After launching her own brand in 2020, Anne Rasmussen –the real name behind the label’s name Anne Isabella – is pure strength. Of Danish-French descent and based in Berlin, the recent Central Saint Martins graduate has already gained attention from the likes of fashion icons including model Gigi Hadid –who recently wore one of her Spring/Summer 2022 jackets. Keeping sustainability in mind, her designs are created in an environmentally and socially conscious manner. Anne Isabella is just getting started, and in this interview you'll see why.
Anne, I believe you graduated from Central Saint Martins, and your heritage is both Danish and French. Could you talk to us about your origins and how you got into fashion?
Yes, this is correct! Most of my childhood I grew up between Belgium and Strasbourg. I was always really keen on drawing, and considered a lot of different directions within visual arts, but eventually during my high school year, an encouraging art teacher introduced me to fashion illustration and the idea of Central Saint Martins. It became a goal for me to get in and study there. In 2011, I moved to London and started a foundation course, and moved on to study a Bachelor in Fashion Print, and a Master’s degree in womenswear.
After working with Kenzo, Jil Sander and Courrèges, you launched your own brand in 2020. How would you describe your brand and what is it inspired by?
The brand reinterprets archetypal garments from the past and brings them into the future by distorting them and giving them a new meaning. Every season has a different approach, and a different focal point, but I always love to reference 60s and 70s styles in one way or another. I enjoy the quirky references For Spring Summer 2022 for example I was really interested in the Art Nouveau revival of the 1970s. The brand is very graphic, and a big part of the identity are its prints, and in particular its engineered prints, that I carry across collections in new formats.
I must admit, it takes guts to pull off a project as ambitious as a fashion brand during a pandemic. How has it affected the brand? What are the changes you’ve seen from working pre-Covid to know?
It has certainly been a ride! When we registered the company in January 2020, lock-downs hadn’t hit Europe yet, so we didn’t quite have an idea of the scope of what was about to happen. We had to take one day at a time as the whole situation was so unpredictable and still is. Each season there was a lot of discussion of how to launch the next collection, whether to go physical or digital. We ended up showing digitally until this fourth season. Starting a label is always difficult, we have just learned to adapt from the beginning, and haven’t really known a different situation.
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Not long ago, you debuted in person at Paris Fashion Week with the Autumn/Winter 2022 collection, which saw nostalgic elements of fashion such as miniskirts and polo collars reappear that resonate with today’s style. Could you talk to us more about this collection?
I was really drawn to the tactile that season. My previous collections have been print heavy and graphic, but this season I felt like exploring textures and emphasising touch. We used heavy wools for 60s inspired tailored pieces, and created our own ribbon and designed an oversized topstitch with raw edges. We also worked on cotton flannel pieces with embroidered finishings. Our optical print was lasered on organic denim, as well as oversized asymmetrical pleat styles all with a raw finishing. We also worked with a pleated material for a puffer jacket, which gave the stripes a 3D feeling.
One of the things that stand out the most from your garments are the prints, which feel that they are a reconceptualisation of the 60s and 70s aesthetic. There’s a grooviness to it that creates a dichotomy with the muted tones. What is the idea behind your aesthetic?
There is a sense of optimism from that time that I like to borrow. I really like the approach of tailoring being used, as parts of it were very ergonomic and feminine, and I like to reference that. The space age feeling and this idea of creating something that looks very new, still fascinates me, and in many ways, I think we still associate this aesthetic view with newness. At the same time, it is from another period, and I like to play with that notion, and reconsider it by placing it in new contexts. The prints and the distortions are quite overpowering and this season I felt like muting it and focusing on the texture rather than the colour.
Speaking about prints, one thing I’ve noticed is how smart they are positioned, and how there’s an op-art essence to them that help blend with the body of the person wearing your pieces. How do you conceptualise or work with said prints?
Thank you! The idea started while working on my MA collection. I was scanning garments and distorting their features. For the printed garments, I decided to take a different approach and scan and distort the print on archetype garments, with very recognisable features. Pockets, collars, buttonholes, yokes etc. It has now developed into something that I bring across my collections in different formats. I quite like the optical illusion, but also taking something very straight and warping and melting it. It was fun to bring this idea into a bigger scale and apply it to our set at Paris Fashion Week, where we warped the stripe around a bench.
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To emphasise on the Mary Quant idea, shoes are a big part of your brand. I’m thinking of your gogo boots and Mary Janes. When did they first star in your work?
They have been part of my work since my graduate collection, and are such a symbol of futuristic fashion. There is something quite instinctively quirky and fun about them. In the past I also made them with a knitted upper, which kept them very sleek on the foot. I quite like the way in which you can create this matchy look with them.
When looking at your website, and checking your social media, we can see that you also worked alongside illustrator Léna Besse for a fanzine that helped to expand on the past Fall/Winter 2021 collection. Where did this idea come from? Will we see it often?
Yes, this was a fun project. It was something I had in mind for a long time, I have been quite fascinated by illustrations for the 60s by Peter Max and wanted to bring in a similar element into our universe. Léna’s work is stylistically different, but I liked the fantasy elements that she brought in, and there was a softness to her illustrations that I thought applied really well to our Autumn/Winter 2021 collection. This is definitely the kind of project I would want to make more of.
Let’s go back to Paris Fashion Week. At Palais de Tokyo you presented a runway decorated by a minimalistic approach to city life mixed with paper flowers, something we could interpret as your own approximation to still life. Does it have anything to do with your approach to sustainability?
The two weren’t necessarily linked, but it is interesting to consider this now. The idea was more about reinterpreting the mundane. We wanted to recreate a living space without giving away too much about where or when this was taking place. A bit in the same way as I like to work with archetype garments, the idea was to work with an archetype space and apply my print and twist to it.
What are the next steps for Anne Isabella? Where do you think the brand will be in the next, let’s say, 5 years?
Given how the last couple of years turned out, I’m staying clear of predictions! Some of my next goals are to expand into accessories and do more collaborations. I really enjoyed putting on a presentation and thinking about the brand in this dimension. So, I hope to do many more presentations and collaborations in the future!
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