Amber Tolliver

Photo: Robert Clyde Grima

Photo: Robert Clyde Grima

AGE || 33

Company Name || Liberté

Job Title || Founder and model

Company Start Date || January 2019

Years living in New York || 11

Social Handles || @Liberteny and @Ambertolliver on Instagram

Company Website || Liberté

What did you want to be when you were a child?

Since I was a little kid I wanted to be a fashion designer.

What is the most important thing you've learned since starting out?

There are no stupid questions [Laughs]. All jokes aside, I would say that perseverance really is so important. You're going to fall a million times and to get back up and to keep doing it is really what drives success and what make the biggest difference between you and somebody else.

How did you become interested in the intimates industry?

I think it came to me while I was on set one day. I went up to one of [the racks] and it was this really beautiful collection of lace lingerie that came in multiple different colors. I was like this is really beautiful and they were like yeah it is but that's not yours, yours is over here. When I looked at it it was very..outdated, lingerie that didn't speak to me at all. It was just like this isn't okay. I had gone to FIT and studied Fashion Design and Marketing and realized there's a massive gap in the market and why not fill that gap and also provide myself, and everyone that I knew, a better option.

How is it being your own boss now?

It's completely different and wonderful. With modeling, you're still closely tied to other people's opinions of what's beautiful, what's desirable, what is it that they want? As my own boss, I get to dictate all of those things on my own. The only people that I have to answer to are my customers and what makes them happy. What peaks their interest? What excites them? What makes them feel good in their own skin? It's very, very different and I think with creating the brand and becoming my own boss, I've allowed for so much more self-love and so much more positive interest in the way that I articulate the brand message, knowing the other side of things.

Courtesy of Liberté

Courtesy of Liberté

How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?
I asked what, at the time, I felt were stupid questions. For instance, numbers were never my forte. I was never formally taught how to create a P&L [profit and loss statement], a cash flow analysis, balance sheet – none of that. So, when I become overwhelmed and uncomfortable, I've taught myself to embrace the discomfort and just dig deeper. I find somebody who does know it well and ask them 1,005 questions, ask them to explain it to me, ask them to help in the initial creation of whatever it is I'm trying to do. I empower myself so that I can carry that torch and be the best possible version of my finance department, my production department, and my creative department. It's important to lean into the discomfort.

Which women inspire you?

As cliché as it is, my mom is the most inspirational woman in my life, by far. She's the hardest working woman. I'm inspired by pioneers, women who paved the way for others. I'm inspired by Michelle Obama. I'm inspired by my team. Women who know themselves and are so unapologetic. If I really think about the women who inspire me on a day-to-day basis, it's the ones who know themselves and are really in tune with what makes them happy, because it's infectious. It helps me continue on this path of being inspired and being excited about creating this brand and taking it forward into its future.

What has been the biggest obstacle transitioning into creating your own business?

For the longest time my biggest obstacle was myself. I told myself a story about who I was and what I was capable of for a very long time. I operated in that story. I was a model, I know how to do this. That way of thinking will limit you — and it limited me. I was my biggest obstacle until I realized that my potential is only limited by me. Then I made the decision to go forward and say, yeah I can do that. So it's just a matter of believing in yourself and that was my biggest obstacle, believing that I could do it and, once I did that, things just unfolded in front of me. Things that were not coming together, or were not necessarily working out, came together the second I decided that, not only could I do it, but I was going to succeed at it.

Do you have a personal motto?

For me, just being positive. You can't control everything. So, that's one, just understanding that things will happen outside of my control and I can't control everything. Then the other is, if it's meant to be, it will be. If it's meant to be for me and the brand, it will happen no matter what. What has been for me, has always been for me and there's nothing that can derail that.

Courtesy of Liberté

Courtesy of Liberté

How did being an Aerie real model and the other campaigns you’ve done inspire you with Liberté?

The Aerie real campaign was a wonderful experience but it wasn't just the Aerie real campaign that inspired me to get into the industry. Prior to Aerie real I had modeled for Playtex, Jockey, Spanx, Hanes, so my experience within the intimate apparel sector was pretty vast and understanding the limitations that I was witnessing behind the scenes of the lack of size diversity and the lack of sizes past a D cup at the time, and now a DD cup. Understanding what happens behind the scenes, as well as what's portrayed to the consumer really all came together to create this drive and the interest for me.

How do you define success?

I define success based off of, did I try my best? Did I put everything that I had into it? Does the result make me happy?

What are your goals moving forward for your business?

My goals moving forward for the business are to connect with it and build a beautiful community based and rooted in self love and confidence building. Women are constantly told that they're not good enough and my goal as a brand is to change that and to really shift the way that women see themselves. Not only in lingerie but eventually in swimwear, and in whatever it is that we expand into, the goal will always be focused to the women that we serve and the women that I created this brand for.

What advice would you give to other women who, like you, see a void in the market and want to create their own business?

You're going to hear 1,005 reasons on why not to do it — do it anyway. If that's what your heart tells you to do, do it anyway. Everyone's going to have an opinion on it but, if that's what drives you and that's what you feel will fulfill you, none of the reasons matter, just do it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Sarah Fielding