[Spotlight Boston] Liza Gonclaves Richardson, Designer: Bringing the Past to the Present, Responsibly

With a love for sports and the lack of options available to women to stylishly express their love for sports, Boston native Liza Goncalves Richardson, founder of Vintage Blue, created a line of affordable and socially responsible vintage-inspired tees based on the All American Girls Professional Baseball League featured in the film A League of Their Own.

I recently sat down with Liza in her home, which is filled with vintage inspiration; from her Rugby-themed room, to the antique dress form, a gift by her husband. Liza’s bubbly personality and warm spirit provided the perfect setting for this interview.

Tell me a little about yourself and what led you to where you are today?

Liza:
I was attending Drexler University and majoring in film and video when I began interning at a local TV station. That led me to being behind the camera to the front of the camera serving as a host for a show called “You Know You Want It”, which was a show that involved me covering red carpet events. From there, I was given the opportunity to audition for BET’s MADD Sports. The only catch was that I had to know all sports, not just the ones I had loved before. So, as with anything in my life, I researched everything I could and landed the role. Once in the role, I realized that the outfits available to me weren’t exactly the kind that I would wear, so I began taking jerseys and cutting them out and putting my own twist to them. Viewers started asking where I was getting my clothing and after a chance encounter with some businessmen while eating dinner, I was given the chance to design my own line.

What inspired you to get the rights to the licensing of All American Girl Professional Baseball League brand?:

Liza: I loved what the women stood for. The men were at war while the women were at home battling against the stereotype that “nice girls don’t sweat”. 

What was the first piece that you designed and how did you feel others would react to it?Liza: The first piece I designed was for a music artist by the name of Esthero. We took a jersey and cut up the sleeves. We then reassembled it and made the sleeves more fitted and added a corset to the bottom half using eyelets and rope on the front and back. She went crazy for the piece which it made it well worth all the time and effort it took to put it together.

 

Do you feel that you’re experience as the host of BET’s MADD Sports helped prepare you for launching your own line?

Liza: I feel that every experience I’ve ever had has helped prepare for everything in my life. But being the host of MADD Sports definitely helped me in terms of knowing how to do my research and giving me access to resources that I may not have had otherwise.

Did you always want to be a fashion designer?

Liza: I was always obsessed with fashion. I remember back in high school, taking a pair of Converse sneakers to a shoemaker and asking them to add platforms to the bottoms. With everything that I’ve bee involved in, I guess being a fashion designer just seemed like a natural progression.

How important is it to you to make sure all your clothing is eco-friendly?

Liza: I was always concerned with the environment, but it wasn’t until my intern turned business partner, Michelle D’Avella, came on board and educated me even more regarding the importance of being not just an eco-friendly line but an eco-friendly company that we have dedicated more time and resources to staying in line with that goal. From our hangtags, to the dyes we use, to the types of light bulbs we use in our office, we try to keep everything in line with our goals of being environmentally-friendly.

What was it like finding out that celebrities wanted to wear your clothing?

Liza: It’s a great feeling knowing that celebrities want to wear your clothing, but one memorable moment for me was during Memorial Weekend in Miami. We’re hanging out on the beach when I notice this girl walking by wearing one of my custom jerseys. I was so excited, that I ran up to her and attempted to tell her who I was and why I was jumping and screaming. After a few moments of this, I let her continue her walk….I’m sure thinking of me as a little crazy, but I couldn’t help myself. Then there was the time that I got a call from Alicia Keys asking if I could create a custom jersey for her for a photo shoot she was doing within the next couple of days. I of course said no problem and spent hours putting it together.

What is your favorite piece?

Liza: I love the All American Rebel t-shirt, as well as “There’s No Crying in Baseball” t-shirt which was the line used by Tom Hanks in the movie A League of Their Own.

How would you define the style of your line?

Liza: Rugby, Classic All-American line with a vintage twist. Vintage Blue is a clothing line with longevity. It is not a trend. 

What part of the design process do you love most?

Liza: I love creating and coming up with the concepts. I love also love the production process and putting together photo shoots. I once ran after a woman in the streets begging her to please let us user her vintage car. She agreed and the photos came out great!

Describe your personal style.

Liza: I love mixing vintage pieces with new pieces. I’m also a huge fan of jewelry and love to accessorize my outfits.

What designers inspire you, and why?

Liza: I love Ralph Lauren for his classic All-American style. Coco Chanel for her vintage feel. A new designer that I’m really starting to get into is Rachel Roy. And going to the extreme, I love Alexander McQueen.

What are some of your favorite movies to watch for inspiration?

Liza: I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s and all of the Hitchcock films. While at Drexler University, I studied his films and fell in love with the fashions that were used. For my new collection, I have also been researching anything to do with the Harlem Renaissance.

What celebrities would you love to see wearing your designs?

Liza: I would love to see Rihanna in something I’ve designed. I love her edginess and how she can rock anything with confidence. Other celebrities would be Naomi Campbell and Halle Berry.

What’s next for Vintage Blue?

Liza: Vintage Blue will always be my focus, but I am working on a new line that will involve more boutique-like pieces such as dresses and high-waisted pants. The pieces would reflect things that I would wear or buy. I’m really excited about the line and can’t wait for our customers to see it!

Check out her line of T-shirts and totes at their website

This interview was conducted by BostonFab! Fashion Correspondent Ebony Glass