It might seem an unusual admission for a fashion designer, but Olivia Lahood doesn’t particularly enjoy shopping for new clothes.
“I actually don’t like it. I’m not even very good at it. It’s weird. I don’t like shopping for new things.”
But while she might not enjoy shopping for ‘new things’, vintage clothes are another story. “Ninety-five per cent of my wardrobe would be vintage or second-hand, and the other five per cent is probably Christopher Esber,” laughs Olivia, who is the operations and creative manager for the Australian designer.
As for her lack of enthusiasm for shopping for new clothes? “Maybe it’s because you don’t get the same feeling of finding something really unexpected?”
Vintage clothing is is more than just a passion for Olivia. Alongside her job at Esber, she also runs Olivia Lila Lahood, an online store offering a curated selection of vintage and designer clothing, from ‘80s Yves Saint Laurent to ‘90s Tom Ford – or as she likes to think of it: “a space for my dream wardrobe”.
“It’s the way I wish I dressed every day,” she says, explaining that she’s always been drawn to Calvin Klein-esque ‘90s-bias-cut dresses, as well as ‘30s-era pieces and slinky dresses.
But while evening dresses might be her fashion ideal, it’s suits and trousers that she lives in day to day.
“I do have a bit of a uniform… though I still try to have a little bit of fun,” says Olivia who favours vintage 501 jeans and tailored trousers with a deep cleat and a wide leg. “Very masculine… with a more feminine shoe.”
Her job at Christopher Esber means she’s developed an even deeper appreciation for beautifully cut suits. “I’m just surrounded by so many beautiful suits.”
Olivia wears her own vintage Bottega Veneta shirt, similar here; her own Levis vintage jeans, similar here; her own vintage Celine heels, similar here. Chair is THONET GmbH S 34 by Mart Stam from Anibou.
She sources the pieces for OliviaLilaLahood.com from local op-shops (and, pre-Covid, from travels overseas). “I go to op-shops any chance I get. It’s a bit of a Saturday morning ritual.”
Although Olivia collects “anything that interests me” – from homewares to vintage handbags – she finds it easy to delineate between the pieces she finds that are destined for the store, and those she’ll end up keeping herself. “Usually when I find something, I make up my mind straightaway if it’s to sell or if it’s for me, and that makes it easier to let go – as if it was never mine to begin with.”
She looks out for pieces in natural fabrics and neutral tones, “because I get the most wear out of those pieces”, and carefully inspects each garment for stains ir faults. “If something is too damaged, chances are you won’t wear it.”
“But if you find an item that immediately feels special in a crowded rack, then buy it,” Olivia adds. “I’ve left many pieces behind that I wish I’d purchased.”
When buying vintage online, Olivia says you should look for items that are photographed and described clearly – and don’t be afraid to ask questions. “I often find it hard to let go of things, so knowing a piece is going to someone who will love and wear it always feels good.”
Olivia’s love of fashion goes back to her mother, a dressmaker who made all her clothes growing up (“it was a lot of fun – we even had a few matching outfits”), and her grandmother (Lila). “She’s very fashion able and takes a lot of pride in the way she dresses.”
“I’ve always been surrounded by fashion. I always wanted to study it – I never wanted to do anything else.”
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Photographer: Simon Upton
Stylist: Jana Pokorny
Hair and make-up: Joel Phillips
Stylist assistant: Lucy Wood
Photographer assistant: Lewis Stevenson