Dearest readers, treasured friends… let me introduce you to Ana.
A woman that exudes an intoxicating ease of creativity and natural beauty… true. A home so picturesque, every time you visit you bring your sleepover belongings (just in case there might be an invite), yes… also true. Personal style so spot on and completely her own, you always look a little longer… really study what beautiful garments she’s adorning. Yep. What’s even better, the real cherry on the cake? When you see behind the curtain, when you spend time digging into deeper soils with this special being. Meet the lovely Ana, our managing director of design and image.
Where are you originally from?
This question always makes me smile because I think I should probably have a quick answer for this but it’s something I have always had trouble answering! I grew up in Virginia for majority of my school years, so despite the fact I have spent last 20 years in the Northeast –somewhere in me is a southern girl. Then the other part of my answer to that question is that my mother is from the Philippines and she met my father who is native Austrian on a blind date in Germany and after they married I was born in Austria!
First, lets talk about what you did before Free People. How and where did your love for Fashion start? Were your parents artists, creators?
My parents actually find me fascinating because they are the first to tell you that they have no artistic inclinations and have no idea where mine came from. I had always loved art and drawing as a child and I loved shopping with my older cousin who was very fashionable. Around the age of 10 I realized I could put those two things together and have never stopped designing since then…and back then it was not something many people understood. Shows like Project Runway hadn’t put fashion design on people’s radars yet and most people didn’t understand what I was going to do as a career, much less support myself. I interview a lot of designers now and it is still surprising to me how many of them tell me that their parents don’t understand their choice of profession…but I think I’m a great example of believing in yourself.
Who have you worked with/for/alongside and in what manner?
Before I came to FP, I was really fortunate to work very closely with one of my longtime fashion idols — Anna Sui. Working with her taught me so much and helped me to understand myself better as a designer.
Now at FP, I have even more strong role models I work with on a daily basis — I’m so fortunate to be around so many strong and influential women.
What job/experience gave you the greatest lessons for the future you wanted in this field?
I think the best piece of advice I ever got was when I was in school at FIT. One of my professors told us that if we found a company/designer we loved, we should take whatever job was offered — even if it was just sweeping floors — just to get in the door and work really hard to prove yourself once you’re there.
I think I will never take for granted that not everyone gets to work in an environment they love or work on product they are truly proud of…and that hard work never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.
When did you come to Free People, and how did that connection occur? What do you love most about this company?
I have been a fan of the company since I first discovered the Urban Outfitters in Georgetown when I was 18. I still own the very first item of Free People I ever bought as well…so when I saw an advertisement in WWD for open design positions, something told me to take a chance on this opportunity even though I loved what I was doing in NYC.
Since I meet a lot of designers, I often get asked what I love about the company and I always say the same thing — I came here because I love the product and I think it’s important to believe in what you are creating. What we do comes from the heart! Then I think my second reason is because I love the people I work with…cause really, how can it get better than creating beautiful product with people you love — EVERY DAY!
Three of your most treasured clothing items…
1) I have a velvet and lace dress from Anna Sui that I love. I only wear it once a year because I want it to stay special to me always.
2) A black mod mini-dress I have worn since high school. I love a good classic.
3) I’m having trouble deciding the last…but could be any item I own that is Mexican or Victorian.
I hear you have quite the green thumb… what do you grow?
Yes, I love gardening…that is something I can definitely confirm my mother passed on to me. I think it is very common in the Filipino culture to raise vegetables so I grew up working in her garden from a very young age.
I grow everything!!! This summer I had at least 10 varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, swiss chard, kale, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, figs, peaches, limes, strawberries, raspberries, tons of herbs, peas, string beans, cucumbers, butternut squash, cabbage…
How have you found growing your own food gives back to your family? To a whole living experience?
I love that my kids get to see the whole cycle of food and hopefully through that have a better appreciation for it. I also love knowing exactly where the food is coming from and that it’s harvested ethically and organically — so growing on my own makes that much easier!!! My daughter is beginning to embrace gardening as well and is so excited to know she is eating something she grew herself!
If you had to eat one vegetable for the next year….
Oh goodness…this is tough, but I am obsessed with collard greens right now so I could easily eat those every day for a year.
Your spirit animal would be…
I did a spirit journey once on a yoga retreat an I’m pretty sure a giant owl is my spirit animal.
The most important thing in your life…
No matter what, I always come home to my family…they are what makes everything else make sense.
If your daughter was to take one piece of advice with her always, you would hope it would be this…
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
Your personal motto…
Basically never take no for an answer. I love challenge and love proving people wrong!
Tropics, Mountains, or Snow…? Oh, and why is that?
Tropics, Tropics and tropics…Sun is in my blood and I am pretty sure I have SAD in the winter. Also I really need to be by water as much as possible…and lastly I love warm weather and sun for gardening reasons!!!
I love female singers in general, especially with a folksy feel. I’m really excited about seeing Mazzy Star next week, for example!
You are a collector of small unique treasures, tell me about these dolls you have here…
I am fortunate to have been able to do a lot of traveling in my life and I love bringing back and collecting mementos from these trips. Pretty much every country I regularly go to, I find one item I continue to buy repeatedly until I have a collection. With Japan, I love their traditional Kokeshi dolls and try to buy one on each trip.
You can be transported to any era, where to?
I would have to say the 20’s…obviously because of the fashion but also because of the sense of liberation that that decade embodies –particularly on an artistic level…but then the 60’s would be a close second for the same reasons…
A beauty routine an older generation passed down to you?
I am pretty low maintenance but my mother taught me to moisturize daily and I am now trying to pass this on to my own daughter.
Love… its importance in life and how it gives to the creative soul…
I very much believe that creative people thrive when they are doing something they love. Those are the kind of people I look for to bring on the design team and the reason why I think our team is as strong as it is. Everyone works hard but when passion comes naturally…that’s where the magic is.
Thank you Ana, for sharing your thoughts, your home, your beauty… You are a gem.
Thank you Amy, from one gem to another!