L I L Y S T A N S T U D I O | Pure. Bold. Understated. These words immediately come to mind when I observe not just the work of Lily Stan Studio, but the artist herself, Lily Stan Thor Harris. Bringing her creativity to life out of pure passion, Lily’s ability to capture a bold aesthetic juxtaposed by understated beauty is like tearing a page from her true self. In her second volume of work, Lily continues the interplay between strong minimalism with a soft, feminine touch. I had the honor of reinterpreting a few of her pieces from the latest collection and converse about her continuous vision, the importance of purity in design, and her greatest lessons learned as a small business owner.
[ Jen Szeto ] Lily, I’d love to know– Where did you grow up? How did you get your start in fashion design, and how long have you been working on Lily Stan Studio?
[ Lily Harris ] I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have loved fashion since I can remember. There was never a question in my mind that fashion was what I wanted to do, so I took a lot of art classes in high school & eventually applied to art school for college. I studied apparel design at RISD, which was a lot of classic tailoring & strict pattern drafting. Throughout school, I did internships at places like Vera Wang in New York. After school, I designed accessories for Kate Spade, but New York is not my favorite place in the world, so I moved back to Minneapolis with a new job offer designing childrenswear & time to decide what was next. I started Lily Stan Studio out of my apartment because I missed sewing & the creative process of making. Mostly, I wanted to make clothing for myself, but I was getting a bigger reaction to my pieces than I thought, so I decided to start an online shop.
[ JS ] If you had to describe your line in a few words, what would it be – and why?
[ LH ] Tomboy, meets girly-girl, with a touch of humor.
[ JS ] You are a self-professed “one woman show” – you design, draft, and sew all your pieces right from your living room in the SOMA district of San Francisco. How do you stay productive and motivated... especially while juggling a full-time job?
[ LH ] It’s hard & I definitely stay busy. Since moving into my apartment with my boyfriend in San Francisco, it's definitely harder to motivate myself to work when I know that there are snacks in the cupboard, unlimited videos streaming upstairs, & the best boyfriend ever to hang out with. There is something to say about keeping Lily Stan Studio as my pet project. It doesn't get tainted by stress of performance or any other stresses that come with owning a business full time, so I really do get to enjoy art directing shoots & sketching in my sketchbook as a real hobby. Keeping Lily Stan Studio small gives me the freedom to keep my designs pure & less influenced by what may sell the best or what gets the most social media likes.
[ JS ] What have you learned most since starting your own line?
[ LH ] I have learned that imitation is a big fear & pet peeve of mine, both for myself & for others. I do believe that imitation is inevitable & nothing is completely original, especially in the current progression of social media & the internet, but everyone can do their best to create new from what they know. I am still learning how to create a private world of inspiration for myself on the internet, while not being influenced by others & others not being influenced by me. Privacy has become more important to me in the age of sharing.
Also, I'm a creative person, & I may have been good at math in high school, but the business side of things is not my favorite part of it all. It's always a learning process.
[ JS ] What is your design process like?
[ LH ] Sketching & fabric shopping come first. If I find a special fabric that I love, I design into it. If I sketch a silhouette that I specifically love, I order fabric to create it. I try to think about what I want to add to my closet, what I feel like I'm missing. As I build the collection, I continue to make changes and additions until the date of the photoshoot for a look book. I don't feel like anything is ever done or perfect, but that is why I release collections on a continuous basis as opposed to the fashion calendar.
[ JS ] I noticed you have a very consistent color palette, often using neutral tones and pops of ethereal colors, like pale pinks, greens, and purples. What draws you the most about this palette?
[ LH ] I gravitate towards neutrals as a sort of uniform, but I have always loved super girly things too like Marie Antoinette, Harajuku fashion, & anything that perpetuates the things that I loved as a teenage girl. I see pastel colors as feminine neutrals.
[ JS ] How would you describe your personal aesthetic? Who are your style icons?
[ LH ] I don't think I really have a style icon, as boring as that is. I just wear what I like & try my best to flatter my body within the frame of pieces that I gravitate towards. My personal style is honestly very similar to Lily Stan Studio, but with a bit more comfort. I love cropped sweaters, & sweater-knit culottes. Love culottes. On the weekends, if no one is seeing me, I definitely dress a bit more like a Kardashian in hoodies & sweatshirts ha.
[ JS ] How has your second collection evolved from your first? What were your biggest inspirations for this latest release?
[ LH ] I think my second collection is a continuation of the first, which is my goal with Lily Stan Studio. I needed more black in my closet. Also, my first collection in 2014 was popped with pale pink, which I will forever love, but pale pink became a bit over saturated in the market when Pantone named Rose Quartz one of the 2016 colors of the year, so I had to move on. I found the pale green, which I call glow in the dark, denim in a wholesale fabric store & had to use it. I also love pale purple & found two fabrics that I loved to use in the new collection.
I try to look more at art, furniture, or interiors for inspiration instead of looking at what fashion is out there. I really love the colors of Muller Van Severen Furniture & interiors. I recently purchased the book & it is so perfect.
[ JS ] How has life changed since moving to San Francisco from Minneapolis? Has that affected your design aesthetic or ethos?
[ LH ] Moving to San Francisco has not changed my design aesthetic, although it has changed my motivation. When I lived in Minneapolis I had so much free time to design, sew, fill orders, & do pop up shops. In San Francisco, there is no winter, so there is no required hibernation. In Minneapolis, you are stuck inside for winter which bleeds into spring, so you have to keep yourself busy for sanity's sake. I definitely do not miss the winter season one bit, but I do miss the hibernation.
[ JS ] What’s next for you? (any big plans for yourself or for LSS?)
[ LH ] I have no massive ideas for Lily Stan Studio right now as I just released this new collection. I would like to eventually establish a permanent collection of classic pieces in organic fabrics that will remain in my online shop & shoot a look book for that. I would like to do a few more small shoots here & there. Art directing is very fun for me.