Ana Louie is a Seattle-based line of refined and beautifully tailored dresses and separates for sophisticated young ladies ages 7 to 14. Ana Louie was inspired by sketches of founder’s eight year old daughter of the same name. Her eye for style emerged very early and her drawings have been realized with fine materials and impeccable construction to create Ana Louie. The line debuts with the 1950’s Parisian-inspired, Holiday 2011 Collection, which includes 10 pieces and is a confident array of beautiful dresses, ruffled collars and tailored coats.
“From a young age, my daughter Ana loved to dress up and pick out her ‘special dresses.’ When she was 5 years old, she started drawing a myriad of dresses, tops, skirts and hats. She would sit for hours perfecting the drawings to better represent what was in her imagination. Crayon drawings eventually transformed into the colored pencil sketches and a select few are the inspiration for our Holiday line,” says Ann Marie Louie, founder and CEO of Ana Louie. “It’s a joy to witness my daughters dream become a reality and very empowering for us both.”
Ann Marie Louie, the founder and CEO of Ana Louie, merges the relationships and expertise she has developed as a 15 year veteran of the transportation, international trade and manufacturing industry, with her creative spirit and entrepreneurial courage. Behind the beautiful pieces and at the core of Ana Louie is a socially-conscious and China-focused mission. Ana was adopted from Yong Feng, Jiangxi Province China and today so much of the garments we love are manufactured close to her birthplace.
“I fully realize that the opportunities Ana has today are not extended to all girls around the world, especially in China. An important part of our mission is to give back to her country of birth and help all little girls realize their inner strength,” says Ann Marie Louie.
1. When did you fall in love with fashion?
When I was a little girl I loved making clothes for my Barbie’s as every little girl wants to do. Loved fashion my whole life and you can say I was always the first person in school to have the newest fashion clothes. As I got older into high school I entered into competitions through DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) and focused on Fashion and Apparel. I didn’t go into design school but went into business. As I realized that fashion was really my passion I had already started a different career. Now, I am at a place in my life where I can take on new endeavors in my life. Fashion to me is Art and how colors mesh together. It gives me great pleasure in admiring the pops of colors, gorgeous construction, fabric, and shapes.
2. What made you decide on children’s clothing?
I saw my daughter designing and seeing her passion for beautiful clothes brought me back to my original dream… to be a fashion designer. I wanted to make this creation into a Mother-Daughter concept. My experience shopping with my mother when I was young brings back that special time that I was able to spend time with her. She helped me find appropriate clothing that was stunning and most of the time we shopped for party dresses.
3. Do you have any aspirations to expand your line to other lines or industries (i.e. men’s wear/women’s wear, perfume, home decor)?
I will definitely introduce women’s wear by next Fall. Currently, I have one couture dress for Holiday 2011 and I’m making plans to build the women’s line over the summer. I am also thinking of expanding to possibly accessories (i.e. hats and jewelry). I would love to bring on a clothing line for young boys but that will be something to consider more down the road.
4. Did you have to train or apprentice with another designer? How was the experience?
I brought on Masha Osoianu who is a fashion designer by trade and is now the Manager of our design team. With her creative eye she looks at my daughter Ana’s drawings, translates and enhances them, then shows Ana for her feedback along with my creative direction. Masha has been wonderful to team up with due her experience in the Fashion Industry.
5. What was the first item you remembered designing?
The Gisele dress. It’s our first party dress made of silk and lace; classy for the young girl who dreams big. The Gisele is appropriate for weddings, parties, going to the theater, a tea party, or even fine dining. It’s inspired by the 1950’s Parisian look – whimsical, yet elegant and classy. I also created a dress made for “mom” which is a one shoulder lace dress beautifully constructed and fabulously elegant.
7. What inspired you to start designing?
I loved the idea of my mother and I having that mother-daughter concept. I always looked up to her as she dressed beautifully so I wanted to be like her because she was my role model. My mother dressed beautifully to go to work every day and not only did it make me want to dress like her but I too wanted to have a great job to go to everyday like she did. It was that feeling of “Dress for Success” for me. That feeling made me reach high in life and wanted to be successful one day. The significance of my mother’s taste for dresses and suits has always stuck with me.
7. If you weren’t a designer then what would you be?
That is a interesting question because all my life I’ve been an executive in the international transportation industry, which involved a lot of fashion and I got to see the production side. I was surrounded by fabrics and textiles and imported/exported raw materials and also sent Spec Packs overseas for my customers. In my previous life I always worked with business development and found it fascinating on how companies made items/clothing and brought them to fruition to sell to consumers. I was destined somehow to be in the fashion industry one day. It is a plus to have the logistics/business background.
8. Tell our viewers how do you want them to feel when they wear your brand?
I want girls to feel special and confident. Beautiful, classy, comfortable, and that they can accomplish anything they desire. A positive awareness.
9. Do you have any advice for anyone entering your specific design field?
Do your homework and find great people to work with. This is very important in growing any kind of company starting off. You must know the current trends and keep up with it. It’s important to know what the consumers want and need.
10. What is one skill you can pass onto someone who wants to be a children’s designer?
I would tell them to find their niche in something that they will enjoy to create. Something that hits home and they can build on with love, which will lead to creativity. If there is no passion or story behind it then it may not have the uniqueness that one should have in anything they design. And definitely have a business plan.
11. What excites you about the future of Seattle fashion?
Seattle is trying hard to bring more of the clothing/fashion industry to our city and it’s great to part of this exciting time. Both the industry and the public sector are creating a supportive environment for business and creativity and there seem to be more opportunities now than in the past.
12. How do you see the brand developing over the next couple of years? What can we expect?
We have just completed the Spring 2012 collection, which has more pieces and variety than the Holiday 2011 collection, and we are really looking forward to exhibiting at ENK International Children’s Club in New York City in a few weeks. It’s the most prestigous marketplace for children’s wear and will be place to get industry-wide feedback. Currently, we’re also working on getting in touch with local boutiques as well as reaching out to other markets. As we continue to become known and establish presence then we will try to work with bigger department stores such as Nordstroms, Macy’s, etc.
13. Quickly, what are the benefits for Seattleites of buying from local designers?
If anyone knows about the “local movement,” Seattlelites do. Buying from local designer is a way to support of our community and grow our economy while at the same time supporting the artistic culture that Seattle prides itself on.