During Thread Caravan's recent scouting trip to Cuba, we had the opportunity to collaborate with artisan brand Anaak, taking photos of their new pieces in some stunning Cuban settings. During the process, we got to connect with Anaak founder and designer Marissa Maximo, diving deeper into the brand's story, Marissa's travel history, and their current Mission Fundraiser. Have a peek at our conversation below.
What inspired you to start Anaak?
Anaak was inspired by a great desire to create something personal and meaningful, something that had a directly positive impact on the environment and community. Over the course of my career, I had cultivated a deep respect for the communities of artisans I had met in my travels around the globe. I knew that these were the people I wanted to work with, to support, to learn from.
What does the word Anaak mean?
Anaak means ‘my child’ in Tagalog, a Filipino dialect. I’ve been called Anaak ever since I could remember as a child. My mother still calls me Anaak!
Where do you get your design inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from traveling to far-flung places in the world and my passion for textiles. Wherever I travel I seek out local artisans and handicrafts indigenous to the area. In an era where things are quickly homogenized, I seek and crave culture and heritage that is pure and unique to its area. These experiences are what influence Anaak fabrics and collections.
How long have you been in business - what is one of the greatest highlights and one of the greatest challenges of operating the business so far?
Anaak launched in 2014, and we are entering our third year. The greatest highlight by far has been seeing the brand and vision come to fruition, and seeing the smiles on the artisans’ faces when we work together. Each collection Anaak creates with them helps improve and support their livelihood, and that is hands down the highlight of what I do. It can also be a challenge, as we work hard to keep prices assessable for customers, at the same time pay our artisans fair compensation. Many times, this leaves very little margin for us, something we’re working towards improving.
Can you tell us about the artisans you work with - how do you connect with them, where are they from, and can you share any of their success stories since their work with Anaak?
Most times I find artisans by word-of- mouth and a little serendipity! They are often located in small villages in remote areas on India? Which countries?, which can take anywhere from 1-2 days of travel to reach. They do not advertise or have websites or email, so it’s important that I travel to meet each one in person to understand their craft, materials and working conditions. I design better knowing their capabilities, and set them up for success by asking them what they can already do, then work with them to adjust or slightly modernize.
What is your favorite artisan craft?
My background is in painting and printed textiles. When I worked for a fashion retail corporation, I traveled for years visiting textile printers from Taiwan to South Korea, India to Jakarta. I learned so much about the craft and interpreting for mass production. Anaak is so inspiring as I now work in all areas of textile craft, and weaving has been the most exciting for me. It is essentially the same, no matter where you are in the world, but the techniques and materials vary to the specific people and land. It is the most basic of the crafts, yet can become as elaborate or simple as one desires.
Where is your favorite place to travel for art?
India. I have been traveling to there for over 15 years and am always amazed how one country can have such an endless variety of art. Art is embedded in the very being of Indian culture from religion and clothing to the way of life.
Where do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I am completely out of my element and haven’t seen something before. Experiencing and discovering a place or artwork will spark ideas and visions. They become the seed for a collection’s concept and story. Each Anaak collection is inspired by a specific trip, and each garment is named after a person from my travels.
Why do you think it’s important for people to support artisan businesses?
I think it is important to support artisan businesses because they are a dying entity. With modernization and mass apparel industries, the youth of the villages are leaving and traveling to cities, where they become low income service workers. No one remains in the villages for the master craftspeople to teach and pass along the tradition of the craft. Supporting the artisan business in a sustainable way creates jobs and viable economy for villagers so that they are able to stay and preserve their trade.
Lastly, we are excited to share the news of your Mission Fundraiser. Can you tell us a little bit more about this campaign, your drive to continue supporting artisan businesses, and ways you envision Anaak growing in the future?
The campaign is really to help continue the Anaak business. As a self-funded startup, I put everything I have into the business. The Anaak Mission Fundraiser will enable us to sustain and move forward with our circle of artisans – purchase materials, artisan wages, travel, showroom fees and press to help communicate our story to a wider audience.
Thank you Marissa for the work you do to preserve cultures around the world, and keep our world a diverse and authentic place in these times of rapid globalization. And of course, thank you for sharing your story with us!