It’s hard to pin down exactly what Rachael Finley is best known for. Some may recognize her as the brains behind @instasteak on Instagram, a hilariously candid and unpredictable account where she entertains a cult-like following with her brazen stream-of-consciousness style. Others may know her for her wildly popular Bad Advice blog, where Finley doles out free (and great) advice on any and all topics, from relationship issues to business hacks to cleaning up dog hair. Then there are the Workaholics fans who might simply know her as Blake Anderson’s now ex-wife.
But we stumbled upon Finley’s genius through Hot Lava, the L.A.-based women’s streetwear brand she launched in 2015 that fuses a modern California coolness with the best of ’90s casual wear. You’ll find nostalgic hits—baby blue fleece sweats, red bucket hats, camo jumpsuits, tube tops—alongside styles that make up a category all of their own (the Wave Logo Set brings surfwear, streetwear, and sleepwear into one glorious design). It’s a line that feels familiar and relatable, yet quirky enough to keep you interested—not too dissimilar from Finley herself.
From the worst advice she’s ever given someone to her favorite places to shop in Los Angeles, get to know the L.A. designer and entrepreneurial hotshot below.
Describe the Hot Lava style in three words.
I couldn’t do this one alone, so I asked my Twitter this question and these were the most used terms: confident, nonchalant, diverse.
You already had a successful brand, TEENAGE, up and running when you decided to start Hot Lava. What motivated you to start a totally new line?
I wanted a way to express my own style, and I was tired of what women’s streetwear had to offer me.
Who are your style muses?
I love Rihanna, easy, and Bella, easy. Because they both swing from streetwear to some quirky looks. I like some quirky looks. I feel like if you could mix Jessica Rabbit with Tank Girl with Fran Drescher’s the Nanny, I’d most identify with that. This might be too much of a deep cut, but my friend Niki Takesh has a style I’ve always loved to watch evolve.
I love your Bad Advice column where, contrary to the name, you give great advice. But, I must ask: What’s the worst advice you’ve ever given? And what would you tell that person now?
People used to write in and ask me how to dress for their body shape, fashion is one small portion of the types of advice we talk about most is life style. And I’d rattle off ways to cinch your waist or bell out your skirt for various reasons. I think this mindset was all wrong…women of any shape should be able to wear every kind of garment, not just the ones that cover or amplify the “right” and “wrong” areas, and I’m happy to have grown out of this way of thinking. And I’m happy I’ve stopped seeing style guides catering to it.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Life isn’t fair, that’s why you have to be ready to work twice as hard without looking at what he’s got and why he’s got it.”— My dad
You gained a kind of cult following on your personal Instagram early on for being so candid and hilarious. And obviously as the head of two fashion brands, social media plays a huge role in terms of marketing and expanding your visibility. But you’ve also talked about the perils of social media/the internet in general and needing to find a balance. What’s your current relationship with IG? Where do you draw the line between being open/connecting with your followers and keeping things personal?
Over the past year I’ve scaled back a bit on the amount I’ve been posting. I think social media has driven people to forget social etiquette—they overstep boundaries online and offline. They assume that if you share X amount with them, that you should be ready to be an open book at their beck and call. That combined with my disinterest in fame, instead of authenticity and service, has me a little quieter this year. Plus, it’s a lot of pressure to run three popular Instagram accounts! I’m not wired as a content producer, I’m wired to just be myself. I think I’m figuring that out right now, the lines…I’m starting to find a rhythm again though, but I wouldn’t have been able to do that without trimming all the fat first.
Along with leading two popular brands and keeping up your blog, you’re a mom. How do you juggle it all? How do you deal with feeling run-down or burnt out?
I don’t think it’s a matter of avoiding it or recouping, it’s more learning how to highly function on an empty tank. I plan for this to be sustainable for five more years until I crumble into dust and a sugar-free Red Bull can.
As a cancer-survivor and divorcee, you’ve been through some incredibly challenging times and continue to be so resilient. What advice would you give to someone going through a rough patch?
Think of life as a series of strategy games. You can be dealt some good cards and you get dealt some bad ones—that’s what makes the game. The feel-good moments and ease of landing a good card and the strategy of learning how to make the bad cards work best for you. Never look back and think, “What could I have done to change that?” That game is over. Instead use it to learn and think how can I use this knowledge that I learned from this bad card to help me in the future. What worked here? What didn’t?
What’s your current girl boss anthem?
I’ve actually been listening to a lot of old Trina lately, I recommend anyone who’s about to enter battle (or an uneasy social gathering) blast some Trina on the way in and out.
Where are some of your favorite places to thrift in L.A.?
Wasteland in Studio City for higher-end items. Not Melrose. Melrose is too much sometimes…but this is one of those types of opinions where I’ll still go there for sure. We all have those. Also Varsity on Sunset; this is probably my favorite overall place.
You’re originally from Florida. What drew you to L.A. and what’s your favorite part about living here?
The food. Los Angeles is a melting pot of cultures all using some of the best produce to make delicious things. I love our indie culinary scene and the ease of healthy options.
Any advice to young designers looking to launch their own lines?
Hold on tight, it gets expensive, design for yourself, and don’t look too hard at what “everyone else” is doing.
I know you got the nickname Steak in college because your parents would constantly send you Omaha Steaks in the mail (which I greatly respect as an Omahan). So. What’s your favorite place to get a steak in L.A.?
I’m vegan now—I know I know, but the environment needs more of us. I will tell you that Organix has the best vegan pulled pork sandwich and carne asada fries I’ve ever had.
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