Olivia Fleming, blogger, designer, and much more, has put her all into her brand, French Funk. Both her and her brand are extraordinary and she seeks to change lives while doing what she loves. Although she has faced her share of hardships, she is clearly stronger than the obstacles and pushes forward toward her goals.
Q: What compelled you to start your brand French Funk? How about your blog?
A: Both my site and my brand were triumphs over two life altering obstacles I faced in my past. It seems to just be a part of my personality to challenge fate and create a new, even brighter future for myself when presented with something that seems impossible to defeat. But that’s a lesson in of itself, that we can either get up and move the boulder, or be forever blocked by it...
My blog began when I developed severe cystic acne at the age of 11. My entire summer between the grades of 6 and 7 were spent in 13 doctors offices in LA, all of whom had no answer for me, as mine was the worst and earliest case of acne they had ever seen. Even the doctors from across the world were suggesting drastic means of approach that we couldn’t even imagine, and Accutane was out of the question because of my fragile health system and depression levels at the time as well. I finally found a determined dermatologist who gave me a steady medical routine, but it wasn’t enough on its own. After years of research, my mother found that my diet was the one true answer, and from that point on, I have been gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and 100% organic. My mom also suggested that I should start a blog to document my journey and help people who were having health epidemics, and only found dead ends with drugs. The rest is history, and I am now acne free and running a professional, full time online fashion blog-- and I've never been happier.
My brand, French Funk sprung from a time of personal darkness, pain, and suffering, when I was recovering from a traumatic brain injury via a concussion I suffered last January (a year later still recovering). I had a 24 hour migraine that lessened at nothing and only got worse as the days went on. I couldn’t go to school, do any exercise, work, or much of anything at all. It was recommended I just stay in a dark room and paint, draw, or play music. So I started sketching. My visions were influenced by classic Chanel and 90’s grunge, and soon I had a collection of strange figures with bold shoulder pads, drenched in black and white. I also sketched a logo for my visions, a logo I later photographed, and a month later my vision was online. Now French Funk is a fully functioning online vintage store, 100% for charity. I hope to soon be able to manufacture my own designs, but until then I am happy to be selling vintage to help change people’s lives.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: My personal style is always morphing. A few years ago I was vintage chic, then it morphed into complete boho, then grunge, and now parisian chic with a mix of 70’s style splashed in. There are always ways to dress up or dress down an outfit, but most days you will find me in wide leg trousers, a dark turtleneck, big glasses, and a long double breasted coat, via the timeless muse of personal fashion.
Q: Who are your favorite designers?
A: I, of course love Coco Chanel’s feminine statements and effortless class, but also really respect Marc Jacobs for always adding an edgy twist to his designs.
Q: What’s your biggest achievement?
A: I would say my biggest achievement thus far is being able to give money from my store to help sponsor a young girl’s brain surgery. It was an amazing experience to see her safely come out of two brain surgeries that I had helped her pay for. I just want to help people, and so every day is a chance to achieve something great just by giving small things of kindness to everyone.
Q: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Don’t worry about what everyone says or thinks. I’ve always been an outsider, and so plagued with the common protagonists of my kind: bullies. But most people are bullies in their own way, and even bullies are bullied. All you can do is to be kind and bravely walk into the fire.
Q: How do you hope to inspire and help other women?
A: The original mission statement for my blog was: I want everyone to be their true, beautiful selves-- for you are all beautiful. Dealing with an external impediment really effected my self esteem. The acne seemed to be a part of me that would never go away, rendering me ugly against my will. No matter how much people said they didn’t even notice it, I did, and it ate away at me for a little while, until I finally surfaced and discovered my beauty, inside and out. I don’t at all think everyone needs to be “beautiful” to be a fit and wonderful member of society, infact I disagree with a lot of our modern estimates of beauty. I, instead, believe that everyone is beautiful, and should be free to be themselves, no matter what they look like, because they are innately beautiful in every sense of the word.
Q: What kinds of things inspire your designs?
A: My designs are greatly inspired by the meshing of mens and womenswear, and bold contrasts between classic and modern. I seem to design in paradoxes, but it all comes out quite well in the end.
Q: What is one thing you wish you knew about fashion before you started French Funk?
A: Never be disappointed. Adapt. If it doesn’t go right the first time, keep going or change direction, but never abandon the course ahead. A business goes in rollercoaster rides, a surge up, a cascade down. Set deadlines but don’t be glued to them. Keep growing, and even if no one else likes it, you always should.
Q: What tips would you give to other young women trying to start their own brand?
A: Do your research, and be fearless. Keep yourself guarded and roll with the punches-- because they always come. Have a vision and make others see it too. Always make your creation for the betterment of the world, not just yourself, and you will find not just success, but fulfillment.
Q: Can you tell us more about your Clothes for Change mission?
A: Clothes for Change is the embodiment of what I want French Funk to create in this world: change. I give all my proceeds to help different causes both in my community and across the world. I want to manufacture and package all French Funk products completely sustainably, as I am also a die hard environmentalist. Clothes for change; fashion for a better world.
Fun fact! Olivia is also a singer-songwriter and her new album, Out of My Mind, will be launching on iTunes this January!
It's very clear to see what a strong and inspiring young woman Olivia is. I think we should all try to follow her example by living the way we want to no matter what anyone says! Don't let anything hold you back! If you would like to stay updated with the most recent inspiring interviews, follow me!
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Photos of Olivia by Michelle Gross
French Funk photo by Kirby Russell