Friday, May 6, 2011

Cleveland designer: R.Levine

"Enjoy this Day" print cotton scarf in cream- 100% cotton, 16" X 93", retail $36

"Peacock" Hand-dipped and painted silk sash-100% silk, 5" X 70", retail $120

"Peacock Paisley" print collar necklace in aqua- cotton and silk original print strips with hand-painted silk button with crystal embellishment, retail $88

 "Silver Queen", Hand-painted original print, retail $68

"Inspiration Rose" Wristwrap- Rayon band with hand-painted silk button with crystal embellishment, retail $42

I am constantly amazed by the talented people that live in Cleveland. Outsiders have no idea. The more people I meet, the more interesting stories I hear. I first met Rebecca Levine, of R.Levine designs, at a social event hosted by the Cleveland Alumnae chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Already, we are tied by sorority bonds. Then I find out that she designs her own line of scarves and accessories. This girl is seriously impressive. I mean check out her work above. Every piece looks like a wearable work of art.

She attended the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago for Fashion Design. She is inspired by everything from her travels to Spain to conversations with her clients. And she started out as a girl from Solon, Ohio, who loved doodling and coordinating outfits. A girl after my own heart. Please check out her other designs on her website, and read my interview with her below:


How did you start designing your own jewelry and accessories?

I grew up in Solon, Ohio. I found myself doodling patterns in a notebook and coordinating outfits with the perfect accessories at a young age. My friends always asked me for fashion advice and I enjoyed making handmade gifts for as long as I can remember. I started off by painting designs on canvas and adding decorative pieces (fabric, ribbon, gems, dimensional paint) to "dress the walls." I continued to paint through college at Miami University (OH). However, it wasn't until I went to grad school at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago for Fashion Design that I found my true calling. I took a surface design class and I was introduced to silk painting. I absolutely fell in love with the art of painting my designs on fabric. It gave movement and functionality to my work. I started painting silk scarves on my own and from that my business was born. My business has expanded to original prints for clothing and accessories (scarves, collar necklaces, headbands, wristwraps). My accessories are unique in that each print comes from a sketch and then it is manipulated into the final print. All of the accessories are made of fabric (a combination of silk and cotton) and utlilize the R.Levine signature fabric strip design.

Any other interests?  

I seem to always have a sketchbook/paper on hand to jot down my ideas. I find that I'm always working-thinking of my next project. I enjoy designing and creating a new piece so much that is just becomes a part of my everyday life. However, when I'm not designing, I enjoy working out. I like to be active-whether it's at the gym or getting outside. I love to play golf. It is my way of taking it all in. I also like to travel. Traveling gives me the inspiration to come up with ideas and make new connections. I think it is exciting to see new places and meet people.

It says on your site that many of your designs are inspired by travel, is that something that is important to you in your life? 

Yes! Travel inspires many of my designs- whether it is a texture/color I see in architecture or a design interpreted from the people and energy of a place. Oftentimes, it is the nuances of a place that inspire me. It can be something as simple as a pattern  I see in passing. Some of the best ideas come in the simplest form. Outside of design, I think travel is important for a healthy mind and body. The challenge of taking on an adventure and experiencing a new place gives me perspective and helps me grow as a person. It doesn't have to be a far trip either. I think getting out of our routine once in a while helps to keep us fresh and sharp. At least that is what keeps me motivated and inspire.

What is your favorite travel destination? 

Spain! I have only been twice, but my study abroad experience in Salamanca, Spain, while I was at Miami University (OH) was one of my most memorable trips. In fact, the experience heavily influenced my design aesthetic and my extensive use of bold colors and patterns. There is a lot of passion in the people and culture surrounding Spain. I strive to express that same strong emotion in my work.

Do you have any packing tips?  

Comfortable, stylish, compact clothing! I try to keep that in mind when I'm packing up my bag. I also designed my pieces keeping it in mind. My shirts, scarves and other accessories are all easy to pack. Best of all, I create prints throughout my collection that complement each other so everything can be mixed and matched to make more outfits. Another great aspect of my line is that I create accessories that can be paired with what you already have in your closet. You can take your favorite shirt or dress, add an R.Levine accessory, and it instantly gives you a new look!
What else inspires your designs? 

Everything around me. It is amazing how much inspiration is all around us. Inspiration can come from something as grand as the Eiffel Tower or as simple as a pattern left in the sidewalk from a day's rain. I have even gotten a lot of great ideas from talking with people at my shows. I find it interesting to hear what people are looking for and what they want to wear. I have had many conversations that have sparked ideas for new designs.

I see that you have an online shop. Are there any brick and mortar stores that carry your designs?  

As for now, I've been focusing on selling online as well as doing shows in the area and around the country. The most exciting show I did was at Henri Bendel in NYC. I stood in line at a casting call and they picked my scarf collection to debut at a trunk show in the NYC store. I did the One of a Kind Show in Chicago over the holidays and the California Gift Show (LA) a couple of months ago. I'm looking into shops to carry my line, but for now I like to show/sell my work directly to the customer. It is a great way for me to personally tell people about my brand and to get great feedback so I can offer products people are excited to wear!

Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting his or her own business? 

I would say find your passion, something you can do around the clock- because to do it well, you will be doing it around the clock! You have to really want it and you have to feel the need to pave your own path. It is an exciting opportunity to share your dream/vision with others. It is important to stay true to yourself and follow your instinct. However, it is also essential to do plenty of research and network as much as possible. A great idea/product is nothing without the support of people around you. The people who support you make your business relevant and enable it to thrive. Above all- you have to keep on-be persistent and patient!

Lastly, who is your favorite designer(s)?

Nicole Miller is my favorite! I love her use of color and detail. I had a chance to intern at Nicole Miller in NYC during my time at the Illinois Institute of Art as a fashion design student. It was an unforgettable experience. I also like Ralph Lauren for timeless, sophisticated style. And Balenciaga for his creative pieces with Spanish flare.

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