Anna Westcott has mastered the art of balance with her role as a designer at Sportscraft and the founder of her line of modern textiles, ANEAU...
She began creating textiles after making her first quilt with her grandmother Joan. “After working on collection after collection in the fashion industry I yearned to make something that would last and be loved for a lifetime,” she says. Her brand ANEAU is an infinite ring of women, connections and age-old traditions designed to be passed down through families. Anna’s latest project for ANEAU is a photo essay featuring her muse Sydney florist Sophia Kaplan. Photographed by Saskia Wilson, it is an organic representation of pregnancy uniting shadows and light to show the physical and emotional changes that mothers experience with accents of Sophie’s work in the flower industry. We caught up with Anna to hear about her time working for some of fashion’s greatest creative directors, and her current partnership with female artisans in the Himalayas, hand sewing and naturally dying quilts for ANEAU. Words: Annabelle Dickson | Go to www.aneau.com
Can you tell us more about your time spent working for creative director at Hermès Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, Electric Feathers founder Leana Zuniga and creative director at Jac+Jack Patrick Blue? What did you learn from these visionaries?
My experience working and living in New York was a very defining time in my life. I moved there after graduating with a big leap of faith. I literally had one contact who was a friend of my sisters and had nothing organised other than my visa, one suitcase and a lot of energy. Luckily New York is incredibly easy to meet and connect with like-minded people. I started off with an internship at The Row in the design team. It was an incredible team and at the time headed by Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski now the creative director of Hermes. My time there paved the foundation of my career, it was incredible working with such beautiful materials, a refined design aesthetic with high attention to detail and hands-on experience in the sample room with the tailors and seamstresses. After my internship, I had a matter of weeks to find a full-time job to be able to pay rent and survive in the big smoke. I was working on the weekends in a store in Williamsburg which was my first interaction with Electric Feathers. I met with Leana Zuniga and landed a position as her right-hand lady – I wore many hats from the design room coordinator to chasing accounts! It had its challenges being a totally different scale to The Row but I learnt a lot about running a small business end to end. Leana has a very strong vision I also learnt a lot from that in itself. To cultivate and honour your own individual aesthetic as that is what will set you apart and to follow that intuition in everything you do and make a business out of it.
Can you talk us through where ANEAU began?
The idea of ANEAU was born when I made my first quilt with my grandma Joan. it was a very precious moment for her to share with me her passion, skills and love of quilting. The idea stemmed from this and brewed for quite some time until it saw the light of day at the end of 2016. After working on collection after collection in the fashion industry I yearned to make something that would last and be loved for a lifetime. Not to say that an incredible tailored jacket can’t last a lifetime, it most certainly can.
“A respect for tradition, art and more specifically, of quilting, was instilled early on in life” - Can you elaborate on this - how have your parents influenced your work?
My mum is a true artist so I think having been brought up by her she instilled in me a love of art and all things creative. Her dedication, resilience, kindness and hard work is a big lifetime inspiration for me. She brought up four children, ran a household and at the same time pursued her art career and was an incredible teacher all at once.
Talk us through the process behind each piece from ANEAU - where are the pieces made and how do you support the local community?
A lot of development and time is spent on each piece from the design through to the making. The quilts are a collaboration with Purkal Stree Shakti, a women’s foundation based in the north of India – in the mountains. I was so fortunate to find this non-profit organisation to work with. My lifetime objective is to be able to work and align with groups like this to not only preserve traditional textiles but to support local communities through economic empowerment. The baby swaddles and robes are made with a textile group in the south of India using certified organic cotton and traditional dying techniques with a modern application.
What inspired your photo essay on muse Sophia Kaplan? How have you tried to portray pregnancy?
Sophia is inspirational in many ways with her pursuits in the flower industry and her other business endeavours such as leaf supply. I thought it was a great opportunity to capture a muse of mine at such a beautiful time and chapter in her life and Saskia Wilson was the perfect person to capture this moment with her incredible use of light and emotive lifetime. I can’t speak from personal experience but It’s a pensive time full of emotion. I think because pregnancy is around us all the time we forget the big shifts a mother goes through not only physically but mentally. I think Saskia has captured this in a really beautiful intimate way.
What kind of woman does ANEAU appeal to?
I think ANEAU appeals to the woman that appreciates slow design, natural fibres, unique artisanal qualities and a product that has a story.
What are your time management tips?
I can’t say I’m the best at time management. Juggling a full time demanding design job in the fashion industry and trying to grow a very small business at the same time is most definitely challenging but lifetime giving it a red hot go! Maybe one day I will relocate to a seaside town and live a quieter life.