Photos by Ryan Michael Louie
Intwined is a fresh accessories company that "seeks to combine two elements that fundamentally clash, but when paired together, are a match made in heaven." Designer Jenn Liu chatted with us over the phone about her inspirations, her company, and the future of nerd chic.
Tell us about our background and how you got into designing?
I've always been into fashion, since high school I want to say. As a kid I was into crafts like origami ... just anything that's crafts -- I used to make cards. Getting into high school I got into fashion. After high school I went to San Jose State for a little bit, I majored in graphic design but then I transferred -- I think I was there for four semesters -- and then I transferred to Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandizing, and I majored in product development. I finished school there and after college I got into merchandizing with Levi's and worked there for a little bit.
I got laid off last June. How I started with this whole thing was I made a bow tie for my boyfriend at the time, for his birthday, and a lot of my friends liked it, so I started making it as a hobby. After I got laid off I just decided I might as well try to make a side business for fun and make some money on the side. I kind of redesigned the pattern so you can see two different textiles and it just started off there. I started off with the bow ties and then I started making hair clips because one of my friend's daughters passed and I wanted to make something for her. And slowly I just made more and more things and just added to my line.
Do you do this full time? Is this your "main thing"?
Right now it's my full time.
Did you have to learn to make this in school or is this something you just figured out?
I figured it out on my own as far as the bow ties. I found a pattern and then just did my own thing to figure it out. With school it just taught me the basics like how to do sketching and pattern making and this… was just something I stumbled upon and just took it upon myself to learn… making a pattern and everything.
Are you going to make other things besides bow ties and hair clips?
I make cuff links, bow ties, head bands, rings, and hair clips, and I'm planning on also making head pieces. The head pieces I actually play with chain and other materials.
As a young designer with a relatively small label for now, what are your biggest obstacles just trying to get out there?
Definitely income (laughs). Income is always an issue, a factor. I've been doing this or about a year and it's just hard. I'm in a few boutiques but it's also a struggle of how mainstream would I want to get, how many boutiques can I get into and a lot of the boutiques are consignment… It's just a hard thing to get into and actually call it a career.
Where do you get inspirations for your designs?
Fabric stores actually. I just go into fabric stores and I just look around and basically anything that catches my eye I pick up and I try to match that fabric with something else. I guess that's where my talent lies. I have an eye for fabrics, I have an eye to match textiles really well. I just love fabrics. I pair things that people won't think will match and I just make it work. So all of my inspirations is really driven from fabric stores and everyday what people wear. I'm very driven by streetwear.
The bow tie, "nerd chic" look is very in right now. Where do you see that trend going?
I think it's going to stick around for a little longer. The thing that I love about bow ties too is that I feel like it's one of those trends that will never hit a high peak. Not everyone is going to wear it and I kind of like that it's kept a little bit more underground where fashion savvy people wear it and just the older crew of people will wear it. Because I feel when fashion hits a peak it will go down. But I feel bow ties are such a classic look that it will never fade away, it will always be around and there will still be that certain group of people that will… appreciate it.
Do you have any plans to move into things beyond accessories?
I personally love designing but I'm not much of a pattern maker so if I were to design something it would probably be hiring someone to produce it, quite honestly. But I'm huge on women's fashion, I'm huge on cut-and-sew. I mean, probably down the line I would look into it but for now I'm going to stick with this and see where it goes and possibly open up a boutique.
What do you have planned for Mr. Hyphen?
I created five pieces and they're velcro, so they're all adjustable and I played with different materials -- I have silk, cotton, I have a lightweight vinyl pleather. And the colorways are black, red, and kind of like a beige. It's a little tougher too because it kind of crept up and I'm not pairing up with a male designer I'm just gauging it with the models' clothes and what they currently have in their closet … pairing it up with some basic stuff.