By Vivian Miezianko
Northwest Asian Weekly
Without a magic wand, can an 8-year-old girl’s drawing and sketches of dresses be turned into actual garments?
Can someone without previous experience in the fashion industry launch her own clothing line? Can that someone debut her first collection in less than a year?
Yes, yes, and yes. Ann Marie Louie is the founder and CEO of a new girls clothing line based in Seattle — Ana Louie. The clothing line was inspired by and named after Louie’s 8-year-old daughter.
Louie states that since Ana was 5, “she started drawing a myriad of dresses, tops, skirts, and hats. She would perfect the drawings to better represent what was in her imagination…[A] select few [of her works] are the inspiration for our holiday line.”
According to the company’s press release, Ana’s “drawing and sketches have been realized with fine materials and impeccable construction by Seattle designer Masha Osoianu.”
A clothing line is born
Louie was born and raised in Seattle. She worked in the transportation industry as an account executive for 15 years before venturing into starting her own brand of clothing. “It’s my first time getting into the clothing business,” said Louie. “My husband Lincoln Louie has a restaurant business in Seattle. We’ve also been in the real estate industry.” She joked that she had no experience in the fashion industry “except for shopping.”
Nevertheless, it has always been Louie’s dream to have a clothing line of her own.
She first had the idea when she was working as an account executive. “But at that time there was no social media, and it was very hard to break into the industry,” she said as she described the hindrances to realizing her dream. “So I just put it on the back burner.”
But when her daughter Ana was 5 and started drawing garments, Louie’s dream of running a clothing business was rekindled. “I saw how she was doing it — not influenced by the outside world,” explained Louie. “I felt she had the talent. She was an inspiration for me. Since we both have the passion [for garments], and I’ve been in the [transportation] industry for so long, why not [try] breaking into the clothing industry now?”
Going for it
Louie began the process of setting up her business last October. In June, Ana Louie’s debuted her first collection: a 1950s Parisian-inspired Holiday 2011 Collection. The time lapse did not seem long. Louie said, “A lot of it is I just don’t want it to die down. If I really want to make it my reality, why not go for it.” The process of making her dream come true was not smooth sailing. Louie said, “The biggest obstacle was to find the right assistant, the right person to help me. I didn’t go to school [for fashion design], though I knew lots of materials. Then, [the next obstacle was] to find the right manufacturer.”
Osoianu, the designer hired by Louie, said the process of creating garments worked in two ways. For some designs, Louie showed Osoianu Ana’s drawings and Osoianu sketched them accordingly. “Sometimes, I got inspired and showed Ann Marie my sketches, and we both worked on it — adding something, changing something,” said Osoianu.
“In Seattle, people don’t take time to dress up. In European cities, people take time to dress up before going out.” Osoianu added, ”Ann Marie tries to develop this culture in the younger generation.” Osoianu thinks it is important. “When you dress properly, you show the world who you are.”
Louie mentioned that her daughter was “very excited” to see her dream come true. And when she modeled her own label of clothes, she “felt really good, really confident.”
The Ana Louie line features clothing for girls aged 7 to 14. Louie added, “We have one women’s line and may have more by summer.” The women’s line is based on the mother-daughter concept. “These days, I thought a lot of the mother-and-daughter line,” said Louie. “Mothers and daughters do things together, go to parties, dress beautifully together. You don’t find a line of clothes for mothers and daughters that go together, that are age appropriate. I want to create something that is conservative [and] elegant, dresses that both mothers and daughters [would] be proud of wearing.”
Ana Louie’s samples are currently made in China and Europe and are described as having a “China-focused mission.” Ana was adopted from Jiangxi province of China and states, “Today, so many of the garments are manufactured close to her birthplace.” Louie was recently in Los Angeles scouting for manufacturers for her clothes to “try to have the clothes manufactured in the United States, to create employment opportunities here.”
Cat McCadden, marketing director for Ana Louie, joined the company in March.
She spoke of being a part of Ana Louie, “It’s exciting, fast-paced, demanding, and continually evolving. This is partly because fashion just zooms by, season after season, always looking forward.” McCadden added, ”and also because these things are aspects of smaller companies, and specifically start-ups, that I love.”
Looking to the future
Louie hopes that the Ana Louie name and concept catches on. Her goal for the brand is“[t]o get our name out there. To bring back beautifully tailored dresses — not mass-produced, something you can wear again and again and bring to the next generation, something well-kept. And to continue with the mother-and-daughter line.” ♦
For more information on Ana Louie, visit www.analouieapparel.com.
Vivian Miezianko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.