I started Collina Strada in college and have been working in the industry ever since. I’m also a mom to a small dog, which is not really being a mother, I realize that. But he did have his teeth pulled yesterday, so I feel very mom because I have to give him medication every day.
Because I felt so unfulfilled fashionably growing up, I continue to dress and design for all my inner child needs.
I’ve been in New York since 2010—I live in Williamsburg and my studio’s in Chinatown. I’ve always been fashion obsessed. Growing up in the ’90s in Palos Verdes, it was very hard to express yourself in terms of style. There weren’t as many clothing options. It was all mall stores—we were kind of run by huge corporations. I always wanted better options. I don’t think my family really understood that, so that sensibility wasn’t nurtured, in a way. I think my experience is very visible in my work now: Because I felt so unfulfilled fashionably growing up, I continue to dress and design for all my inner child needs.
I don’t like authority. I think that also shows in my work.
Growing up, if you weren’t a doctor or a lawyer or in finance, it wasn’t a job. I never even really knew I wanted to work in fashion. I knew I liked fashion, but it didn’t really click until I dropped out of college. I went to Loyola Marymount, which is a Catholic school, and I’m very much not religious. I had a problem with one teacher. We were learning Shakespeare, and they were talking about how “it’s about the church.” And I remember being like, “Hm, is it, though?” And we got into a big fight, and I eventually dropped out. I don’t like authority. I think that also shows in my work a little bit.
It was a huge thing, and my parents weren’t happy. But I made the case for fashion school. I was working in a clothing store at the time, and it just made sense. They wanted me to get at least some type of degree, I guess.
Collina Strada is a place in fashion that makes its own rules, likes to push boundaries, and do things slightly differently.
I started out as a handbag designer. I was interning in the design studio of a fashion brand in L.A., and I made this sort of slouchy, hobo handbag for myself. Everyone kept asking, “Oh my god, where did you get that bag?” So I built a five-piece bag collection and took it to market and it sold. I had older friends in the industry from work, and I was also a bit of an L.A. party girl, so I had a lot of opportunities in that way. I would show up to nightclubs with the bag, and then people would buy it. I mean, I just wanted to have fun and look hot doing it. I’m kidding. That was a line from a movie I made—The Collinas. I was really fortunate in my twenties. I worked with some pretty big stores from a very young age.
Collina Strada is a place in fashion that makes its own rules, likes to push boundaries, and do things slightly differently. We focus on climate awareness, social awareness, change, and self-expression. And it’s finally been accepted into the industry for these moves.
We source deadstock fabrics from all over the U.S. We also use a lot of rose silk, which is a silk-alternative made from rose cellulose fibers. Right now, we’re working with Vitelli. He uses all upcycled yarns—yarns that could never make a full production run—and mixes them all together to create one knit. That’s yarn that otherwise would have ended up in the garbage, which is amazing. We basically just try to gather the resources to make what we can. And when we run out of fabric, then there’s next season. There is new shit that’s made very ethically—it’s just very expensive—and then there’s new shit made out of old shit. There are lots of options. I think when brands don’t operate this way, it’s out of laziness, or because of money. That’s unfortunately just the way it works.
We try to cast a huge variety of types of humans. Old, young, tall, small, able-bodied, non-able bodied humans. I just try to make it as inclusive—such an overused word—as possible through my eager community. Most of the people we cast either follow the brand, or I know them, or they asked me to be in the show. I find the people who ask, who really want to be there, can embody the spectacle of the show a bit more.
I meet people through friends. I find people on Instagram. One time we cast a girl I found in a nightclub, a weird lesbian basement party in Ridgewood. Often it’s people whom I respect—either what they’re doing in the industry, or in their respective industries. But I never really ask someone unless I know they have an interest. Jeremy O. Harris, for instance, we follow each other on Instagram. He was like, “I love what you’re doing.” Then we put him in the Animorphs show. That’s kind of how it works. And he was so down and really performed, because he wanted to be there. It was his choice. He’s not doing it because he needs the money. He did it because he wanted to do it. It’s all very natural, which I think is why it’s so unique. The way we dress our models is a little bit different too. Most brands cast people for a specific look, but I usually build looks around the humans. I find this creates an environment where they really can embody the look. It speaks a little bit louder.
I’m always open to expanding my creativity, and I feel like mushrooms do that for me more than weed. Weed makes me tired.
I’m definitely not a party girl now. I used to smoke a lot of weed when I lived in L.A. That was just what we did in the early 2000s. Then I kind of stopped. I don’t really smoke much anymore, but I do use CBD sometimes, and I use it on my animals. I work so hard that I feel like, I don’t know, I barely drink anymore, too. I feel like I’m just trying to be living. However, I do microdose a lot of mushrooms. I’m always open to expanding my creativity, and I feel like mushrooms do that for me more than weed. Weed makes me tired.
My friend invests in the space and gives me mushroom gummies, so I use those. The bag always breaks so I just put them in a Ziploc. They’re great. I think everyone should do psychedelics if they want to. But, ultimately, it’s a choice. If you’re open to that experience, I think it can really be super grounding and super helpful.
I love being in nature, and I love being with animals. I feel like that really shows in my work. I’m vegan-flex because when you travel, it’s kind of impossible. I started about six years ago. It doesn’t feel right to eat meat anymore, in my opinion. I just choose not to be involved in the meat industry. Hopefully others decide to not, too. I think if you’re going to talk the talk, you should probably walk it, too. So I try to do that as best as I can.
I don’t think we need to grow, grow, grow to have a successful life or be happy.
I also try to be pretty grateful for where we are now, and happy. With small businesses, people are always trying to overachieve and project numbers. Like, “Next year, we need to double our money,” and then you’re not succeeding if that doesn’t happen. I feel like that’s a very unhealthy way to approach business, especially in this economy and with what’s going on around the planet. I don’t think we need to grow, grow, grow to have a successful life or be happy. I just want to continue to evolve, to allow myself to be able to create what I want to create in that moment. I feel the most fulfilled with the brand when I’m like, “I want to do this,” and I can actually achieve that financially with the brand.
When it comes to fashion, the bigger you get, the more it changes the type of product you’re allowed to make. But Collina is such a special brand. We don’t really need to do that. There’s just so much noise in the fashion industry—everyone’s making something. You don’t need to buy a little black dress from me. You can buy it somewhere else, you know what I mean? People should stay in their lane of what their strong suits are. That’s how you create the best product. I want these products to live for a long time, to sit in your closet, and be cherished. You really need to put a lot of special love and attention into each garment for people to also treat them that way.
If I am going to dedicate my existence to doing something, I want to dedicate it in a way that at least it means something.
This industry is relentless. If you don’t love it, and you don’t want to be at work every day, I don’t think you can do it. It is so much work, and it is your life. I don’t think it will ever change. It’s what we sign up for, because we love it and because we can’t do anything else. This is the only thing that I want to do. But I think that if I am going to dedicate my existence to doing something, I want to dedicate it in a way that at least it means something. I know art and creation obviously mean something, but I don’t think I would feel fulfilled if it was just that. And that’s where our mission comes in.
We recently launched our ethical Collina Land Marketplace, which is where we sell collaborative products and sustainable lifestyle products from other brands across wellness, beauty, and home. We’re trying to evolve that even more across different categories. I just want to give my customers more opportunities to live the lifestyle that we’re preaching. There’s a lot of space for everyone in this world, and I think if you’re going to be creating a movement, then community is everything. The whole point is community, and the whole point is to do the right thing. So if we’re getting other people to do the right thing, then we’ve succeeded, right?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Hillary Taymour photographed by Jingyu Lin in her Manhattan office. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.