Although the idea of hand-knit, basket-woven pompoms typically beckons the image of dear old grandma and her sweaters made just in time for the holidays (and the obligatory smile and you shouldn’t have’s), in New York City, we find a Canadian Expat and designer with a contemporary approach to the tradition. Originally hailing from Vancouver, Tia Oliver’s carefully crafted crochet handbags and travel items are catching the eyes of fashionistas in the U.S. as well as back home in Canada. The signature pompoms, all-natural recycled materials, fine-wood detailing and intricate designs add a fashionable element to a skill that’s been customarily reserved for dear ol’ grandma.
For a Canadian designer living abroad, starting a business and being a creative professional can be a challenge. After graduating from Blanche McDonald school of Design in Vancouver, Tia’s interest in fashion lead her to the big apple, where the need for a skilled patternmaker is still a viable career option. Making her way in the city’s fashion industry, Tia landed a job with Reuben Reuel of Demestiks New York; a designer who’s skillfully cut drabs have been seen on celebrities like Beyoncé and Rihanna. For Tia, learning to crochet became a hobby that allowed her the freedom to work outside of someone else’s creative vision.
Just recently Tia launched her website, Oliver.Hand; where customers can make individual orders online, pick their favourite colours, customize their fabrics, and essentially design their very own product. The designs are innovative and the colours are bold and bright. Taking inspiration from Native American design patterns, expressive colour palettes, and infusing geometric forms that make each bag one of a kind. As a one-woman show, Tia crochets the bags herself in her Brooklyn studio or on the subway, the process to make each bag usually takes the designer a day or two to complete. For Tia, thinking inside the box allows her the ability to center her focus, and create the necessary drive through an outline of what makes the vision unique, where its value truly stems.
“Limiting myself to one essential product was in a way a freeing experience which is something that can only start as a seed and grow from there. It can’t be the other way around.”
The benefits of starting a business online allows her flexible access to her clients. The process has become a natural element for creative entrepreneurs that require an instant way to improve and showcase their product. For Tia, promoting an online start-up allows her access to an international community where a little exposure can create the necessary interest to launch trends. By using different platforms like Instagram, She’s able to sell her designs to folks in the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere. In this day in age, for a designer making her way through the land of e-commerce, it’s much less about the place to be than about simply being online.
“It’s easier to promote your work to people half-way around the world; it’s less about where you are, but what your ideas are, what you’re about, and who connects with you and what you have to offer, on a level that transcends locations.”
While many arrive in search for the experience and inspiration a different city offers, accessing your dreams may be harder than the place lets on. Living in the big apple confronted the designer with the need to define a creative outlet, that with enough talent, skills and drive, could become a reality. For this savvy Canadian Expat, the creative element woven in the fabric of New York City is the thread that ties her to the people that inspire her, even if crochet and New York seem worlds away.