Fashion designer Allina Liu is changing the game with her dreamy, ethereal garments

Allina Liu (@allina.liu) is an NYC-based fashion designer whose romantic ensembles feature sensuous intimations “perpetually inspired” by her influences, because unlike many other designers, Liu’s inspirations have stayed the same throughout her design career. On this episode of In The Know: Style Changemakers, Liu shares how she brings traditionally feminine elements from the Regency era and 17th-century Dutch portraiture into her designs, and uses them as a way to explore sexuality and sexual expression. 

“There’s a lot of straps and nods to BDSM,” says Liu about her work. “Everyone thinks it’s always really sweet, you know, girly, and there’s a darker side to it.” 

Growing up in a traditional Chinese household, sexuality wasn’t something that was discussed in Liu’s family. Now, she uses her designs as a way to explore what was an off-limits topic when she was younger. Instead of incorporating traditional design elements from her heritage, such as mandarin collars, Liu derives inspiration from questions “about how to explore sexuality and where that comes from.” 

With respect to Liu’s design process beyond the conceptual, it all begins pen to paper. “I’ll start a mood board. I’ll do my sketches indicative of what I’m feeling, and then I stare at color for months,” Liu shares. “Color is so important to me because my strength does not lie in print mixing or color blocking. If it’s one fabric, it’s that fabric.” 

As for Liu’s business approach in the ever-changing fashion industry, she attributes her success to trusting her instincts and “designing core pieces” that transcend trends and will endure season after season. She notes that once her sense of self became stronger in her thirties, so too did her design convictions, resulting in a business that’s “stronger than ever.” 

Ultimately, Liu wants her customers to feel happy when wearing her designs. “Having a piece in your closet that makes you really happy on some really tough days can change your outlook,” shares Liu. “There’s a lot of empowerment that comes from clothing and dressing yourself.” 

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