Discovering new fashion talent, like Raeana Anais, and following them as they evolve and grow is incredibly exciting. Success comes in many shapes and forms and it is always an honor and a thrill to be a part of the journey, even as an observer.
We first met Raeana Anaīs when we had the good fortune to work with her on a project at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City where she works as a teacher. Her talent and creative energy nearly jumped out at us. But we were equally taken aback by her commitment to sharing her knowledge, skills and love of fashion with her students. She is a life force, able to fully commit to her teaching duties and still find the time to produce polished capsule collections that are generating a strong buzz.
She recently completed her Fall 2016 collection – ARTHROPODA – inspired by the exoskeletons of beetles. In addition to her collection she is working collaboratively with visual artist Lina Viktor creating custom garb for her ongoing series “Black Up Black Out”.
Raeana sat down with us to talk about how she begins the design process and the things that motivate and inspire her. For anyone interested in the design process, or thinking about a career in design, the insights provided by this young and emerging designer make for an enlightening interview.
Watch for more from Ms. Anaīs! She is one to follow!
Evolution Of A Collection Interview:
1. Why do you like working with fur?
I love working with fur because it’s a luxury that doesn’t need to be announced. Fur doesn’t have to try to be glamorous, it’s striking even in its natural state which is a great place to start with any material. Fur is also one of the most diverse materials I’ve ever worked with. I’m constantly learning new applications and techniques, so it’s truly a unique experience each time I make a fur piece. There’s always something new that can happen with fur, so there is always something new for me to learn. It keeps me on my toes!
2.What is your first memory of working with fur?
My first memory of working with fur was after I won the Saga Furs design competition during the Spring semester of my junior year at Parsons. It was truly meant to be, because I almost didn’t apply for the competition! I was in Paris doing study abroad when the Saga Furs competition was announced, and I found out about it one day before the submissions were due. I thought about not entering because I figured there was no way I could create something worthy of submitting in time. I remember giving up, and getting into bed that night only to stare at the ceiling. I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about the slight chance that I could win, so I got out of bed and pulled an all-nighter to create a presentation. A few weeks later, I found out that I won the competition! I was partnered with a furrier, Tasos, from Funtastic Furs, to produce the Native American inspired pieces from my presentation. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about fur beyond my grandmother’s floor length minks, but I thought it would be a cool idea to combine mink with feathers, so I did. It was an amazing experience for me, because it was very hands on. I remember my older brother would drive me to the factory in Long Island City every Saturday until the pieces were finished, and I would be there in the morning up until they were ready to close most days.
3.How do you think fur fashion has evolved in the past couple years?
Fur fashion has evolved in the past couple of years in the sense that fur has really become a fashion item, and not just a cold weather item. Designers are using fur like they would other materials. It’s not a separate conversation anymore, you can say fur and fabric in the same sentence and you can use fur and fabric in the same piece- even organza, and even for spring!
4.What/who inspired you to work with fur?
My experience winning the Saga Furs Design competition is the reason I work with fur today. My visit to the Design Centre in Denmark was enlightening. It’s every designers dream to go somewhere solely to be inspired and explore new materials- and at Saga I was able to do just that.
5.Who is the fur fashion customer and what are they looking for?
The fur fashion customer is the Jet setter but he or she is also the commuter. Living in New York City I see fur everywhere during the winter, floor length furs, fur hats and fur trimmed parka’s. It’s certainly a luxury but it’s being tapped into from many levels of the market. The fur customer is looking to make a statement and they are looking for luxury at whatever price-point it may be available to them. Customers who have multiple furs are looking for something innovative and interesting, while first time buyers may be looking for something practical, easy to wear and luxurious.
6. Who do you envision wearing your collection?
Self assured women who appreciate luxury and want wear unique things.
7. What item would you suggest for a first time fur buyer?
I would suggest an accessory. My first fur item was the hat I created for the Saga Furs competition and it’s the piece I wear the most. It’s really a statement piece, and the warmest thing I own. If a buyer is testing the waters and not sure how fur fits into their lifestyle, I would suggest going for a hat!
