Photography by Matthew Shrier
Interview by Ashley P. Williams
Lilli Danschu and Sibnavus Francis are the dynamic, New York City-based wedded pair behind the new mischievous clothing line On the Lam. But their unique sense of style isn’t the only thing that makes this couple special. They also have an uncommon love story that incorporates creativity, dedication and livelihood into their devotion. Here, the interracial bi-cultural twosome (Lilli is from rural Finland and Sibnavus –who goes by “Sib” – is from Brooklyn, NY and of Jamaican heritage) dish on what it’s like to come from different backgrounds yet be an all-American couple.
What’s your AMMO?
Lilli: [New York] City…and accomplishing our goals. I get inspiration from everything.
Sib: It’s a bit more visual for me – I get inspired by what I take in from television or a magazine. We also get really inspired by the task at hand – we really get motivated by things we have to do. Also, our relationship – wanting to live comfortably, be creative, work together, and do something that’s progressive as a couple.
Tell me a little bit about each of your backgrounds. Where is each of you originally from?
Sib: I’m from Brooklyn. Born and raised. And Lilli’s from Finland.
Lilli: I just moved to New York a little over 2 years ago from Helsinki, but I grew up in the country.
How did you two meet?
Lilli: At a party at Sway NYC [nightclub] party [called] “Rice and Peas.”
Sib: She liked my glasses. Then a few weeks later we randomly bumped into each other at a Q-Tip concert in Central Park. That was three years ago. We just celebrated our second wedding anniversary.
Is it hard being an interracial couple in 2012?
Lilli: I’m from the country in Finland and he’s from [urban] Brooklyn so these things have been sometimes more difficult to manage than the interracial aspects.
Do you receive awkward or hateful stares in this day and age? Are there still stereotypes?
Lilli: I think there are more stereotypes in Finland. People would give us more weird looks over there than here.
Sib: Yeah it’s New York, so for the most part it’s cool. Sometimes older people stare us though. But, now, more so than 10 years ago, people seem to be more accepting. Sometimes younger black women do seem to think that [white women] are taking all the black men. But if somebody makes you happy, who cares? We don’t really care what people think. They may stare, but no one has ever actually said anything to us. We look good together.
America is made up almost entirely of immigrants and/or transients. Do you consider yourself to be a typical American couple?
Sib: Yeah, America is a melting pot. And in that since we are the quintessential American couple. Look at the president. He’s biracial with a parent who’s from overseas.
Lilli: We have cultural differences but so many people here in New York do, so we don’t really stand out in that way.
Are there any secrets you can share with us on how to sustain a successful marriage?
Sib: Talking – and not being too sensitive about what’s said. Allow people to be straight about how they really feel and say what you really need to say. Be honest – even if it seems harsh or silly.
Lilli: Mutual respect. Honoring whatever the other person needs from you [in order to] feel respected and vice versa.
What does the name of your clothing line, “On the Lam” mean? What is its significance?
Lilli: It comes from the concept of being on the run from the law.
Sib: It’s a phrase that was used a lot during prohibition times. [Outlaws] being on the lam to build their lives and feed their families. We are on the lam from the status quo and what’s “expected” and “normal.” [For example,] our relationship is completely different from anything I’ve ever done before. That’s a part of it. And we do everything ourselves – raise money, design, photography. But people don’t really see us – we’re still inconspicuous. We are constantly concentrating on our work. We want to do as much ourselves as we can. And that’s what it’s like to be on the run and make do with the things you have available to you. There’s no luxury in that really. You have to keep on moving or else you get busted. You have to buckle down, focus and work.
Lilli: Also we are raising funds from this collection to go toward the Jamaica Project. We have property in Jamaica and want to create a resource farm for the community there.
Sib: Yeah, bringing the parish where my father is from – the people there, who are brilliant and full of potential – into the 21st century. They have the capability, but we want to give them a leg up. We eventually want to run our whole operation from there. So many Jamaican people work so hard – like they are on the lam – we want to help them.
How does your relationship impact your brand?
Lilli: We try to keep personal and business as separate as possible, but sometimes it’s hard.
Sib: But I think our relationship makes it easier for us to succeed. Our lives are connected to this. As we grow, our business grows. We decided to take life into our own hands, and not wait on some other entity to dictate our future, or our ability to retire. [For instance,] we eloped. My mom didn’t know for about a month into our marriage.
Describe your creative process. Is there a division of labor?
Sib: She’s more of the creative arm. She comes up with ideas and creative strategies, and I come up with how we are going to get it all done. But we both do a little everything. There are divisions amongst our duties, but we work together. There’s no ego. We are incredibly honest with each other and just focus on getting done whatever needs to get done. If there are disagreements. We both state our respective cases and then reassess. The whole process of starting a line is not easy, but we motivate each other.
Lilli: Yeah we work together. We also create clothing racks for showrooms, etc. He builds them and I design them and [source and satisfy] clientele for them.
Where can we find On the Lam?
Sib: You can find our lookbook online. This is our first collection so we hope to have an online store soon.
Lilli: We also do a lot of pop-up shops. We love doing those.
For more on On The Lam NYC go to www.onthelamnyc.com.