Bridging style, sustainability, and support—in her downtime

Actress Alysia Reiner and her cofounders at the fashion label Livari manage to make great design work for themselves and others

“Yes, this is a fish-leather skirt!” actress and activist Alysia Reiner proclaimed, gesturing at her ’90s-inspired black miniskirt as she stood in front of 150 people gathered at New York’s WeWork 1460 Broadway for the recent launch party of her Livari collaboration collection. “It’s from Brazil, from fish that’s been eaten,” she told the crowd. “[The skin] would have been thrown away—but no, [we said] let’s make cool products out of it.”

This sustainable ethos permeates every design from Livari, the ethical, zero-waste fashion label Reiner cofounded with stylist Claudine DeSola and designer and Women’s March organizer Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs. Their new collection showcases style and sustainability with every piece: ballet flats created in collaboration with Oka-B ($60) are made with Microplast, a recycled tmaterial; limited-edition fabric sleeves for sustainable glass straws designed in partnership with Simply Straws (from $20); a leather clutch made with Elvis & Kresse (£160) is crafted of leather scraps discarded by Burberry, reclaimed blankets made from material used in the printing industry; and hot orange parachute panels from discarded (actual) parachutes.

“Fashion is wearable art,” says Reiner, who works out of WeWork 8 W 126th St in New York. The actress, best known for her roles in Orange Is the New Black, The Deuce, and Better Things, developed an appreciation for fashion early in life. “My grandmother was a huge lover of clothing and would buy clothing from all over,” such as a piece of embroidery from Istanbul, Reiner recalls. “She really taught me about workmanship.” Her grandmother used to take her to the Piggy Bank Shop, a second-hand store in Westchester County, New York. “I learned about reusing and not having to buy new to find incredible things,” says Reiner.

Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, Alysia Reiner and Claudine DeSola

Today, as a stage/TV/film actress, she gets to work with top costume designers, like OITNB and Girls costumer Jenn Rogen. “[She] taught me how a character can be informed by a costume,” says Reiner. “Once she put me in stripes, saying, ‘You are like a ref in this scene.’”

Reiner’s passion for style and artistry brought her together with longtime friend DeSola—a stylist on OITNB, House of Cards, Jane the Virgin, Younger, and other shows—and St. Bernard-Jacobs shortly after the 2016 election. What began with a focus group of women talking about their favorite pieces of clothing evolved into their first Livari collection, a mixture of everyday and statement pieces with a practical twist (think pockets and adjustable waists).

When press coverage and reviews exceeded their expectations, the three cofounders—each balancing their respective first careers with their new venture—were faced with a serious question: “How do we sustain this idea?” After all, Reiner’s acting career shows no signs of slowing down; her next feature film, the comedy Egg, is due out in theaters and video on demand on Jan. 18.

The women soon found their answer: “We decided to do collaborations,” Reiner explains. With the added goal of incorporating a nonprofit component into every piece, the trio set out to find partners—and causes. The Oka-B-collaboration ballet flats give back to Still She Rises, which benefits incarcerated mothers (Reiner is on the board); the Livari-designed glass-straw sleeves benefit oceans organization Lonely Whale; and the leather clutch designed with Elvis & Kresse benefits Barefoot College, which specializes in training female solar engineers.

It all adds up to a brand that embodies so much of what Reiner believes in personally. “I think Alysia is very thoughtful about her platform, and she uses it to highlight clean living and speak about us having an impact in the world around us,” says St. Bernard-Jacobs.

Their recent pivot into collaborations has allowed the three women flexibility in more ways than one. They can tap categories such as lifestyle, jewelry, and activewear—and, through strategic partnerships with nonprofits, expand their mission. “Our goal is to be wherever people need us,” says Reiner, “to support charities and to be at the frontline of design—fearless and at the cutting edge.”

But where can we get a fish-leather skirt like hers? “Skirts are custom at this point,” Reiner says. “Being zero-waste, we don’t manufacture anything without a request.”

Photos by Scott Rosenthal

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