Creators Circle: an interview with Olivia Goodman

When I first met Olivia Goodman, I was immediately struck by her outgoing nature. She possessed an energy and a charm to her that is rarely encountered in today’s oversaturated creative scene. Our social circles were closely intertwined, and I would often catch her DJ’ing a set at my favorite club or hosting an event at a local venue. Once I learned that she also ran her own menswear brand, my respect for her only grew.

Devoted to her craft in the way that only those with a genuine drive and passion can sustain, I’ve observed her career evolve and watched her tackle one creative pursuit after another, and always with grace. Constantly carving out spaces in which women can thrive, Olivia is unapologetic - an attribute in itself that proves that she can really hold her own.

Where are you from?

Chicago, born and raised on the South Side.


What do you love most about Chicago?

For it to be so segregated, I think I just like the diversity. And also what I like most now about Chicago is everyone is kind of becoming more concerned with art in general. It’s becoming more of a hub.


What were you like growing up as a kid?

I was always really crazy and loud and very inappropriate. My mom was always kind of scolding me for that. But also always a very creative kid. I did theatre, I tried to sing. I was always into visual art, and then later on in my life I became more interested in clothes. I just started making my own clothes because I wanted the things I couldn’t have.


Before design, did you ever experiment with any other art forms or mediums?

I was doing theatre as a kid so I started when I was maybe 8 or 9 and going to camps. It really just taught me how to be super expressive. It taught me how to be in tune with my creative side. I think a lot of people don’t really know how to tap into that. I was always pretending to be in a different space or pretending I was a different person, so theatre just opened up that world for me. I continued that on into high school and did theatre all four years of high school. I had a really really amazing theatre teacher and she taught me everything from techniques to how to tap into emotional responses. From there I kind of became interested in costumes and costume design.


When did you launch Og. Brand and what was the motivation behind it?

Summer of 2013. I had a really crazy group of friends that I grew up with and went to highschool with… like all of the Savemoney boys. I was always drawn to their mix of patterns and color and they were never afraid to try something new. All of my friends were sagging their pants and you could see their underwear… so I was like… why not make them some cool ass underwear to wear? That’s how I started, I made t-shirts and boxers for Kids These Days when they went down to SXSW.


Why did you choose to design menswear?

I decided that it was more of a challenge. Womenswear is so oversaturated. And in menswear you’re only allowed to use like four or five different silhouettes. It forced me to be creative and make something new and interesting within the boundaries of that.  


Your site defines your brand’s genre of menswear as being for everyone. Do you have specific plans to create womenswear?

If it’s collaborative [with other brands], yes. But I think I always want to do strictly menswear. Menswear can also be unisex. My style is very influenced by menswear in general so I think I just want to kind of challenge women to incorporate that into their wardrobe as well.


Your lookbooks are beautifully art directed and are visually just interesting to look at. What inspires you on a daily basis?

Shapes… I’ll walk down the street and see how… I don’t know, bro. I’m very inspired by shapes and colors, and that’s really it. I’m also inspired by a concept. For the Ghetto University collection, I did a yearbook sheet and then just the straight lookbook, but I’m inspired more so by storytelling. If there’s a story attached to it, I think it makes it more valuable and it makes it easier for people to relate to it.


Who do you admire within your industry (or any creative industry) as far as setting an example with their work ethic or career path?

That’s so hard. You know, honestly… my friends. I’ve seen how young they were at the start of their careers and where they are now… and it’s nonstop work. The people that are in Chicago right now are killing shit.


What is it like navigating the fashion industry as an emerging brand?

It’s hard because there’s so much to learn and figure out. I don’t necessarily have a mentor so I’ve done a lot of failing and trial and error on my own. And it sucks and I've lost a lot of money but I also know at the end of the day that it’s worth it and I’m doing it on my own. Chicago doesn’t have a ton of resources for the fashion industry in general so there’s a lot of research that goes into it.


What are some obstacles you first faced when you began your brand?

Even now, production… it’s not only expensive but hard to find because a lot of times it’s overseas. It’s a communication barrier, it’s a financial barrier, and then it’s like… how do I get rid of this shit? How do I sell it? You just get stuck with a lot of inventory.


If you had to think back on the moment you felt most accomplished or proud, what would that moment be?

I think that it was the first event that I did at Fat Tiger because it was something I organized start to finish. I negotiated margins with the venue, I brought in a sponsor, I arranged for production of my hats, I arranged for DJs to come through and at the end of all of that… there was a huge turnout. It was a party and it was fun and I did all of that shit on my own. So I think that that was just a huge accomplishment.


What are your goals for the near future?

To crank out two more capsule collections before the summer’s over and get those placed in a few stores around the city. Really focusing on detail and putting out a higher quality product. And creating more of a buzz. Just taking shit to the next level. And even in the next year or so… to have my own store.


What has being a small business owner taught you and do you have any advice for anyone interested in pursuing their passion on a professional level?

Honestly… I would say work for someone else first. I work for Bucketfeet and there’s absolutely no price tag I could put on the experience I’ve learned from them as far as navigating on a professional level. You want people to take you seriously, it’s super important.


Do you feel that it’s harder to be taken seriously as a woman?

No… And I think that that’s a good question to be asked because women need to know that they can do whatever they want to do.


Olivia's site and clothing brand, Og. Brand, can be found here. 


ADELINE ANIA HOCINE is an Algerian native and writer currently based in Chicago. She spends her free time in coffee shops and museums and religiously forgets to water her plants. Her personal works greatly revolve around the concept of feeling misaligned with her true origins and she is inspired by creating connections with other women. Instagram // Tumblr // Twitter