Australian designer Anna Quan (Anna Quan Hoang) first debuted her collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia in 2015. Since then she has been featured locally and internationally in Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Elle magazine and has dressed international celebrities including Kendall Jenner and Karlie Kloss. This week Anna was awarded the Lexus Next Gen Award for Best Up and Coming Designer at the Prix De Marie Claire Awards. I caught up with her to chat about what it means to her to win this award, her first big break and her top styling secret.
What is a day in the life of you?
I usually get up at 8.30am, have a double shot of coffee, do some emails and get to work at 10am. I work in the studio until around 6pm and head home for dinner and get back in studio around 9pm and work a few more hours. Then head home (it’s only a five minute drive) and decompress for an hour or so and get to bed at 2-2.30am.
Congratulations on winning the Lexus Marie Claire Next Gen Award – Best and Up Coming Designer. What did it feel like to win?
Thank you. It was a mixture of utter surprise and delayed excitement. It completely stunned me and caught me by surprise. I had absolutely no idea. All the candidates were all so deserving.
What did it mean to win the award?
The endorsement and support from Marie Claire and Lexus is phenomenal. The prize is so well respected within the industry with past winners like Toni Maticevski, Dion Lee, Kym Ellery – it just puts you personally on a real high but also career wise it can open a lot of doors that might have otherwise remained closed. It gives me that extra fire in my belly to keep going when things get tough.
Did you know that you would enter the fashion world when you were growing up?
No I didn’t know that – not exactly. There was always this feeling of longing to be a part of fashion but it felt out of my reach when I was growing up. I wasn’t a cool kid. I lived in Mount Colah. There was a lot of emphasis put on pursuing a more traditional career path like medicine.
How did you get into the industry?
I graduated from law school and enrolled straight into a fashion design course at Fashion Design Studio (formerly East Sydney Tafe). It was my carpe diem moment and very much a case of now or never! The rest is history.
What was your first big break?
Dressing Kendall Jenner after my first group show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Her styling team picked my looks from a YouTube clip they found online of the runway show. It was incredibly random and fortunate.
How did you get your name out there as an emerging designer?
The most successful thing for me has been creating a signature product and getting it out there. I approached street style stars who I thought would really align with my aesthetic and it took off from there when they were snapped for Vogue or W magazine during Paris Fashion Week.
How would you describe the essence of your design philosophy?
My approach has been to make clothing and fashion relevant to the everyday and to elevate that. I always like to take something traditional and subvert and twist it a little. I take great pleasure in someone doing a double take and re-examining what they think they saw.
How did you develop your own personal style?
After high school I got more of a chance to explore my personal style at university and I did the cliché thing and moved into a share house in Newtown. I was an Arts student and everyone was a lot less conservative and more experimental with how they dressed at university. Living in Newtown helped as it was more edgy and I really enjoy people watching and take inspiration from that. People are not afraid to be different.
What is your number one styling secret?
Find yourself a good alterationist. Good fit is key and often underrated. It’s a little bit more effort but it makes a world of difference when the fit and proportion are adjusted specifically for your body.
What has been your favourite piece across all of your collections?
Pants. I love to wear a really wide leg palazzo style pant. They just make you look so much taller.
Where is the majority of your customer base from?
50 per cent is based in Australia and a good 50 per cent is based mainly in the USA east coast. It seems to attract a lot of New Yorkers.
What are your favourite styles at the moment?
I am loving big voluminous sleeves and long line trench coats. It’s a nice counterpoint between romanticism and utilitarianism. I’m always attracted to unlikely elements.
What big trends can we expect for spring and summer?
I think volume is going to continue to be a big trend for tops and dresses and bottoms.
What is your best ‘work perk’?
I have a mid-week day off on Wednesdays as I work through weekends. I try not to schedule anything in to allow myself time to do life related stuff, I sleep in if I need to. I do some light emailing and work as necessary but on Wednesdays I try to cut myself some slack.
What is the most challenging aspect of owning your own your own fashion label?
Learning when and how to say no. It’s really important to be true to your vision and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up and to be told by everyone to do something or be something you’re not. It’s taken me a while to master confidence and self-belief to say no to people and just do my own thing.
Your designs have caught the eye of many celebrities including Kendall Jenner, who wore your jumpsuit to Kim and Kanye’s lavish pre-wedding luncheon. Who were you most excited about when you found out they were wearing your designs?
Karlie Kloss. She did this shoot with Gilles Bensimon and the shirt she wore was actually a customer order. The editor at The Editorialist in New York had bought a shirt of mine seasons before it was a thing. She got her to wear it for a shoot. I had no idea this was going to happen and it was amazing.
Who else would you love to see in your designs?
Tilda Swinton and Caroline de Maigret. I am obsessed with those women. They are just so strong, feminine and chic all at once. I get this vibe that they don’t really give a toss what people think and just do their own thing.
What does success mean to you?
Being surrounded by the people I love, generating financial freedom from doing what I love and importantly – good health. It’s not necessarily being in every single store or the balance of my bank account.
Who inspires you?
Serious boss ladies. It’s not one person in particular, but there are a few women around me who run their own businesses, have kids and families and just get on with things and they are killing it. I am always in awe. It’s not to say they don’t get stressed or they don’t get frazzled, but they manage it with grace, guts and tenacity.
Who do you turn to for support?
My husband, he’s my partner in crime. He’s not in fashion and it’s great because it gives me perspective when dealing with obstacles and issues.
Where is your favourite travel destination?
Paris. I am lucky enough to go three times a year for work. Even when the traffic is hideous and I am cabbing into town from Charles de Gaulle airport. I can’t help but smile and enjoy the architecture, the quaint little cobbled laneways and watching people go about their daily lives. It’s totally corny to say this but it’s my spiritual home.
What do you like to do to relax?
Gardening and running. Gardening because I love to grow things. Running outdoors because it’s a great form of stress relief and after a while – you feel like you are flying. It really taught me to cope and deal with pain and discomfort – these things are transient and part of the process.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would really like to continue to do what I am doing but on a larger scale and selling to the right stores. Ideally – getting more help and growing my team and having more time to slow down and smell the roses.
WE WENT TO Prix De Marie Claire Awards, Entertainment Quarter.
WE ATE Baked blue eye cod with grilled baby leeks, oyster mushroms and chestnuts; followed by white chocolate hemisphere.
WE DRANK Champagne.
ANNA WORE Her own label.