Frau Ana is an exceptional and eccentric Shanghai-based fashion designer from Germany, who lives as pink as she preaches. Her new collection will be ready and available for admiration at D.A.F.F. this Saturday. Frau Ana managed to escape her busy schedule to allow us an insight into her colourful world, and to chat about how she’s going to conquer the world with a pink epidemic.
S247: So tell us, who is ‘Frau Ana’?
Ana: Well, my best friend from Germany always calls me 'Frau Ana'. ‘Frau’ means 'miss' and 'woman'. So when I decided to have my own brand it was clear it would be called 'Frau Ana', because I am Frau Ana, and I design mostly for women.
I have always worn colourful clothes, so has my mom; it's like a genetic thing! Two friends convinced me to start my own company, so I came up with the first collection for weekends and nights. Then I organised a party to see how people would react. We had the launch at 'Not Me' in September 2009. The party was on Friday and on Monday I quit my job! Then in January 2010, I started my business properly.
S247: How would you describe you style?
Ana: Colours are important to me. I strongly feel that if you’re surrounded by colours you are happier – maybe this is why I’m such a very happy person! I am trying to educate the world with a ‘pink epidemic’! My own life and especially the ‘80s and ‘90s inspire me; all the comics, video games and the music I was listening to at that time.
I design colourful, fun clothes that are very comfortable. A lot of the t-shirts are made of soft fabrics, a little bit sexy but not too over the top; I don't want to show too much skin. I started with women’s wear, but the next winter collection will have more to offer for men. And then I will focus on children’s wear and footwear.
I am so in love with the new collection that I am going to show at D.A.F.F.! It’s a little bit different from what I did before. There are more dresses and skirts, and less t-shirts. I came up with two styles for scarves that I’m quite proud of: one is closed with a hood, and the other one is what I call a ‘scarf necklace’.
S247: Whom are you targeting with your designs, who are your customers?
Ana: I have both Chinese and Western customers, and they’re mostly young, creative and open-minded people. The majority of people buy the accessories and t-shirts, because they’re easy to combine with simple things. When I did my very first collection everything was colourful; I then also produced it in black and grey, because I thought people are maybe a little scared of bright pink. But to my surprise, people bought the pink clothes, and not the black ones!
Also, there was an 80-year-old woman who came to one of my stores, and she bought a bright pink sweater with big sleeves and a hood. She bought it for herself and another one for her grandchild, it was amazing! I think that people believe in what I am selling, because they can see that I’m living what I’m trying to sell. If I walked around in black and grey clothes all the time and said ‘Yes but you have to wear pink’, no one would believe me.
S247: How did you end up in Shanghai, and not Berlin, for instance?
Ana: After I finished design school in Germany, my goal was to live in different cities around the world. I didn’t want to move to Shanghai at first, I actually wanted to go to Tokyo, but it was expensive and I didn't have a job. So I looked for other options, and I just had this feeling about Shanghai ... So I told everybody I wanted to get a job and then start my own company! I booked a one-way ticket and said, ‘If it's not working I'll be back in 6 months’. But I'm still here ... after six years!
If I'd wanted to create my own brand in Germany, I would have probably gone to Berlin. However, there are thousands and thousands of designers. Also, when I started my company I didn't realise that people in Shanghai think, 'She's from Germany, let's see what she's got', and people from Germany think, 'She's from Germany, but she lives in China, let's see what she does'. So in either way, people pay much more attention to me.
S247: Do you have any plans to go back to Europe, or do you want to conquer Asia first?
Ana: Yes! The world! The idea is to start with China, and now we are moving to other parts of Asia like Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Then, of course, I aim to go to the U.S. and Europe with my collection. I want to set up headquarters here in Shanghai and then fly back and forth. I’m not going back to my hometown, however, especially with the economical situation in Europe at the moment!
What I like about Shanghai is that many people who come here try to do their own thing. If you’re stuck in the same environment for 20 years, you probably dream and think you could actually do something, but you never do it. Also, people in Shanghai work together, especially foreigners try to help each other. I really like that, and it inspires me to work with musicians, painters, photographers; I take inspiration from the creativity of others.
S247: Where and how do you sell your clothes?
Ana: I am mostly selling at Be.U, William the BeeKeeper and all the design events like D.A.F.F. and Dada night markets. D.A.F.F. has a pop-up online store from Beijing, and 'Frau Ana' will be available there after the event. Hopefully I am opening my own store by the end of the year. The best spot would be somewhere in the French concession, a nice location where lots of people walk by and not tucked away in a hidden corner.
S247: You are sponsoring this Saturday's D.A.F.F., how does that work?
Ana: I’m working very closely with The Ice Cream Truck. They asked me last year to participate in D.A.F.F., so I became a sponsor and had a fashion show which was very successful. It’s definitely the biggest event for me, and I’m really looking forward to it! There have been four important dates for 'Frau Ana' so far: the first party at Not Me, when I moved to my studio, D.A.F.F., and when I found a financial partner.
If you want to check out the new collection: ‘Frau Ana’ will have her fashion show at D.A.F.F. at 4pm, this Saturday!
WORDS: CAMILLE GAZEAU / FRAU ANA
PICTURES: FRAU ANA