Judith Harris Solomon Special to the Jewish News
Local designer Olivia Rita Oram is following her dreams.
Slim and trim with a sweet face, velvety brown eyes and glossy brown hair, Bloomfield Hills-based fashion designer Olivia Rita Oram exudes an Audrey Hepburn-ish kind of vibe. And it turns out the 28-year-old is not just beautiful, she is also extremely talented.
From the time she was a child, Oram clearly remembers watching her grandmother, Sabiha, make clothes right in front of her and began creating clothes for herself while still a young teen. “I would make them with whatever I could find,” she says. “I remember taking apart pants from my closet, then cutting them up and hand-stitching the pieces into a skirt. And once I got a sewing machine at the age of 18 I taught myself how to make everything, including my own patterns.”
In 2010, at the age of 20, Oram entered a 10-week design contest that was sponsored by Tide Plus Febreze Freshness Sport. Entrants were asked to design an outfit for tennis pro Venus Williams to wear when she played at the U.S. Open that year. By the end of the 10-week contest, more than 35,000 entries were submitted. Then, after studying the submissions of 60 finalists, the tennis star declared Oram’s design the winner, calling it “very New York, very classy, very pretty and very Venus.” She wore the design in round two of the tournament.
As a result of winning the contest, Olivia received a trip for two to New York (including airfare and hotel), $5,000, tickets to see Williams compete in the U.S. Open wearing the winning design, an autographed picture of Williams wearing the design, autographed tennis balls plus social media and TV exposure, which included a mention on the Today show.
Venus Williams has continued to show interest in Oram to this day. “She follows me on Twitter and Instagram, keeps up with my design videos on my YouTube page and watches my stories on Instagram,” the designer says.
In 2011, Olivia was chosen a runner-up finalist in a Go Sleeveless Fashion Challenge sponsored by Dove. As a result, she was rewarded with tons of Dove products and was also featured on a billboard in Times Square that included a photo of her wearing that winning design.
Four years later, in 2015, the prolific designer launched OLIVIANCIO, her own clothing line of custom-made as well as pre-made pieces including shawls, infinity scarves, skirts, tops, shorts, dresses, wraps, pants, headbands and jewelry.
Recent additions to the line include men’s accessories such as sports caps and handmade bow ties as well as unisex baseball caps, tennis visors and beanies. Each hat features the distinctive OLIVIANICO logo that she also designed.
Oram says she creates her designs while working from a sewing desk at the Bloomfield Hills home she still shares with her parents. “I spend about 25-plus hours a week on OLIVIANCIO-related stuff,” she says. “And, at fashion show time, I spend more than 40 hours a week working on pieces and getting the shows together.”
Oram is currently busy designing clothes and jewelry for the eight to 10 models who will be working the January 2019 Detroit Auto Show. “I have showcased my designs in the last four Detroit Fashion Week fashion shows,” she says, “three of which were staged on the opening night of the auto show for Main Event20.”
Oram has also been involved with charity fashion shows. One was for SPANCO, a charity devoted to helping people in Ghana. The other was for Hands on Haiti, a charity that raises funds for people and projects in Haiti. She’s currently working on another fashion show for them that will occur this fall.
Olivia’s creations have been featured in several publications, including USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Neighborhood SEEN magazine and more.
The designer says her greatest success so far has been launching her own clothes line. “A lot of people talk about their dreams and aspirations as a child but find themselves on different paths in later life,” she says. “I am so glad I focused on my dream and went for it. I couldn’t be happier at what I have achieved in fashion.”