Representing the creative future

Anne Isabella on doing Paris Fashion Week as a small business

Catching up with Anne Isabella Rasmussen on taking steady steps from fashion week to stockists

How hard is it to find a showroom? Is it difficult to go into production? What happens with stockist payments? Since her graduation from Central Saint Martins and the set up of her label in 2020, we have been following every step of Anne Isabella Rasmussen’s journey. The Berlin-based designer is keeping a low profile and takes her time in navigating the complex world of developing a small business from scratch. Taking the brave decision to base her label outside of a fashion capital, she is putting bricks on a foundation made out of a strong aesthetic, a closely-knitted team, and a set of expert technical skills in pattern design and knitwear. On the day of her presentation at Paris Fashion Week, we caught up with Anne Isabella and asked her about the hard and joyful parts of running a brand and taking part in fashion week.

We’ve been following your moves quite regularly, but let us know, what has been up with your brand since we last spoke last Spring. 

I’ve been busy handling production and designing SS23. This season we have collaborated with the jewellery designer Inger Grubbe, so this has been a fun new project!

Have you made any changes in the way you operate for this season? (Production, materials, team) If yes, why?

Last season we introduced knitwear which is produced in Spain. We produce the rest of the collection in Portugal now with a small family factory. We don’t have a common language, so we are google translating our WhatsApp messages. So far it has worked surprisingly well.

“Being present at fashion week is a big investment for us as a small brand.” – Anne Isabella Rasmussen

What is this collection about?

I am always quite interested in optical illusions and tricking the eye, and it is a topic I have explored in many of my collections. Earlier this year I visited a gallery in Paris, which was showing artists from the G.R.A.V. group that was operating between 1960-68, which was trying to liberate creativity by involving the audience. They were working with quite geometrical shapes, which is a bit of new territory for me to look at, as well as light, optical illusions, physical perception and the possibilities that are added depending on who and how the pieces are viewed. I was drawn to works by two of the artists in the group Julio le Parc and Franscisco Sobrino. Their sculptures involved reflection, repetition and pattern.

This informed the collection in different ways. In knitwear, I worked with a flitter yarn, created a geometrical construction, and inspired by the sculpture of Julio le Parc added more structure to the knitwear.

For denim, I was looking at Francisco Sobrino’s work which is a sculpture piece made of metallic circles and reflecting on stripes. I love the warped stripe that was created by the reflection and created a design that mimics that effect.

And finally, I collaborated with the jewellery designer Inger Grubbe. Together we designed a set of earrings that encompass both works, in their geometry and reflection.

sculpture Francisco Sobrino
Francisco Sobrino

“Having a show gives me something to work towards, and it’s great to feel that the work of months is being presented, after launching my collections digitally for so long.” – Anne Isabella Rasmussen

How is being part of fashion week helping your brand? What parts of it are hard to handle?

Being present at fashion week is a big investment for us as a small brand. There are some challenges to organizing an event in another city, but the second time around is always easier.

But to be honest, it’s quite fun to present. Preparations are tough, but when you stand there and look at it it makes it all worth it. It really gives me something to work towards, and it’s great to feel that the work of months is being presented, after launching my collections digitally for so long. Creating a set and the world around the brand and the clothes is really creative, so I enjoy this process a lot. It’s a lot of work, considering how small a team we are,  and sometimes it is overwhelming to handle so many things at the same time.

sketchbook figure of woman fashion design

Have you noticed any particular obstacles that you didn’t have at the very first seasons and are coming up now? 

Sure, I am creating bigger collections, but the size of the team hasn’t changed much. There is much more to take care of than in the first seasons. One challenge I am experiencing is that my production now requires amounts of fabric that are too large for some manufacturers and too small for others. It’s a bit of an awkward quantity I am producing.

“I work with a showroom now that helps me handle relationships with stockists, they are mainly in charge of this part of the business.” – Anne Isabella Rasmussen

Do you have an idea of which designs go better than others and have you understood why? 

Actually, I would say it’s more about creating a range and offering a whole look. But of course, signature pieces that are unique to the brand like my optical illusion designs work best.

How did you build your relationships with stockists? 

I work with a showroom now that helps me handle relationships with stockists, they are mainly in charge of this part of the business. Of course, we are in touch with them about all the practicalities. They also attend the presentations which is a great place for us to catch up!

How did your collaboration with your showroom come up? Did you find them or did they find you?

I was actively looking for a showroom to work with and had many chats with different potential partners, but I remained unsure. Eventually, Sasha and Denis from Dear Progress reached out, and I instantly clicked with them. I loved the selection of brands they had and they both have an amazing eye for fashion, so it’s really great to work with people you trust.

“Joining a showroom was an essential part of growing our business.” – Anne Isabella Rasmussen

Was the process of signing up with a showroom complicated for you? In terms of the contract, as well as an expense?

It was the right time for us to take that move. It was an essential part of growing our business, and it has brought us a lot to partner with them. They also advise us in between seasons, and it’s great to have that support.

Have you experienced any issues with receiving payments from stockists, or with finance at large? If yes, how are you navigating them?

Sure I have, but I think this is something that happens at every level of the supply chain. Sometimes it’s also very smooth, so it can go both ways.

What are your short-term goals for Anne Isabella?

In terms of my team, and company structure, I will slowly be looking for someone to join me permanently, to help me manage the practicalities of running a brand. Creatively, I’d love to introduce more accessories and keep exploring new techniques. Every season I try to better myself, and learn from past experiences, so this is very much what I’m thinking about looking ahead.