Amanda Litzinger, the Brooklyn-based designer behind independent label Stickybaby, was in a pilates class on a recent April morning when her phone rang. She picked up. It was her sister, Rachel.
“She’s like, ‘Amanda, check your email,’” Litzinger recalled. Earlier that day, Bella Hadid had gone for a stroll in Paris, nearly 4,000 miles away, in a complete Stickybaby look: cropped, distressed vintage jeans with broken hearts appliquéd across the thighs with a red hoodie reading “Real Love” across the front—and the internet was captivated. (Perhaps due, in small or large part, to Hadid’s recent split from musician The Weeknd, who would soon make his public debut with Selena Gomez; the look seemed to send a not-so-subtle message on the subject.)
With the help of stylist Elizabeth Sulcer, the supermodel has cultivated a distinctive, enviable street style that meshes high and low (she wore Givenchy slides with her Stickybaby look) and the biggest names with emerging independent designers. Her team had pulled the Stickybaby pieces several months prior, but as time passed, Litzinger had started to think they might not surface. But surface they did, creating a major moment for an under-the-radar brand that Litzinger still makes by hand in her Brooklyn studio.
“I couldn’t make up a more ideal person to embody the brand,” she told me on a recent morning in New York. “That’s what I put into it: confidence and power.” While her looks tend towards playful and street style-friendly, she also avows high-art inspirations (among her myriad tattoos are a line-drawn Matisse nude) and a fondness for Ernest Hemingway. Her designs feature quirky slogans and embellishments, like distressed jeans cuffed with colorful fringe or a denim jacket reading “Tired of This” across the back in pink glitter lettering. (That particular phrase, Litzinger explained with a laugh, came from her exhaustion over work.) Particularly popular have been her bomber jackets—in part due to the bomber’s recent popularity among fashion week street style and, perhaps equally, due to her relatable mantras.
Litzinger, now 25, started designing and sewing her own clothes and accessories, with her mom’s assistance, before she had memorized her multiplication tables. Her first, inauspicious project, a bag sewn from a cloud-patterned pillowcase, turned out badly—but she persisted, designing her own prom dress (very Pretty in Pink) and running a small business sewing handbags during her high school years. After graduation, she did two years of design school in Arizona before she transferred to New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. The classroom environment didn’t suit her much; she dropped out in 2012 and “fled to Michigan with this guy.” And that’s where Stickybaby was born.
Named for the humid, muggy Michigan summers she suddenly confronted, Stickybaby began as an Etsy shop shortly after Litzinger left FIT.
“She was in the most aggressive breakup situation,” Rachel, three years her senior, told me. “When you’re in a low place, that’s when some really inspiring stuff happens. You can feel that in the clothes.” Amanda chimed in: “I’m always going through stuff.”
She started sewing felt patches and appliqués onto vintage and deadstock clothing—her go-to is still 10 Ft. Single by Stella Dallas in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood—combining her penchant for recycling her own clothing with a love for combing through vintage finds. (By accident, the pieces were also sustainably sourced and locally produced, which proved an added draw for many consumers.) As Stickybaby expanded, Litzinger has started working with an assistant, but she maintains the DIY, independent ethos that has been part of the brand since its inception. Many of her pieces are still vintage finds; others are sourced from a sporting goods wholesaler that deals in dead stock. Certain elements have been elevated: Instead of felt lettering, she now uses vinyl and leather and she “made it my mission to have the sewing pretty flawless.”
It’s been just more than a week since Hadid was spotted in Paris in Litzinger’s designs, and she’s already noted a sudden influx of attention on her brand.
“People don’t know about small brands,” Litzinger said. “People are always looking for cool clothes—and I’ve got ’em.”
Bella Hadid, a bubble bath, and Jenga—what more could you want?