Grover Rad Confronts Abortion Rights Through Fashion

With the help of artists Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Sophie Crumb, Lizzie Grover Rad’s debut collection spotlights reproductive healthcare.

by Aemilia Madden

A model wearing Grover Rad's silk opera coat
A model wears Grover Rad’s silk opera coat featuring the “4 Shades of Abortion’”comic print created by Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Sophie Crumb. Courtesy of Grover Rad.

When Lizzie Grover Rad first set out to launch a fashion label in 2021, she wanted to create clothing that sparked conversation. An entrepreneur and interior designer by trade (she co-founded the now folded virtual interior design service Zoom Interiors), Rad was disillusioned by the rigidity and lack of risk taking in the design space, and was looking to step away and explore a new medium through which she would be able to initiate difficult discussions. For her first collection, which launched in April 2022, Rad landed on the issue of abortion. “I want people to feel the weight of that word [abortion] and really have a response,” she explains over Zoom from her Los Angeles home, an explicit George Condo painting hanging behind her desk.

To tackle the topic, Rad invited renowned feminist graphic artists, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and her daughter Sophie Crumb to create original comic strips recounting their own abortions which were then printed across dresses and coats. She also drew on historical research, incorporating references to The Scarlet Letter with one boxy blazer emblazoned with the quote, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom,” across the back. In addition, Rad, (who is married to Tinder co-founder Sean Rad) is also donating 25 percent of proceeds from the collection to the Yellow Hammer fund — a reproductive justice organization in the deep South. At a time when women’s bodily autonomy is being challenged, the clothing intends to serve as a small form of sovereignty for the wearer.

Lizzie Grover Rad in jacket and dress from her first collection. Courtesy of Grover Rad.

Moving forward, Rad plans to explore other areas of interest through her design. “I wanted to get a little away from politics and more just [highlight] interesting things that are happening,” she says. But she says forthcoming collections, released biannually, will focus on a new societal construct. “What I clearly gravitate towards are things surrounding the patriarchy.” Here, she explains the inspiration behind her thought-provoking line.

What was your motivation to launch Grover Rad after your previous experience in interior design?

The problem with interiors is that people are a little bit safer with their homes. They’re not really willing to take big risks, and it's expensive. You can’t really change once you commit to something, it’s a pretty big investment. Whereas fashion, you can be one person one day and a totally different person the next.

Seeing everything that happened in 2021 and the past few years, I really wanted to make clothing that was an extension of the world we live in. The second people leave the house, your clothing is the only thing that represents who you are and what you stand for. I liked the idea of having clothing as a personal billboard of you walking down the street and having a message with what you’re wearing. That’s the most exciting part of this: To be able to have clothing that people know what I stand for and to be able to walk around with a message. I’ve been wearing my plaid coat with the comic on it, it’s been my uniform for the last week and it’s been very rewarding to be able to have that out in the world.

A quote from ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is featured on a blazer in the collection. Courtesy of Grover Rad

Do people know what it is — do people ask you about it or respond at all?

I have never gotten stopped more than I ever have in this coat. I think the graphics grab people, but then they’re curious about what the words say. I was at a crosswalk the other day and the lady was like “Wait, please don’t cross yet so I can finish reading.” People really do read every last word.

Fashion can often approach socio-political issues in a more removed or esoteric way. How did you decide to have this visceral message existing on the clothes?

I think there are two avenues. Either the more subtle, inspirational avenue or the more camp in-your-face avenue. I personally, aesthetically gravitate towards the middle ground. It can be isolating in the fashion world where it’s so high brow that not everyone understands it, and you need to have this fashion history or art history Encyclopedia to understand it. I wanted to make it more digestible for people.

Another big motivation for me was to have this community aspect, this ability to spark conversations and just to understand where other people stand. I liked the idea of finding that middle ground where it’s obvious enough. [Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s] Met Gala dress—that was very overt, and it got the message across, but was it aesthetically pleasing? Not in my opinion.

How did you come to the idea of creating the comic strips?

Well, I love [Aline and Sophie’s] work, they’re icons, and so to me it was a very natural process. I wanted something that made light of this conversation and this topic. It can obviously be a very depressing, dark topic especially in recent months, but to me it was important to have a lightness to it.

How did that relate to Hester Prynne and other inspirations for the collection?

I grew up in Richmond Virginia, a black sheep in a very stuffy community. I always liked ruffling feathers. But, coming from such a historic place I’ve always been fascinated with history, the old architecture, the art… all of that. So a natural part of my process is looking back in time at how things come full circle. Going back to the 1600s, Hester Prynne is an unfortunate icon for this topic and looking at it through a holistic lens from puritan New England to modern day America, there’s a lot of commonalities that are easy to pick up on.

With the Supreme Court on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade, what sort of discussions have you been having with regards to the timing of the collection?

What’s been interesting is having friends, I wouldn’t say across all spheres, but I would say that aren’t as involved, never thinking that this could even become a reality. [They’ve been] reaching out to me saying “How did you know?” and I’m like, The writing was on the wall. Especially researching for this collection, history repeats itself, and I was able to see some of those patterns coming back into modern day life. I feel guilty at a time like this talking about social commentary and art when this isn’t just an art form, this is real life. But using a [cartoon] print titled “4 Shades of Abortion” is jarring and that’s my intention. Whether it’s good or bad, I want a response. I want a conversation around it and not to play it safe.

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