Anne James has been a lover of the environment for a long time. In high school, she was a member of the Environmental Club and studied environmental sciences while learning more about organic cotton, which was gaining some influence again in 2009. Then as a literature student during university, Anne was drawn to the poetry of Wordsworth and Whitman, two writers who often referenced the natural world in contact with man-made destruction. It was when she started design studies at Parsons that she learned extensively about the supply chain and the negative statistics of the fashion industry and immediately started interning at conscious companies such as ZADY and Maiyet.
“So with my knowledge, sustainability is hardly an option: it’s a requirement. I eventually went to Italy to research new sustainable fabric development with my professor of Sustainable Fashion Studies. So when it came time to start designing my own line, it was of course with sustainable consciousness, and now as I grow my business, it is a non-negotiable element of my business practices.”
“So with my knowledge, sustainability is hardly an option: it’s a requirement.
What drives your motivation?
The amazing sustainable textile innovation and development going on, of course. But I am also an artist, and a passionate traveller, and am always studying the history of textiles wherever I go. So I’m inspired by artistic prints, and the merging of fashion with fine arts, and also by global, historic, textile and artisan techniques—embroideries, decorative arts, jewelry design—I think they are so gorgeous and I love to incorporate these traditional but exquisite and colourful techniques into my more modern-day-wearable designs.
What’s your relationship with ever-changing fashion trends?
My silhouettes are often classic, trend-proof; I design with my two grandmothers in mind, both true fashion lovers and the two most fabulous and timeless women I know, who have been true to their own beautiful style and aesthetic through the years. My sketchbook is filled with timeless designs from years and years ago that I still want to wear.
Taking into account that you are a creator that works with challenges every day, what’s in your opinion the biggest challenge of the fashion industry today?
I think the biggest challenge is the reallocation of profits. As a designer and business owner I want everyone involved to prosper, not just myself and my team, but the people who make my clothing and my business, and also the customer who wears our creation. Fashion needs to be a positive experience in this way.
What is your personal view of fast fashion? Do you feel that the industry as a whole is falling a bit behind if comparing to sustainable fashion?
Progress is happening and we will continue to remind people to buy less fast fashion or demand better standards, so hopefully, with enough education, the public will start to think less of “I need a new shirt” but “how do my purchases affect others?” I think the fast fashion industry has the competition to contend with, and adjustments to make, as smaller-scale, sustainable businesses gain more traction (fingers crossed).
Virtually all major clothing companies have a work in progress in the field of sustainability. What makes your brand stand out?
My supply chain is fresh, so I can commit to using only sustainable materials and build that into my business model from the ground up, so I don’t have to majorly modify my systems and price points like the big companies have to. But I have great faith in the big companies and their efforts. They have the most impact, and so it’s really great that they are aiming to make this impact more positive even if in small, step-by-step ways!
What does the future hold for your brand? Any plans you could share with us?
I’m ready to dress the Anne James woman—who is smart, conscious, driven, extremely busy, charitable, passionate, appreciates the arts, worldly and loves to travel, interested in modernity but also a complete romantic, and of course fashionable—and showing her that she can have a breathtaking wardrobe that is sustainable in origin yet clearly doesn’t sacrifice excellent, sturdy design or artistry. And I’m excited to do good through the company, by allowing fashion design to have the positive impact it’s capable of, starting probably by partnering with some wonderful non-profit organizations in India, and more collaborations with emerging artists as well.