Designer Interview: ANNA QUAN

Designer Interview: Anna Quan

Founded by Australian designer Anna Hoang in 2011 and rising to cult status with her signature shirting, ANNA QUAN has become a favourite amongst street style stars and celebrities alike.

Specialising in tailoring and cotton knitwear, and known for her attention to detail ANNA QUAN brings elevation to every day pieces. We spoke to Anna about her journey from one signature product to where the brand is today, her key advice for running a successful business, the pieces she is wearing on repeat, and much more. 

We love hearing how you switch lanes from completing a degree and starting your career in Law to fashion, and completely starting from scratch in the industry. If you weren’t doing fashion or law what would you be doing? 

I’ve often thought about this – it’s a hard one as there are so many interesting things to do but only one lifetime. I would love if I had more time to study photography.

When you first started the brand back in 2014 you focused on creating a signature product, which for you was your tailored shirts with exaggerated cuffs. What was the advice or turning point that made you decide or give you encouragement to go beyond this niche? 

It was always my intention to do more designs and explore more product categories. A practical part of it was fabric minimums and making sure the demand for ANNA QUAN was there before spending the resources on expanding carefully. At the time I was very much a one woman show so had to be careful how resources were allocated.

After 2014 when the shirts took off, I started taking appointments in Paris every season. It’s crazy when you think about it - I would pack my suitcase of shirt samples and head to Paris because stores were emailing me about appointment times and just assumed I would be there showing.

Being in the Paris showroom setting and seeing how other brands built out their collections was a huge turning point in learning how to merchandise.

The biggest push was probably getting feedback from buyers directly about things they wanted to see and buy. This helped me work on the direction of the range development.

Anna Quan Designer Interview

Sustainable practices are being more of a focus for brands, how is the brand navigating this and making changes to its production and business practices? 

Sustainability is such a buzz word these days in fashion. Being sustainable across the fashion business will be a prerequisite rather than exceptional business practice in the near future I think.

At ANNA QUAN we’re not perfect but always try to do better when and where we can. I appreciate it’s a continuing learning and improvement process. This begins from the beginning of the design process. From fabric selection - partnering with mills that are pioneering the use of recycled GRS certified fibers, or sustainable fibers like BCI cotton.

Then, from a manufacturing perspective - working with factories that are regularly audited for social compliance - work, health, safety and pay living wages. From then there is also the question of packaging. We made the switch in 2020 after some research into polybags that could biodegrade into organic matter within 2 years.

By creating a product, we are in fact consuming resources. I feel like it is an ongoing process and I hope we can continue to always learn and do better.

What are your favourite AQ styles that you have created that you wear on repeat? 

The Sienna long line blazer. I was creating this long line style in my advanced tailoring class in design school long before it was at AQ. You can just throw it over any look to smarten up your outfit. In a way, I feel like it’s outfit cheating sometimes (because you didn’t really try but you look good).

I love a quote from your recent AFR interview where you said “A celebrity wearing your clothing once doesn’t mean you’re going to make it”.  Can you elaborate on this further for us? 

Everyone loves a good “overnight success story”. This is not the case in real life. Your brand must have a value proposition for people to continue to buy from it. You have to also deliver consistently across season after season whilst creating something exciting and unique for your customers. It is a fine balancing act.

What would be your key advice for designers that want to create a commercially successful business? 

Rome was not built in a day, or a year or a couple of years. You lay that brick piece by piece and you surround yourself with people that motivate and lift you up because it’s not an easy road. Have the discipline and grit to show up and to be consistent in putting in the hard work.

Anna Quan Designer Interview

If you could create your own fashion calendar what would it look like? 

This concept is novel and fun (probably not practical) – but I would love to do micro collections more regularly instead of main collections. Only a few pieces at a time to cater for aspects of the AQ woman’s life: bedroom/work/play/exercise/holiday/dating

What does your dream capsule wardrobe look like? 

The oversized longline blazer like the Gianna blazer or Sienna blazer, then a tapered pant like the Hudson pant, Lara singlet top or Bebe top in cotton and an oversized cotton shirt. 

Outside of what I make, a nice pair of straight leg jeans that’s it! I would happily wear all that on repeat.

What are your favourite podcasts to listen to?

I love listening to Sugar Mama’s Fireplay – this helps me with adulting themes like superannuation, budgeting, investing.

The Cutting Room Floor – where the designer Recho Omondi interviews other people in the fashion industry about their stories, success, learnings, and insights.

Lady Brains – I love hearing about successful female entrepreneurs – it gives me motivation and drive because this isn’t easy.

Where to from here?

My goal is always to continue to make things that excite, delight and that you didn’t know you needed. I am grateful I get to do what I do.

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