5 Questions with - LAF LIV LOV

I was so excited to meet Raul and Jose at the last Miami Flea. The pair is behind the brand LAF LIV LOV, which creates handmade huarache sandals from Mexico as well as bags, shirts and more. Their style and brand, to me, is Miami in clothing form! Below, Raul and Jose talk about how they came about creating LAF LIV LOV and how they are looking to build a culture that goes beyond apparel.

 When did you make the big decision to start your own business? What inspired you? What scared you?

I want to start by saying entrepreneurship has always been in my blood. My family, from my dad’s side, and my parents have always been business owners. My father always encouraged me to be my own boss and my mother wanted me to be the best at whatever  I wanted to do with life. When I graduated from graphic design school, I began to work as an art director for a cigar factory. When the project ended, I decided to work as a graphic design freelancer. For a moment, it was fine; however, I was not really happy. I didn't want to work corporate, and I was willing to create something for myself and start from the bottom.

I created mesh "Mexicandy Bags," which are  fun, recyclable bags for the everyday use. I started to sell those in local markets with the help of a beautiful friend of mine who also inspired me to use an illustration that I had drawn before-a typography illustration that said LAF LIV LOV (the way you pronounce the words Laugh Live and Love... I always thought people should live by this code).

My mother is from southern Mexico—it is beautiful there Chiapas, Mexico. She would bring artisan presents for my sister and I thought they were the most beautiful, colorful, fun and original products I had ever seen. I wanted to share this feeling with everyone in Miami, and in the USA! I brought 6 pairs of shoes, a few chals, some jewelry, and I started to add more products to my 8x8 market tent. I then would hear what the client would want on the shoe. "Omg, if the shoe had this, had that." So, I traveled back to Mexico to find who could make this shoe come true.

The long process has been fun and it has taught me so much from everyone I met and work with. A lot of things have scared me: from doing it by myself, not knowing what to do or how to do it, going to narco cities to find material in Mexico, the shoe not fitting right (this one is the scariest one) the HUARACHE is a very tricky, picky shoe. Its process is all hand made. There is always a tiny imperfection, I also love that.

What has surprised you most about this process?

The process is very long and surprising—things sometimes don't go how you want them. The most incredible feeling is the amazing support of every single person that has really given me and the brand their time, passion, love and hard work while I was creating this, and more people still do.

What do you wish you’d known before starting your business? Any advice for future small business entrepreneurs?  

I think that the process answered all of my questions. Although,I wish I would have started at a younger age. So by now I would be even more ahead of the game.

My advice is to be ready to have a lot of patience,always smile, be honest with yourself and others, write things down—you think your mind is a machine and it is, but we forget little things. Support local and, experiment If you want to start something, ask for help! Ask!  Believe it or not, people want to help you!. When you ask for help, the right people will help you.. Never give up, and  when top entrepreneurs talk about failure is good, it actually is. Failure has been fertilizer for my success. Love what you do, believe in your product so much, and give it a purpose!

Where do you go in Miami when you’re looking for inspiration?

I love Miami!. I’ve been in Miami for 18 years and have seen this city grow in so many ways. Everything here inspires me. The people from Miami are hard to understand but once you do, you sure identify with the culture. I live in Coral Gables, so that area is where I find most of my inspiration. The Spanish architecture, the humongous old trees around the vicinity, the nature overall nature, the American/Cuban/Latin vibe around the area. I love it! 

What local group or business do you look up to?

I always tell my friends I want LAF LIV LOV to be the Mexican Urban Outfitters of Miami. LAF LIV LOV is not only Mexico, "We sell culture." I want to have original work, products, merchandise, and handmade goods from all over the world. I want to share my travels and the things I find to share them with you all!

Katie Blais