Though there are many aspects of pre-pandemic life we miss, it's been difficult not seeing our favorite desingers. Anaak Collection, the work of forever muse Marissa Maximo, is a Philadelphia based brand. We miss seeing Marissa in person, glowing in a beautiful dress and lighting up Vestige. With the release of her new collection, what better time to chat via email with Marissa about meditation, sustainability and more.
Q: Sustainability and ethical practices are at the core of Anaak, can you talk a bit about your commitment to the environment when creating a collection?
A: When I started Anaak in 2014, it was my mission to provide the most sustainable and ethical brand possible. However, honestly speaking, the realities of the industry and most recently, the pandemic has made it a difficult mission to live up to. So, I do the best I can each and every day to be mindful in the juggling all the different aspects of the business with this mission. For example, we had to pause working with our handweavers in the rural villages of India due to the difficulty of the pandemic. This broke my heart. My hope is when things start to “normalize” and the pandemic is behind us, we can return to working with them.
Q:What has sustained and motivated you throughout this year of the pandemic?
A: Keeping the business alive and surviving this pandemic are all the kept me going. I have a responsibility to our artisans, and a drive to continue the mission of Anaak.
Q: A quote from poet Dinos Christianopoulos “They buried us, but they didn’t know we were seeds,” is a theme and title for this SS21 collection. What’s the inspiration behind using this quote?
A: The death of George Floyd was the inspiration. The concept of being beat down by racism, but having the fight, strength and beauty to grow from this tragedy.
Q: What’s one of your favorite rituals or routines?
A: Lately, it has been meditating. Largely due to the pandemic, I am physically managing Anaak on my own. I have remote part-time help, but since the Anaak studio is also my home, I am being safe and working here alone. Meditating, allows me the separation from work, and opportunity to pause and breathe.
Q: What’s one of your first memories of loving fashion?
A: I never thought I would be a fashion designer. I went to school to be a painter and moved to New York City in the early 90s in pursuit of this dream. Yet, in order to support my life of a painter, I worked A LOT as a waitress and less and less as a painter. Painting led me to textiles, and textiles led me to fashion, as a means to express my artistic vision of color, texture, shape and space. That said, I always loved clothes. My parents loved fashion. My mother had beautiful handmade dresses from the boutiques in New York City from the 70s and intricate embroiders and traditional fabric made from pineapple fiber she brought from the Philippines. We didn't have much money when I was a child, but I always enjoyed quality time with my mother spending endless hours combing stores for clothes and the best deals and nights in her bedroom helping her pick out outfits for work the following day.
Q: What's a piece of advice you’d give to someone starting their own business and something you’ve learned from founding Anaak Collection?
A: It takes A LOT of work! Think about the most work you have done and triple it. No quadruple it! At least when it comes to owning your own fashion brand. I have never worked this hard in my life, and I worked almost 2 decades in the fashion industry with grueling hours until 3AM in the office. This is different. It’s a different kind of hard work when it’s your own “baby.” I live and breathe it. In fact, Anaak, means ‘my child’ in Filipino, and Anaak is just that for me. I have to tend to it, nurture it and grow it. Something I have learned from starting Anaak is that you have to really love it. Everything and anything will go wrong at some point, and you need that love and passion to get you through the hard times because there will be hard times, as well as good times.
Q: A piece of art or artist you are loving right now?
A: Hm, that’s a hard one! I love so much art and artists, but would say the ceramicists I met in Oaxaca, Mexico making traditional pieces for everyday use. They hand-build ceramics and make-shift wheels with plates spinning atop rounded vessels; nothing mechanical or electrical. I always eat from the plates and bowls brought back from Oaxaca, and the artists’ touch, finger impressions fills me with such a warm feeling.
Q: What’s a dream or goal for Anaak for the future?
A: The dream for Anaak would be to continue working with our artisans and to expand our non-profit enterprising mission for empowering and working with disenfranchised women throughout the world. My hope is to launch our own online shop on www.anaakcollection.com website and showcase the work with the artisans.
Q: Your favorite Philly gem (park, restaurant, shop)?
A: Philly has an amazing array of quality small restaurants, and I try to support them as much as possible, especially during this pandemic, but I think Sarvida and Perla are exceptional. They are Filipino restaurants that remind me of my childhood and the food I ate growing up. I am so happy they are here and offering our traditional food to a wider audience.
For now, while we can't see Marissa in person, we will wear her designs and honor the work she continues to do to uplift creatives around the world.