Lickyboy was born about a year ago when its founder, Ava Ray, discovered in crochet an opportunity to review Mexican culture and translate it into colourful creations that have left no one indifferent since the brand came to light. A conversation about how tradition and cultural heritage participate in the emergence of new trends full of potential. The implementation of old techniques with a new perspective gives rise to an artisan project knitted by the hands of five women involved in production, resulting in a product 100% physically and spiritually made in Mexico.
Let's start from the beginning, where does the name Lickyboy come from?
Lickyboy was the name of my cat growing up. He was black with green eyes and I named him after my favorite candy, Licorice. When my sister was a baby, she couldn’t pronounce his name, so she started calling him Lickyboy and we all followed. I just thought it was a cute name. And I like to keep everything in the family!
Lickyboy is defined as a knitwear brand, something that we can see reflected in all its garments made from crochet. Why did you decide to rescue this artisanal technique?
It happened by accident, really! I had gone home for the holidays and was really bored, so I pulled out the sewing machine I had gotten as a teenager but had never really used. I started making clothes from patterns. When I got back to Mexico, I wanted to continue making my own outfits but couldn’t afford a sewing machine. I always liked crochet and how it looked but never found actual outfits that I thought were cute. Around this time, I saw a photo of a vintage sweater and skirt set and thought, if I couldn’t get a sewing machine, I could try to learn to crochet and make something like that outfit. I found a yarn company I liked and started watching Youtube tutorials and slowly taught myself to crochet. It was quite frustrating at first, but once I got better at it, it became really calming.
Crochet, knitting, and embroidery are really present in Mexico. You see lots of handmade sweaters and baby clothes for sale in stores and at street stalls. There’s a group of women who get together around the corner from my house on Tuesday evenings and sit in plastic chairs and embroider together. It’s so cool. Mexico has such a strong artisan presence. After I had learned the basics, I met a woman, Patricia, who makes and sells baby clothes at the market near my house. She started giving me lessons and helped me put together the first crochet set.
It is undeniable that it’s not only a brand based in Mexico but the garments breathe Mexican craftwork. However, we find that its founder comes from California, what connects you with Mexico?
I grew up in San Francisco and moved to Buenos Aires when I was 19 to go to university. I studied Latin American literature at the University of Buenos Aires and lived there for seven years. I was obsessed with Juan Rulfo, a Mexican writer who published two works in the ‘50s. His stories don’t take place in the city, but they got me interested in moving here anyway. During that time, friends of mine had moved to Mexico City and I came to visit and just loved it. After that visit, I planned to move here as soon as I finished school.
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You taught yourself to crochet watching online tutorials, what motivated you to learn?
I just felt like making my own clothing at that time. I still do! If I’m not wearing Lickyboy or something vintage, I have most of my clothes handmade by a seamstress. I’m not a great sewer, but I like to find the patterns and the fabrics myself. Then, you never run the risk of someone else wearing what you’re wearing! And with crochet specifically, I felt like it had so much potential and was so underused. It’s amazing, it’s essentially just a series of knots, but you can make an entire outfit from them.
How did you discover that crochet has potential in contemporary fashion?
When I started crocheting, I had no intention of doing it as something that would turn into a business or thought about as something that other people would want. I made my first outfit for myself just for fun, but every time I’d wear it out, I’d get so much attention. I’d get into parties I wasn’t invited to, skip lines, get into clubs for free, lots of free drinks, and everyone would ask where I had gotten my outfit and if I did custom orders. I started working on a pattern and different designs, and it went from there!
Kate Spade, Isabel Marant or Dior are some of the brands that have bet for crochet in their Spring/Summer collections, do you think that it’s just a trend or is it possible that crochet will become a common technique such as embroidery?
I hope it does! The response we’ve gotten so far has been so positive, I think people really love seeing it used in a different way. Crochet is such a versatile technique, you can do so much with it. Usually, it’s something you’d get at the beach to throw over your swimsuit, I think that’s why the response to Lickyboy has been so great. We’re using a really old technique in a different way.
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Cultural heritage is gaining territory in the fashion world; we can see that Lickyboy designs are influenced by Mexican popular culture, from the colours of the day to the popsicles sold at Michoacana, what’s the value that this heritage provides to the brand?
I think it’s hard not to be influenced by your surroundings. I bring my dog, Limon, everywhere with me, so we walk a lot around the city. Mexico’s such a colorful city, and I think people here have an innate gift with colors. I take lots of photos when I’m out and look through them when I’m drawing. I love the hand-painted signs here, even newer businesses continue to hand paint signs rather than having something printed. It looks so much nicer! And even the colors of the houses, the candle shops, the fruit stalls… everything’s displayed in this very beautiful way.
All the pieces are handmade, would you like to maintain a craft project or do you think that to progress in the market it’ll be necessary to industrialize it?
I definitely want to maintain the handmade aspect, but I’m open to exploring doing other designs on machines as well. Paying fair wages to the women I work with is really important to me. I know firsthand the time that goes into making these pieces, and while the women making them now have way more experience than I do and can make the pieces a lot quicker than I can, it’s still a very time-consuming process. That being said, the cost of production is high and that’s reflected in the retail price. Girls write to me all the time saying they’re saving up to buy a set. I’d love to work on pieces that are more accessible. We’re working on smaller pieces as well, which are still handmade but require less time to produce. We’re coming out with swimwear really soon and more home items.
A team of five Mexican women make all the garments following a traditional artisan process. Do the fibres used also come from Mexico?
Yes, the yarn used to make all our clothes comes from Mexico and is 100% cotton.
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All garments are custom made and they take about two weeks to be ready. In a world in which we are used to consuming impulsively, do you think that this process might have slowed down the demand or does the consumer value the product even more?
It’s definitely possible, but I also think it adds value to the pieces and makes people appreciate them more. I think, in general, we’re pretty unaware of where our clothing comes from and all the aspects that go into making it, but I think as the effects of climate change are becoming more and more evident, people are starting to question what and how they consume. It’s pretty amazing to wear something completely handmade, it feels so different and looks a lot cuter.
Due to its production process, do you consider it luxury clothing?
I think in terms of the production process, definitely. It takes about ten days to produce each piece from start to finish. And each piece, due to its handmade nature, is unique. All of the women who make the pieces have their own technique and style, so each one is really one-of-a-kind.
The brand is only one year old, how has the crowd responded to Lickyboy's proposal so far?
It’s been amazing. I made my first outfit for myself just over a year ago but didn’t start selling until September of last year. We’re really, really small still, it’s just me and the women who produce the pieces, so I think it’s crazy sometimes when I get messages for editorials from magazines I grew up reading or celebrity requests; I’m like, how did you even find us?!
Which advice would you give to someone who wants to present a new proposal to the fashion world?
I don’t feel like I have enough experience to give anyone advice. It’s been a process of trial and error, and a bit of luck! The only thing I keep in mind is whether or not I’d wear the piece. Do I feel cute in it? Do I want to go out dancing in it? For the homewear pieces we’re working on now, it’s a question of whether it’s something I’d want to look at every day. It’s very personal in that sense. So I think if you’re going to do something in fashion or design, keep it personal and original. What’s the point if you’re just copying others? It’s so boring.
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