Livia Torres - Designer of Pakera
I have been so incredibly fortunate to have met some truly special and unique humans (and some animals too!) who have become such a treasured part of my New York story. I consider Livia Torres to be a central part of that list.
I met Livia while we were studying for our Master’s at the Fashion Institute of Technology, so she was also one of the first real friends I made in the city and I’ll always be grateful for that. I’m constantly in awe and have so much admiration for her and the contribution she makes to the world. She is uniquely, unapologetically and beautifully true to herself. She is courageous, audacious, endlessly talented and one of the hardest workers you’ll meet.
Growing up in and around São Paulo, Brazil, she ran her own fashion label, Amonstro, in the city for eight years. She then moved to the US where she completed two Master’s degrees and was a stylist and creative producer in New York. These pursuits eventually led her to start her jewelry label in January 2015 and I’m proud to say I was gifted one of the first iterations of an early Pakera earring (she was doing the solo earring before it was even a thing).
I have been so proud to watch as Livia has grown Pakera into a brand that is so beloved and means so much to so many. Her pieces have been worn by celebrities and mortals alike and they stand out for their colorful and cheeky qualities.
Livia talked to me about how the line got started and how she eventually took a lot of motivation from being told along her journey that she wasn’t good enough and that she wouldn’t succeed. It’s a theme that I know resonates with many and I hope Livia’s constructive use of that feedback can serve as inspiration.
What I love most about Livia is that she thinks anything is possible. She sets big goals for herself and she follows through, putting in the hard work that it takes to achieve them. In taking Pakera to the next level, she recently traveled to India for inspiration, to source materials and to meet with manufacturers. She intended to stay for a month, but she ended up staying for two because that’s what she knew she needed to do and that’s a testament to her incredible character.
I can’t wait to watch as Pakera continues to grow. Here is Livia’s story in her own words.
How did Pakera get started?
My background is in fashion design and I had a clothing brand in Brazil since I was 21 years old. I stepped away from that and moved to New York in 2012 to get my Master’s at FIT and was living in Brooklyn. After graduating I started working as a production manager for a home wear company where I honed my problem-solving skills to execute many projects using different materials, for different designers.
Through this process, I discovered that production is something that I love, but it was an interesting and challenging time in my career. I felt unsatisfied as a creator and was still acclimating to the cultural change in New York. I also had to push through some external feedback that I wouldn’t succeed, and that almost fueled me even more to drive my own success.
Despite not being satisfied artistically in my job at the time, I was learning a lot about production and materials and making great contacts with suppliers. One day I was coming back from a factory in Midtown and walked past a trimming store where I found some nice Indian inspired beads. I just got all the stock the store had available, got some tools, went home and in my free time would spend hours testing and assembling some earrings for myself. I guess that is how it all started.
“I would say that my inspiration is mostly the challenges we face in order to feel enough, complete. The love we have for ourselves, for others and often the pain that comes with it.”
Is there a muse behind Pakera? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Pakera has a meaning in Brazil, it’s a play on our word PAQUERA, which means "flirting" or a "fling". When I’m designing Pakera I always think about strong and independent women who embody this playful and powerful energy. The whole process became a way for me to deepen my own belief in myself, to feel enough the way I am and that’s what I want to share with the women who connect with the brand.
I would say that my inspiration is mostly the challenges we face in order to feel enough, complete. The love we have for ourselves, for others and often the pain that comes with it.
Since Pakera has this meaning of flirtiness, I tried to build the brand story around this theme of love and the color and emotion that come along with it. I just try to incorporate this in my designs in a light, flirty, and funky way which is true to my Latin background.
What does the brand mean to you?
Today it means everything and I feel it is quite an accomplishment! After 2 years working for other brands in New York and doing Pakera on the side, I decided last year to dedicate myself to Pakera 100% of the time. I don’t have anyone working for me, I do it all: design, produce, shoot, make the website, Instagram, talk to customers and vendors.
I had no resources to hire people to work for me and I had an aesthetic vision that is very authentic. Those who know me know that Pakera is very connected with my lifestyle. The brand has grown much more than 100% within last year and I still do everything. It's so important to have the feedback from all areas in the processes of the brand, but now I have a new challenge which is to ask for help from others (I'm very controlling so it’s hard!), but I just started training an assistant to help me, because my demand has grown so much!
What do you hope your customers take away from the brand? How do you want them to feel when they're wearing a Pakera piece?
What I like about Pakera is that my accessories make women be sure they are beautiful, empowered and special and that’s the beauty of it all to me. You know, we often doubt ourselves for so many reasons. Because people tell us we are not good enough, because we have challenges in life, because we have a broken heart.....you know. My customers often message me after their purchases saying that they feel so good wearing the pieces and that they make them feel so good about themselves - this is everything to me.
What has been your proudest moment so far in running the business?
I think the acceptance of the pieces by my clients - and the messages they write every time they get something; this personal connection and feedback makes me so proud.
What has been your most challenging moment and how have you overcome it?
I would say adjusting the logistics to make the business have an international reach. It’s still a work in progress, but every day I accomplish a step that takes me closer to a smooth process.
When you’re buying jewelry for yourself, what draws you to a piece?
Strong and statement handmade pieces, traditional jewelry from different cultures
What significance does jewelry play in your life?
My mom loves jewelry and values a lot the meaning of family jewelry and for sure she has passed this tradition along to me
What is your absolute favorite/most special piece of jewelry and what's the story behind it?
My favorite piece of jewelry is a gold heart shaped heart charm with the initial "C" in diamonds that my mom has used in her neck her entire life. I cannot think of a picture of my mom when she was younger without that piece. A few years ago, she gave me the piece and I cannot live without it. I even have a story of an episode I had one time in which I forgot it on the treadmill at the gym and couldn’t find it anymore. So, I asked everyone and ended up making a drawing of the piece in a banner, made tons of copies and attached everywhere at the gym. The manager wanted to kill me, but l found the necklace with this charm!
What, if anything, have you learned about life/love/family/self/relationships through jewelry?
To keep the connection with my heritage
What super powers does jewelry give you?
To be strong and connected with yourself
Where are your favorite places to shop for jewelry?
Pakera? HAHA I’m kidding.....I would say good vintage shops
Who are some other designers you love?
Ambush!! Love her work