8. Who are your favorite fashion icons today?
I love Lily Gatins, she’s fearless and she’s one of my muses. I love strong women who have unique personal styles like Linda Fargo, June Ambrose, Carine Roitfield, Rihanna, Hannah Bronfman, Shiona Turini, Tilda Swinton, Anna Dello Russo, Traci Ellis Ross and baby North West. I don’t think anything made me happier than that picture of North West in a fox fur coat with a lollipop. That was one of the most iconic fur moments of my year.
9. What colors/prints/themes do you see becoming a trend in fur fashion?
Bugs seem to be really big right now, but I could be biased because I’m working on a collection inspired by beetles! I see more characters like the Fendi monster, interesting prints, and intarsia with fur becoming a trend. I love what Fendi did with the monster theme, combining natural and dyed fur to create a collage rich in texture and color. There’s something happening in fur fashion right now that I love, designers are having fun with combining colors and creating patterns. I absolutely love the camouflage fur and fabric combination Moncler created for their men’s FW16 collection. I see a lot more seamless integrations of printed fur and fabric becoming a trend. One of the most amazing things to happen in fur fashion, and to the entire fashion industry was Instagram. I can thumb through street fashion pictures all day, especially those with fur! I love seeing how people are wearing fur on the street, and what they’re wearing it with.
10. For you personally, what is the starting point of each collection?
The starting point of each collection is first immersing myself in the inspiration, and really creating a world for myself to design from. Once I feel like I’m in that world, the ideas start flowing. I only listen to music relevant to the inspiration for the collection, I have to completely become obsessed with the inspiration and ideas will very randomly occur to me. I’m really interested in film, and my approach to design is very theatrical. I pretty much make a treatment for the collection, and create a story, then allow it to evolve as I design the pieces. The collection I’m working on now, Arthropoda 16, is inspired by the exoskeleton of beetles. I had a hard time focusing on one beetle as inspiration because there are so many species and they are all so fascinating. The pieces aren’t inspired by one beetle in particular but instead elements from several beetles. I’ve been collecting images of beetles, and conceptualizing how to make beetle shells wearable for women, so now everything that I look at looks like a bug. I love that my friends and family know this about me, my best friend bought me a beautiful gold scarab as a gift because she saw it and thought of me. I was so happy that she thought of me when she saw the beetle. That happens at a certain point, the inspiration is really everywhere and that’s when the real creative ideas start flowing for me. I like to be surrounded by imagery, and objects relevant to the concept.
11. In your opinion, what is the hardest challenge of the design process?
The most challenging part of the design process is probably working out the technical kinks that may occur. Sometimes I have an idea, and it’s a great one, but something just isn’t working well with fit or construction and that’s where the hard work begins; figuring out how to make it work, how to make it comfortable, and functional without sacrificing the integrity of that idea.
12. What is your favorite type of fur to design and work with?
It’s so hard to pick a favorite but I would say silver fox is probably one of my favorites to work with. I just love the movement!
13. How is designing fur different than designing other collections?
Designing with fur is very different from designing other collections because I can’t just stick the fur anywhere, the type of fur, and even application of the fur really has to make sense for the story I’m telling. It’s important for me to use the fur in a way that is driven by the concept. I’m obsessed with Pinterest, it’s one of the tools I use to organize my ideas and inspiration. I have a board going for the overall inspiration and direction of the collection, and another board going for fur techniques relative to my inspiration. I have to do a lot of research, and test a lot of ideas out. When you’re working with fur you’re not just cutting and sewing it together as you would a traditional pattern, there’s a lot more to consider. I’m always challenged by working with fur, because I have to adapt the fur to whatever my concept is for the collection, which means that I need to use techniques that will enhance my vision, consider whether I want to use natural or dyed furs, and finally the silhouettes.