Finding balance in physical activity with stylist and entrepreneur Lizzy van der Ligt
Lizzy van der Ligt is sipping a cup of coffee, ready for the day but still feeling the night before. “We had a dinner with Zalando and didn’t sit down to eat until 11 PM.” she explains, adding that this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Lizzy’s day-to-day life can only be described as creative, jet-setting chaos, filled with trips to faraway, inspirational destinations, photo shoots, events, and anything else that happens to cross her path. As if her to-do list wasn’t long enough, Lizzy also runs her own fashion label, Le Cafe Noir Studio. Every day, week, or month is completely different from the next. Trying to create some sort of order, a schedule to create some peace of mind, is just no use. “The chaos drives me crazy sometimes, but it’s also what I love about my work and my life. My goal now is to focus more and more on Le Cafe Noir Studio and to keep creating things,” she says.
Fashion was always a part of Lizzy’s life, but for the first 20-odd years, it played second fiddle to her ambitions to make it as a ballet dancer. When three-year-old Lizzy first put on those ballet slippers, she got a taste of something she liked, and begged her mother for more. “I trained once a week, but really wanted to go more often. So my mother made a deal with the ballet school to let me train there every day, which I pretty much did,” Lizzy remembers.
After graduating from a performance arts high school and attending Codarts University for the Arts in Rotterdam, Lizzy noticed her body slowly but surely protesting the long hours spent at the barre. Making it in the cut-throat world of ballet is hard enough; having a body in tip-top shape is essential to realizing that dream. It’s unsurprising to learn from Lizzy how much athletes and ballet dancers have in common. For Lizzy, that realization was a tough pill to swallow, but she never let it crush her. “At the time, ballet was already becoming a bit less important to me. I started going out, developed different interests. But still, I had never considered any other career. I thought dancing was pretty much all I could do.”
Lizzy’s attention switched to fashion. Back when she was still pirouetting her way through life, Lizzy ordered her ballet outfits all the way from the US, just so no one else would be wearing the same thing. A degree from Amsterdam’s Artemis Academy and years of experience later, Lizzy turned her passion for looks into a successful, creative career.
These days, if you’re Dutch and in your twenties or thirties and haven’t heard of Lizzy van der Ligt, you’re probably living under a rock. Unless you don’t participate in social media, in which case you’re forgiven. With 288,000 followers on Instagram (at last count), about 15,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, which sports videos with over 60,000 views, Lizzy is everywhere. A textbook definition “influencer”, but one with a lot more than just a bubbly personality and good looks. She is a multifaceted entrepreneur, stylist, and fashion designer. The influencer part just happened somewhere along the way. “I think it was a very natural, organic development.”
Where today aspiring individuals have influencers to look up to and get inspired by Lizzy just did her own thing, growing her online personality with a blog that later turned into her fashion label. There were no examples to aspire to, no goals to reach with an online presence. “Everyone wants to be an influencer these days. Did you know you can even take courses and workshops? It’s crazy! Those don’t work anyway, the only thing that works is offering something people want, at the right time,” she says. For Lizzy, that something was a cheeky personality and unique looks. Following trends was never her thing, and by staying true to her own likes and dislikes, Lizzy developed a signature style completely her own—a style clearly expressed by Le Café Noir Studio. It’s an accessible line of outfits, sometimes sporty, sometimes glamorous. Casual sweatpants meet a silky jacquard blouse, graphic T-shirts are combined with a lilac, fluffy faux-fur coat. It’s girly but tough as nails; a description one might use for Lizzy herself, as well. “I love dressing other people, and Le Cafe Noir has something for everyone. I don’t have a specific type of person in mind when I think of the designs; it’s a colorful, young, and diverse collection, varying from super-girly to street.”
In the world of Lizzy, a sudden trip or last minute assignment is always just around the corner, waiting patiently to whisk her away and turn her weekly planning upside down. So how does she handle a life so unpredictable, so lacking in downtime and a solid base? Lizzy thinks for a while, quick to add that taking a break and “me time” aren’t for her anyway, but then lands her thoughts on the gym. “Working out is my way of relaxing. I do it twice a week with a personal trainer, and take another class or do something with my sister,” she says, adding that the workouts need to be just as intense and crazy as the rest of her life. “I’m way too impatient for something like yoga, it’s just too slow for me. I need something that keeps me distracted, something where the only thought on my mind is oh my god, are we almost done? When you’re working on 20 sets and hit number 12 and think, I can’t take this anymore! Those are my moments of zen,” she says, laughing.
“Working Out Is My Way Of Relaxing”
When Lizzy abandoned her ballet ambitions, she wanted nothing to do with sports for a while. Ballet, and with it intense workouts, were a thing of the past, a chapter of her life closed for good, never to be re-opened. “But when I wasn’t working out, I did travel, work, and party a lot. It didn’t feel great. I would head to work in the morning and still be yawning around noon and think, god woman, get it together!” Lizzy remembers. “At first, when I started working out more, I remember thinking what is this energy people talk about? I just feel exhausted! But after a while, I noticed a change. You will get to that energetic place if you just keep going.”
And what about her mental health? What’s it like to be an online personality, with little-to-no boundaries between you and the outside world? Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly at all, the negative effects of being an online influencer don’t really bother Lizzy. She shrugs and laughs it off, adding that she’s pretty good at separating work from her personal life. “Instagram is business, when I go home or work out, it’s not there with me. The other day I got a notification that my screen time for that day was just three hours and fourteen minutes. Pretty decent for an online influencer, right?”