Hidden Figures - Ria Thomas & Jaymz Nylon
by Max Slade·
Ria Giuliano Thomas and Jaymz Nylon have always been a dream team since meeting in 1998. Their shared vision for an environmentally conscious world is crystal clear, both through their work separately, while also together in the form of LivAble studios. Focused on repurposing deadstock fabric and collaborating with a variety of like-minded artists, the pair are just beginning to define LivAble studios’ legacy.
Our lead writer Max Slade sat down with the two to discuss their experience in the fashion and music industry, their evolution into LivAble studios, and their plans for the brand moving forward.
Ria, you are a Creative Fashion Executive, which I think makes sense in line with this venture. I know you’re accomplished a lot in different places, but what job specifically led you in this direction?
Ria: After Design school, I started my career in Australia as a buyer which launched my passion for retail. I have always wanted to have a lifestyle store and it just evolved over the years. After sparking my inner entrepreneur - creating my streetwear brand, Spin (which sold in Australia, Japan & USA) I gained some attention that led me to New York to design a line for Lauryn Hill from the Fugees. Unfortunately they broke up - I continued to build & grow apparel brands for leading Contemporary Designers and retailers here in New York, California & Seattle. Each job sharpened my skills and I evolved personally as well as professionally, so they all led me to this.
The pandemic was the catalyst for change. Being here in New York at the height of it all was so intense. I was tired of the toxicity, the uncaring attitude of the fashion industry towards the environment and its workers. I wanted to be part of the solution. Supporting women led business, artisans, artists, BIPOC and working with small factories is the heart of what LivAble studios is - balanced with the pure love of being creative in numerous forms.
Jaymz, however, you’re involved with the music industry. You’re known as the “God Father of Afro Tech,” so I’d be really interested in hearing a little bit about that from your perspective, sort of how you have transitioned into this field?
Jaymz: After college, I became a flight attendant for American Airlines, landing in Manhattan to pursue a career in the music and fashion industries. I immersed myself into the most fantastic city on earth - transitioning into retail merchandising. In the early 1990s, it all started to click; I was discovered on the streets of Soho by British/French photographer Philippe McClelland to model for the UK Denim Brand Hardcore Jeans part of the Pepe Group. This chance meeting led to modeling gigs for the famed Details Magazine, the infamous Face Magazine, The New York Times Style Magazine, and Reebok, to name a few.
While modeling, I started promoting outlaw parties as this was the pre-rave era, co-founding the stellar Nylon parties with my partner and UK immigrant, the gifted DJ Steve McMahon. To preempt starting our planned Nylon Recordings imprint, I signed my first single in 1993 on the legendary Tribal America Records and in 2000 my ground breaking ”Afrotech” album was released on Irma records.
I am grateful for the opportunity having to record for some of the best New York, UK and Italian labels and be in a position to share the talents of so many great artists that are part of the Nylon Family. Being and seasoned entrepreneur has groomed me in all aspects of what is needed to build a brand.
Why “livable studios”?
Ria & Jaymz: We’ve always had fashion, art and music in our home, and home life is important to us, so LivAble studios was perfect. Curating ethical products that add a sense of value to your everyday life, hand-made, sustainable and totally functioning. Make life more LivAble! We started with coffee as that’s how we start the day, we want to be able to move through the day with you, with an edited view. Each piece should have more meaning and value. We haven’t even touched the surface yet. We are at an infant stage! It’s given us the freedom to create capsules and be as flexible as we want. Say we wanna do a line of luxury sweatshirts, giving a large portion of that to support mental health and under-served communities who don’t have access, it gives us the ability to do so.
Jaymz: It was just about time that we got a do-over, and we had the chance to do things in a new way. Ending up here was the perfect evolution because LivAble studios allows us to build some generational wealth which a lot of Americans don’t have the opportunity to do. As well as give back to important social & environmental causes while supporting small business.
Follow up for both of you guys. How would you soundtrack your LivAble studios pieces? What kind of music do you feel would best accompany them?
We’re with you from the beginning to the end of your day. In the morning, it could be “Catch Me In The Morning” by Diana Ross. The variety is there... it could be old soul, it could be new Hip-Hop, it could be adult contemporary, it could be anything. As long as it's soulful and it’s a well- written song that stimulates you, it doesn’t have to be one genre. Often the playlist has a focus, say women artists or music from a specific time period, or a particular shared message, relating to current events.
It’s super noticeable to me how small scale you’ve kept your business - meaning each item is given an unmatched level of care and attention. Speaking about your ceramic products specifically, how did your relationship with Frost come about?
Ria: Chris Frost is someone who’s been loved in the fashion industry for years & we have worked together over these years. The pandemic affected his business like many others, during lockdown he cultivated his love for ceramics & decided to make a life change & follow his heart. I asked him if he would collaborate on a few pieces for LivAble as we had just started on the coffee (first things first) and that’s how we began - we plan on adding other ceramic artisans & more tabletop items as we grow.
Could you talk to me a little bit about how Harvey Street Social brought your pillow designs to life?
Jaymz: To know Ria, you gotta know that she loves a pillow. Throughout our marriage, the pillows I’ve seen and laid on...
Ria: I do love a pillow! Harvey Street Social had not long started - we had a great working relationship in a previous job. We align on many environmental & social issues as well as creatively. Again, the pandemic affected so many people’s lives and wreaked havoc in the apparel business. I asked if interested in collaborating with me on exclusive designs for LivAble - we work in the same way we did when I was her director, it’s a seamless easy relationship and I really enjoy our collaboration.
I’m inspired by a lot of things - I want to create modern pieces that are able to stand the test of time. It’s also important that our products work together. Even though they are coming from different locations around the world they all make sense in the home together. This enables you to be able to build on what you already have.
In addition to the sustainable side of your products, I think it's also really important to note your interest in environmental and social issues.
Ria: It’s important to us to give back - we plan on contributing to more causes we are passionate about as we grow.
Jaymz: When I chose Embrace Race in the height of the pandemic and the BLM movement, it was a natural choice when you look at people to give to: children. No one was thinking of little humans as far as racism goes. In order for us to truly evolve and for this do-over to work, you have to start with the youth.
Dealing with racial and social issues within communities translates to financial equality, food security and more opportunity. There is so much work to be done! I couldn’t find any other companies that are like theirs, and it resonated with me.
You can also browse our LivAble studios collection here.