We talk with Marissa Maximo, the vision and creative side behind Anaak that makes the fulfillment of a dream possible. Born in NYC with Filipino roots, she explains why she decided to leave her hometown, what her daily life as an entrepreneur is like, and her commitment with small scales of production, among other things. She now presents Royal Nomad, the new F/W16 collection, inspired by 18th century queen Mharani Ahilyabai Holkar in central India – imperial, delicate, and rebellious at the same time. The mere fact of traveling “broadens my visual vocabulary,” she says. Senses are sharpened, and you truly understand how their specific art and craft is a translation of their culture and lifestyle. What a mindset
Can you tell me a bit about where you were born? What was your childhood like?
My family emigrated from the Philippines, and I was born in New York City. We then moved to a suburban town in Baltimore, Maryland. My childhood was a mix of cultures – inside the house, I was rooted in my Filipino heritage: language, food, religion, work ethic, and ways of thinking, but outside I was surrounded by the most quintessential small-town Americana life. In the 1970s, there was little to no diversity in the suburbs, and I hankered to be in the city, for a more urban life and to see a world much larger than the one I was living in. I dreamt of seeing many more cultures and couldn’t wait to start traveling.
You’ve worked during many years in the textile and fashion world, travelling on many occasions to search for new fabrics, artisans, etc. What have you learned about all these experiences?
I have learned that every town, city, state, and country is different. Each place has a local culture reflected in the art and craft they create, even in the most subtle ways. It is exactly for this reason that I thirst to travel the world and seek these authentic and unique qualities.
What was the catalyst for stepping into the entrepreneur world?
I have always been an entrepreneur, but have only fully realized it. I held high level roles at large corporate retailers and always performed work as if it was my own company; I guess this was a natural transition to setting up my own business and building Anaak.
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What is the daily life of an entrepreneur like? You must be in charge of all the aspects of the business, the creative direction, design, sales, and customer service, right?
Yes, all of the above! At the beginning it was just myself, but it’s impossible for one person do it all. Anaak is a business built upon the contributions and talents of many individuals. My strengths are the vision and creative behind Anaak, and are enabling the right talent and infrastructure to fulfill that vision and beyond.
This is the era of fast fashion, fast response, fast information, fast everything. What is, in your opinion, the wider impact of it on the environment and people’s lives? Have we lost touch with nature’s times and rules? It seems we have an ever-increasing thirst for more and more.
I have had the good fortune of working on both sides of the coin. To me, it’s a very personal question. I believe in the experience of things, whether it is the process of discovery or a feeling of being touched, but I have to love something to buy it. I prefer handcrafted and one-of-a-kind pieces, and these cannot be made quickly or in massive quantities. It always holds a memory of a certain time and place. I will keep it forever and my love for it grows stronger over time.
You collaborate to protect the environment, help small scale of production to evolve, and support local artisans in rural areas. What is the grade of commitment with these small ways of production within today’s fashion business?
Artisan-made handcrafts involve longer lead-times, higher cost, and natural imperfections compared to machine-made mass production, which is nearly impossible to compete with in today’s fast-paced fashion market. It will take responsible and conscientious customers to be open-minded and accepting of these conditions and not hold the same expectations as large industries.
“When traveling, we are discovering a place just as young children discover the world around them.”
How has Anaak developed since its beginnings and what have you learnt along the way?
Anaak began as an intimate, personal story of making clothes, but it’s slowly evolving into a holistic collection of cherishable lifestyle pieces for the body and the home. It has also grown into a sustainable business that continues to support artisans in a consistent and reliable way so that they have a dignified means of earning income.
Would you say your journeys have been a big influence in your brand?
Definitely! Traveling constantly inspires me. All senses are heightened when you’re a stranger in a foreign place. I travel largely to work with artisans and their particular craft. Most artisans work in remote areas, and I must travel afar to find them. Along the way, I see new colors, textures, nature, art, people, and culture that inform and broaden my visual vocabulary when designing Anaak’s collection.
You refer to the term “wide-eyed wonder” when explaining the name of Anaak. How would you describe the concept and meaning behind Anaak? 
Anaak means “my child” in Tagalog, a Filipino dialect. It is the name my mother calls me to this day. When traveling, I feel we are all children one way or another. We are discovering a place just as young children discover the world around them. Anaak also refers to my own endearment for the brand and business. It is my child to nurture, develop and grow into its own.
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Tell us a bit of your F/W16 collection. The visual universe of the images taken by the photographer Stella Berkofsky transport you to a sensual serenity state. What is that about?
The F/W16 collection, entitled Royal Nomad, was inspired by an 18th century queen, Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, in central India. Her reign was considered a golden period in the truest sense – proud, rebellious, strong. We wanted to evoke richness and elegance through subtlety – regal, yet grounded and assessable.
What excites you about tomorrow?
It’s a new day filled with possibilities.
Which book are you reading at the moment? And a music album you cannot stop playing?
I have been reading a book about the myths of business. It challenges the way I am used to thinking as a creative person and pushes me as a businessperson. Recently I discovered Okay Kaya and I’ve been swept away by her emotional voice and soothing vibe. I also love listening to Jesse Marchant, also known as JBM.
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