- Words Solly Warner
At just 18-years-old, Lily Picchioni has grown her successful sustainable brand, Liky Florence, by making totally unique distressed knitwear.
- Photography Kaitlyn Popoff
This is Pushing Fashion Forward, a new interview series championing unique talents within the rising world of sustainable fashion. Whether it’s a small team running an independent brand or a young creative upcycling old material in their bedroom, we want to show how small businesses can offer so much more than their fast fashion counterparts, encouraging a realistic approach to sustainable style.
Young student Lily Picchioni is the designer behind the London based sustainable clothing label Liky Florence. Specialising in designing and creating custom and pre-made knitwear, Lily’s brand has seen huge success since launching only last year. Inspired by the journey of designers such as Charlotte Knowles, Lily’s first knit vest and dress were born out of a university project entitled “Error” which aimed to explore perceptions of taste and vulgarity.
Lily recalls having a huge interest in fashion from an even younger age, saying she was “always the girl who would be sewing together her outfit before leaving for a night out”. She also had her aspirations for a future in the industry fortified by a particularly great Textile’s teacher, who told wild stories of their previous experiences hanging out with some of Lily’s most admired fashion designers. Fast forward a few months and Liky Florence is at a place where the designs sell out in a matter of minutes on the brands website and have been worn by the likes of YouTube star, Emma Chamberlain, Years & Years singer-songwriter, Olly Alexander, and have even graced the webpages of Vogue Italia.
With an intuitive Gen Z mindset and her truly one-of-a-kind designs, Lily has used the power of Instagram and TikTok to her full advantage. Creating a beloved brand at such a young age is made all the more impressive when you find out Lily has done it practically all on her own. She knits, steams, sews, and packages every garment herself, as well as using vegan materials sustainably sourced from local businesses in South London.
Notion caught up with Lily to discuss how her designs explore the hyper-sexualisation of the female form, why she views her brand as being gender fluid, and how she chooses to work on a low quantity, low waste basis.
How has the last year changed your relationship with fashion and your design process as a whole?
I think as a result of Covid and lockdown I was able to dedicate all day every day to knitting however as lockdown restrictions have eased, I’ve realised this manufacture model isn’t sustainable for myself. This year has really shown me that as a young designer it’s important to realise you can’t do everything independently.
When did you first start experimenting with knitwear and how did your unique patterned designs become your signature?
I learnt how to use a knitting machine in October of this year on my foundation course. I was actually knitting a dress and vest for the final outcome of my first project when one of my friends told me that I should try and sell them. People responded really well to my designs which was really unexpected by me, and it went from there.
You look at the perceptions of taste and vulgarity in your designs. Why are these topics significant to you and how are they explored through your work?
Being a young woman living in London I’ve always been told about the dangers of dressing in a provocative or vulgar manner in terms of safety. With the rise of social media, I feel like we’ve all seen a huge increase in comments revolving around women’s bodies and the clothes they wear so I was very interested in the hyper sexualisation of the female form and how revealing it can be seen as tasteless. Through my work I wanted to take the medium of knitting, which was seen as very domestic, and use it to create garments that could be perceived as vulgar.
Your work was recently featured in a shoot for Vogue Italia as part of their LGBTQ+ month project. How did you feel when they approached you and what was that entire experience like?
I’m still coming to terms with the Vogue feature actually. I feel so lucky to have been given such an amazing opportunity at such a young age especially with the content of the feature and the other creatives involved showcasing such meaningful work. The experience was also such a great eye opener for me to show the behind-the-scenes action of the fashion industry. At the time I didn’t have any sample garments, so I had 1 day to pull together a custom dress for the shoot. The photographer also had around 3 days to take the photos and edit them before publication so it really showed me just how fast paced the industry can be.
Olly Alexander also just wore one of your pieces in a shoot for Cosmopolitan. Do you see your brand as being gender-fluid and is this an area you would like to develop going forward?
I personally hate the idea of womenswear vs. menswear so yes, I would say I view my brand as gender fluid. I don’t agree with the idea of not wearing something just because it has a gender-based association placed on it.
How else do you want to expand? Are there any new materials, techniques, or silhouettes that you’re excited to bring into your work in the near future?
In the future I want to expand my line to use a wider variety of yarns and techniques with a finer look to them. I like working with the chunkier yarn I use at the moment however I definitely feel like the yarn I use with the Aurelia vests is much more in tune with my own personal style.
Is collaboration something you’re open to? Are there any particular designers or creatives that you would love to work with?
What advice would you give to other young designers looking to start their own brand?
I think consistency is the key and taking any opportunity that is given to you in the beginning. It’s also very hard and can be quite demoralising when things don’t turn out as expected, especially with fashion design as you can have an idea in your heard but when you come to actually manufacture it, it can turn out completely different. Keeping that in mind determination is also essential.
As someone who uses sustainably sourced materials, is reducing waste and promoting a more cyclical fashion future important to you? If so, can you tell us why?
Yes! This is something that is extremely important to me in both my brand but also my personal life. Learning about the effects of the fashion industry on the environment and on the workers involved in fast fashion manufacture is shocking. With my brand all my fabrics are knitted to shape, and I use all left-over yarn from custom orders to create vests for my website restocks so this keeps waste to a very, very low quantity. Due to the fact I have no assistance with my brand at all my manufacture quantities are also very low which helps to reduce overconsumption. I also prefer it this way as I feel like due to the “rarity” of my garments, they will be valued more by my customers.
Why should people support small, independent brands?
I think over lockdown people have really started to become more knowledgeable surrounding the effects of fast fashion which has then led to a massive emphasis on supporting small brands. Not only are you helping the environment through reducing your consumption of fast fashion but you’re also encouraging small scale creatives who are pursuing what can be quite a risky career path. I remember the feeling when I sold my first vest, and it really can’t be replicated.