalized on via social media to such an extent right now that they have become almost unrecognizable. I love working in vintage because it feels closer to my childhood fantasy of both art and fashion.
What led you to start Petra Von Kant, and then O. La Roche later on? Was there some sort of gap in the vintage market that you were trying to fill? Both sites are premised upon an editorial and re-contextualized take on vintage, so maybe I have my answer...
O. La Roche is the reincarnation of Petra Von Kant. I started PVK with a business partner, and we didn't make clear agreements, something I think many young entrepreneurs make the mistake of, and we weren't able to work together. I never wanted to stop having a vintage business; I only wanted to stop having one with this particular person. My drive is pretty personal. I don't think much is missing from the market, but perhaps my point of view can add to the conversation.
Can you speak a bit to your style influences? Where do you find inspiration?
I'm inspired by the past and how individuals continuously make references to it without necessarily knowing it. I know my fashion history, and I use that to deconstruct modern fashion and reduce things to the core of what endures trend. I like art in clothing, something off, something slightly strange and irreverent. That can be found in couture or in dressing for the basic necessity. Anyone is interesting to look at and think about why and how they put together their outfit, what they are communicating. Fashion is a language.
What’s been your single most favorite vintage find? Do you ever get attached to the pieces that you sell in your shop?
I try to practice non-attachment in all areas of life. I love clothing and styling, so I do that process for my business then let it go. Everything I own fits in my car. I have a beautiful apartment in LA that I decorated with all vintage furnishings but I mostly have friends stay there or rent it out. I like having my shop and apartment as platforms to place things but I'm attached to very little personally. I keep a small archive for some secret plans but it's probably not what anyone would expect.
You had a stint in NYC while running PVK. What made you come back to California? Do you identify as a “California girl”?
I lived in NYC for almost two years, and I'm still there every few months. I moved to Los Angeles because I was offered a well-paying job and I was curious about corporate fashion. I've worked in many roles but hadn't explored one so structured. Needless to say, this particular one wasn't for me, but I learned so much, and I am grateful for that. I'm also grateful for being moved to LA, I hadn't spent much time there and I really love it which surprised me. It's beautiful, interesting and it feels like there is more possibility, not to mention real estate. It's a great home base. I haven't been spending much time there lately as I've traveling to buy for the shop, actually going to Asia in a week to check out some new possibilities for the business which is exciting. I don't identify with being a “California girl” and don't think I ever will. My relationship with my home state is deeply personal and relies on the fact that I can always come back.
Describe a dream that you recently had.
Sobbing in a crowd listening to Trump announce a policy change.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be free.
Images courtesy of Olivia La Roche
interview LILY SPERRY
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