Self-taught designer Olivia Oram of Bloomfield Hills spoke with SEEN about her life in the fashion industry and how dressing Venus Williams has made a lasting impact on her career.
By Cassie Kunze
Photography by Tiarra Overstreet-Amos
1. How did you get started as a clothing designer?
My love for fashion began as I was growing up watching fashion shows. I loved seeing the process of clothing design go from an inspiration, sketch, pattern to the final piece. I always had it in me to design clothes and accessories! I taught myself how to sew growing up. I started off my dreams by recycling fabric and hand stitching unique pieces together. At the age of 18, I invested in a sewing machine and started creating one-of-a-kind pieces.
2. At age 20, you dressed Venus Williams for the US Open Tennis Championships in 2010. How did you come across this opportunity?
A fan who follows my how-to and style YouTube channel “Olivia Rita” commented on one of my dress design videos. She told me about a contest Tide was having to design a tennis outfit for tennis player Venus Williams, and she informed me to check it out for more details in addition to wishing me good luck! I entered the contest, and at the end of it all, tennis player Venus Williams choose my design out of over 35,000 entries.
3. How did this experience impact your career?
The experience impacted my career tremendously. One day I was just a girl inspiring to be this big designer, and the next day I’m getting flown down to NYC to see tennis player Venus Williams wear my tennis design at the US Open that was featured on TV on ESPN2 and in so many big papers such as USA Today, New York Times and about every paper you can imagine. The entire trip to New York was amazing thanks to Tide! Also, to Venus Williams for personally choosing my design to wear at the US Open. I also received plenty of autographed items from Venus Williams and $5,000 from Tide in which I used to start my own clothing line, and I also donated a portion to charity.
4. You launched your collection, OLIVIANCIO, in 2015. What inspired you to start your line?
Starting my clothing line has been something I’ve always dreamed of since I was a child. You only live once, and I wanted to do everything I can to make my dream come true. Venus Williams was definitely a big inspiration to me. Her support on wanting to see my most current designs got me excited to create something bigger — my own clothing line. Venus Williams also has her own clothing line so she was a big inspiration to look up to as well.
5. How would you describe OLIVIANCIO?
Made for everyone and made to fit everyone. Customized by OLIVIANCIO. Classic, clean and modern are always in style.
6. What is the inspiration behind your current collection?
Inspiration behind my current collection comes from paying attention to details in any kind of artistic designs that I see in the world every day, and that helps think of new ideas and it helps me to create something unique and beautiful. I love working with beads and lace. All of my pieces are handmade, so detail is what I like to carry on in each of my collections.
7. Do you have a favorite piece that you designed?
Other than the tennis outfit that I designed for Venus Williams, one of my favorite pieces that I designed was in my first collection. It was a black classy dress with a hand beaded neckline. That was the first dress I wore to the North American International Auto Show for Detroit Fashion Week that I participated in in 2015, and that was also one of many designs that Venus Williams shared with her followers. Another one of my favorites is the turquoise top that I designed and hand beaded. It’s has beautiful beading that hangs off of the shoulder. It’s a very unique piece. I wore that to the 2018 North American International Auto Show for Detroit Fashion Week that I participated in. I also love my cardigans! They are handmade and hand beaded and perfect to wear with a simple dress or jeans and a tank. For accessories, I love my handmade and hand beaded headbands. They are cute and comfortable to wear for working out or going out!
8. What has been the biggest challenge you faced in starting your own business?
The biggest challenge I faced starting my own business is learning everything on my own. Everything was new to me, but it was the best way of learning.
9. Is there any advice that you would give to young designers starting out?
Advice that I would give to young designers starting out is go for your dreams, believe in yourself and never give up. In fashion, there is so much to learn, but it’s a fun learning process. Take every negative situation and turn it into something positive. That will get you far in life!
10. You opened the 2018 North American International Auto Show for Detroit Fashion Week and will be featured in the January 2019 Detroit auto show. What kind of work goes into preparing for a fashion show?
Preparing for a fashion show like the North American International Auto Show for Detroit Fashion Week takes a lot of time and work by so many people. Preparing involves everything like getting new OLIVIANCIO designs made, getting together models for the show and keeping in contact with everyone working on the show from makeup artist, hair stylist, deejays, lighting and stage directors, the host, photographers and everyone working back stage to make sure the show goes as smoothly as possible. It also takes each designer keeping the crew informed to help make the show a success by keeping them informed on how each designer will present themselves / their clothing line.
11. You have featured your designs on your YouTube channel for the past eight years. How has social media impacted your business as a designer?
Social media impacts my business in a positive way. It helps my followers see and purchase and share my latest designs.
12. You are also a Realtor in Birmingham. How do you balance that with OLIVIANCIO?
Being a Realtor in Birmingham and a fashion designer comes with a lot of hard work and dedication. I love doing both so it’s easy for me to spend my weekdays and weekends helping people buy, sell or lease a home and also keep up with my clothing line at the same time and get involved in charity events, vendor sales and fashion shows.
13. A portion of every OLIVIANCIO purchase goes to charity. Why is it important to you to work with charitable organizations?
It’s important for me to work with charitable organizations because I love giving back and helping others. I’m happy doing what I love, and I want other people to enjoy the process with me.
14. What are your aspirations with OLIVIANCIO?
My aspirations with OLIVIANCIO are to continue building up my line. I’ve recently added men’s accessories such as hats and bow ties, but I want to continue to build the men’s collection. I would also love getting involved in more charity events, fashion shows and vendor sales every year to get my clothing line out there.
Now on to style…
15. How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is very classy and I love wearing pieces that I can style in so many ways. I love mixing and matching and taking a look from day to night.
16. Who do you look to for style inspiration?
I get a lot of my style inspiration from Venus Williams. On or off the court she always knows how to put together a beautiful outfit and style it with cute accessories.
17. Do you have a favorite designer?
My favorite designers are Venus Williams and Rachel Zoe. One of my favorite things about them is how they support other designers too!
Your Local Love List…
18. Where are your favorite local places to shop?
I love hitting up local boutiques in downtown Birmingham. I don’t have a favorite. I’m always going into every store.
19. What is your favorite local restaurant?
I love all kinds of food, and I love trying new things. If a new place comes up then you will probably see me trying it out.
20. Where can we find you when you’re not designing for OLIVIANCIO?
You can find me enjoying the weather outside doing outdoor activities or checking out the latest local events.