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Meet Shaina Lavine of Atomic By Design in Beverly Hills

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaina Lavine.

Shaina, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in Orange County, California. Growing up, I was obsessed with beanie baby dolls. They each had their own story to tell, but I hated how they were stuck in one outfit when I knew their personalities were so much bolder. So, I would cut up my clothes and make them all new wardrobes; oh how my mom loved this…. not. Luckily she was a very loving and supportive mom, so I soon learned with permission and puppy eyes, I could cut up some of the clothing that didn’t fit me anymore. I also came to realize that I could be my own living doll and would dress myself up. I believe it was first grade when I made my first outfit combo. I took an old purple dress and made it into a skirt and turned an old t-shirt into a halter top. With a little help from my eldest sister who showed me how to hand sew, I was ready to be the best dressed in my grade school.

As I grew up, I became more of a tomboy more concerned with Yugio cards and playing Mario on my Gameboy. Middle school and high school hit and I remember feeling super lonely like I just didn’t fit in. Looking back, I know I was blessed with a great family and some awesome friends, but I think it was more of a mental thing. I found that music always helped me get out of my own head and I believe it was my sophomore year of high school that I discovered punk to ease my teenage angst. I loved the punk ideology about the power of the people and how they made their own jackets. This inspired me to revisit my love of sewing and making clothing by taking old jackets and sewing patches on them to make them original. I remember the first jacket I made was a colonial flag with 13 stars on the back to represent the founding principles of which our country was built. I even got the members of Agent Orange to sign it, a big win for my sixteen years old self.

By senior year of high school, I seemed to care less about punk rock and politics and started focusing on partying and primping in front of the mirror. I started modeling because it kept me busy and kept me close to my deepest passion, once again, fashion. After graduation, I took a year off to travel the world. After returning home, I enrolled in my local community college to study business and design. I was almost done with my first year when I went through a break up with my high school boyfriend and decided to move to LA for a fresh start. I have since been very fortunate to have modeled for some of the best local photographers and companies.

For the past few years, I had been back and forth between New York and Los Angeles. In my opinion, New York is one of the greatest places on the planet, but super expensive and I have been struggling to survive. Being so far from my family, friends, and everything I grew to love in LA, I had a hard time finding my place in such a big city. I was lucky to meet an amazing street artist and emerging designer, Deerazo, who ended up becoming not only a close friend, but mentor to me. He reminded me of how much I loved making clothing and helped inspire me to take hand-me-downs my big sister gave me and get creative with them. I was now upcycling used threads to look super fresh in the fashion capital learning a very important lesson of taking something used and turning it into something new.

I am currently back in California spending my time with my parents. My Dad is recovering from stage four cancer and upcycling has really renewed our bond through tye-dying some old clothes while in quarantine. My Dad is an old school hippie, who went to Woodstock back in the day, so he can appreciate my passion. Upcycling has been a huge part of my entire life and has shaped a lot of who I am. It’s super easy, cheap, and I believe great for settling my restless mind.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve had many blessings in my life and today I live quite happy doing what I love but for a long time, I allowed depression and anxiety to rule my day to day. It was to the point where I could not leave my bed for weeks and had a really hard time feeling positive emotions. Not saying that some days still aren’t better or worse than others. I just have come to the understanding that the more I’m involved with making clothing more I feel like I’m out of my head and more present. I contribute this a lot to not only the love I get from my support system but a therapy program I went through called DBT. It taught me a lot about mindfulness and health coping mechanisms to deal with my feelings. If anyone is currently struggling out there, I highly recommended this method of therapy. One thing I learned through therapy is it’s not what you did wrong to be in therapy it’s what you’re doing right to prioritize your mental well being and how you’re creating a better future for yourself.

Please tell us about Atomic By Design.
Most of what I do is take second hand clothing and bring new life to it through upcycling. It makes me happy to see untold possibilities in pieces that might be considered passe. Upcycling is not only thought-provoking but good for the environment and cheap to make. I truly believe there’s a second hope out there for everything, one way or another. It’s just a matter of how you’re going to create it.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Some of my favorite childhood memories have been of some of my first pieces I made and how excited I was to wear them to school.

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Image Credit:
Grace Prock

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