People We Love

EXPRESS x Olivia Culpo

By: Lili Goksenin

For some people, excellence is an ambition. For others, it’s a way of life. Actress, model, and designer Olivia Culpo falls wholly into the latter category. Don’t believe us? Let’s throw it back to when a second-grade Culpo picked up the cello and went on to win a seat in the Boston Symphony Hall. We’ll keep going to 2011, when a 19-year-old Boston University sophomore signed up for her very first beauty pageant, Miss Rhode Island, won, and went on to win Miss USA and Miss Universe, too. And that, of course, was only the beginning of the Olivia Culpo story. There’s also her modeling and acting career, with Culpo appearing in pages of Sports Illustrated and in films like Reprisal alongside Bruce Willis. She’s also behind Back 40, a comfort food restaurant owned with her family, as well as a global ambassador for Pencils of Promise, which promotes education globally, and a longtime supporter of amfAR and Best Buddies.

You see: Anything Culpo does, she does with excellence—which might help explain why 3.6 million people follow her inspired life on Instagram, and why EXPRESS tapped her to design her very own exclusive collection. We are thrilled to announce the launch of EXPRESS x Olivia Culpo, a range of 32 wearable, versatile pieces designed exclusively with women of excellence in mind, ranging in price from $35 and $138, and available in sizes 00-18. There are blazers and biker shorts, jumpsuits and sweats, sequins and and T-shirts that make just the right kind of statement, all in a black and white palette jolted to life with pops of red, pink and yellow.

We caught up with Culpo in Los Angeles to talk style, her exclusive EXPRESS collection, and all things ambition.

EXPRESS: Talk about your relationship to fashion. Why does it matter?
Olivia Culpo: I’ve always loved fashion, clothes, and designing. Putting looks together came really naturally. I always loved styling, but then at a certain point, you think to yourself, ‘Oh I wish this were a little bit different. I wish I had this to wear with this outfit.’ That opens up this whole new world of creating something that you would both wear yourself and share with everybody else. Fashion has the ability to empower, and I believe this collection does just that.

What were your goals with EXPRESS x Olivia Culpo?
First and foremost, I wanted to create clothes people would feel great wearing. I wanted them to be very versatile and to represent the girl-on-the-go. I wanted to design things that people could wear to a work event, to a dinner, and even to breakfast with friends the next day. I wanted to design pieces that could be worn one million different ways. And I wanted to speak to female empowerment, to this idea that women stick together and become stronger because of it. I wanted to empower and inspire girls. It’s not a movement about the individual. It’s about women as a whole.

Where do you find inspiration?
Sometimes I‘ll find something on the runway or in a photoshoot or in an editorial or even on Instagram. I take bits and pieces of things I see in my life, and then add in colors and silhouettes. For this collection in particular, I focused on what I saw in editorials and street style during fashion week because I was designing for a woman who was on the move.

How has your experience as a model influenced your style?

Being in the presence of so many creative people—photographers, stylists, etc.—molds your perspective on fashion and broadens your horizons. What looks good, what’s the message, what’s the story? It’s not just an outfit, it’s a statement and a perspective. Being on set with so many innovative, ambitious minds made me consider colors, shapes, statements and pairings I wouldn’t have thought of before.  

If you absolutely had to pick, what’s your favorite piece in the collection?

The GRL PWR T-shirt styled with the red track jacket, pants and heels. First of all I love red. It’s a great color on anyone and it really pops. I love that you can wear it absolutely anywhere: to the airport with sneakers, or to dinner with heels. I also love the other power suits, like the black tracksuit. They’re really versatile: You can dress them up, you can dress them down. You can wear them to a brunch, and you could wear them to a dinner or a fancy occasion. These are powerful clothes for anyone to wear. These are clothes that would make anyone feel good.

Shop the EXPRESS x Olivia Culpo exclusive collection now in select EXPRESS stores and at!