Oh Hello Jo — Rachael Finley

Words:
Jo Rosenthal

Rachael Finley is the designer making womens’ streetwear fun and inclusive again. I started following Rachael on Instagram before I realized she was a streetwear designer. While she originally caught my attention with her hilarious photos, kind hearted captions and incredible outfits, I was also drawn to the fact that she’s a woman in one of the most popular and male dominated fashion businesses; the streetwear industry. While that was not an easy obstacle to tackle, since founding her brand in 2016 she’s been one of the baddest b’s out creating fun clothes that every fit every type of woman. We sat down with Rachael to pick her brain on everything from living in LA, to raising kids while being in the industry, and how fun it is to work 24/7 to create your dreams.

JR: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your backstory and how you came to be known as “Steak.”
RF: I was born ‘Rachael,’ with an extra ‘A’ because my mom is spicy, but I was nicknamed Steak because I have a savory tooth. My 300 year old tumblr was called ‘Steaktooth,’ and I think that’s where a lot of my following came from. When I started engaging more, versus just flooding people with reblogged images, I started answering the ‘asks’ on there and out of nowhere I had an advice column. That’s when Rachael and ‘Steak’ became one. People always ask me which I prefer to be called and I think it’s a mix of both. I’m from Florida originally, but I moved to Los Angeles 13 years ago. I never decided I was going to stay in LA, it’s just been fruitful and kind to me so I guess I’m just here for now.
JR: Walk us through a day in the life of you and your work.
RF: I’m a mom and a business owner, so work starts at around 6am and ends at midnight. After I drop Mars off at school, I head back home to be with the dogs for a little and lazily get myself together. My company works with the east coast and with London a lot of the time, so calls come in all the time, but my staff doesn’t get in until 10am. My office is a collaborative space and I don’t really want anyone around me if they aren’t willing to share opinions. I hired a team of people I value, and I enjoy creating along side of them. I love lunch meetings because they really get me going, so I try to have as many as I can. It’s a sort of self-care for me because I’m definitely one of those “I forgot to eat for 3 days” working types if there isn’t a reason to pause.
JR: Did you always want to be a designer?
RF: I actually did not. My first brand fell into my lap, and I had a lot of trial and error with it, and that brand has turned into the parent company for this entire thing. We have 4 brands under our umbrella, and we make merch for numerous projects. I think I enjoy the business aspect of having a brand, and I’m lucky enough to have grown up around subcultures that inspire my own way of dressing and creating. I think that’s what Hot Lava is for–it’s like my other baby. While working on my other brands and projects, I get to flex what I’m good at. I enjoy analytics and branding and I love being able to switch tones between clients and businesses.
JR: What city inspires you most and why?
RF: I frequent different places for different things. I really enjoy New York because it’s electric, Naples (Florida) for my inner peace and Seattle for its contributions to the ‘scene’. When I’m designing for a Hot Lava girl, it’s never really about where she, but more about what she’s doing- she’s busy, she’s involved in her scenes/community and she’s got hobbies and passions she’s actively pursuing. To me, she’s everything.
JR: What artists or people do you look up to?
RF: I look up to all women who are trailblazing in male dominated industries; in streetwear, in music, in art, in action sports- you make me wanna kick and scream and dance.
JR: What’s something people don’t know about you?
RF: I learned 100% of what I do from tutorials online.
JR: What’s your favorite book and why?
RF: Lamb The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore. I love all Christopher Moore books because they are funny, crass, and provide a great escape from reality, while still treading heavily on current and existential issues. Christopher Moore should have his own genre.
JR: What sets you apart from other people in your industry?
RF: I’m a woman in streetwear and school wasn’t a luxury I could afford. I am self funded and there aren’t many of us of like that out there.

“My work process is tricky because it has to come naturally or it feels bad and inauthentic to me.”

JR: What do you want people to know about what you do?
RF: My women’s line Hot Lava, carries contemporary sizes XS-3X. We work hard to provide that, and I want everyone to know that. I want women to know that we have clothes for you, and everyone in your friend group.
JR: What advice do you have for young people wanting to get into the industry/ be you?
RF: If you really want something, you can do it–it just requires a lot of putting your head down and resisting the urge to copy off of someone else. Trust your gut, and don’t spend money on hiring or big budget; focus when you can, and just pull the weight by yourself for awhile.
Speedround:
Birthday: 7/22 – Leo sun
Favorite color: purple
What type of pajamas do you wear?: no-jamas
Instagram: @instasteak
Upcoming projects: Hot lava has some insane collabs coming in 2020 that I’m wildly proud of, which also includes our shoe launch. The rest? Well, I can’t tell you, and that’s how I like it. it took me a long and wild ride to know that I prefer getting stuff done behind the scenes on my own terms.
For more information on Rachael, check out her Instagram here and her amazing shop here.
@justjorosenthal