With the Vancouver Olympics just around the corner, there is tons of buzz surrounding our neighbor to the North. So I thought, how fun would it be to profile one of Canada's hottest designers, Andy Thê-Anh?
Andy and I met up at the Soho House last week for some coffee to chat about his Spring collection and ultimately ended up getting on the course of social media, a new generation of customers, and the importance of the color blue.
The Vietnamese born designer launched his collection in 2006 to bridge a gap in dressing professional women who want to look polished for their job as say, a lawyer, but still look interesting and trendy. In fact, his pieces have succeeded in making professional women feel so confident that some call his pieces "their lucky charms" after scoring jobs while wearing one of his modern suits and blouses to the interviews.
Andy prides himself on having a great following of women who loyally show up on the shop doorstep every season waiting for the newest pieces to hit and then actually pay full price for them. He takes pride in providing those customers with something unique and individual.
You can see Andy's passion (and a bit of frustration) for making quality garments and hoping that the new generation can appreciate them. Andy fears that the fashion industry will suffer the same fate as the music industry. Who buys a cd anymore? And who actually purchases the whole album from iTunes? Most people either steal music or just download one song and lose the appreciation of actually having that tangible piece of work. Same goes for fashion.
The recession has changed the shopping mentality of many who now will wait until their favorite higher priced item goes on sale rather than invest in a well-made garment (guilty as charged). He even fears that he won't be able to find the same caliber of seamstresses and pattern makers because design schools would rather sell the dream of being the next Tom Ford than show students the value of the technical skill that is the foundation of a great collection.
I can't really blame him for his frustration. It's tough out there for designers. Investors are nervous and the new generation just wants disposable fashion. They can't understand why an expensive cashmere is better than a 5 % cashmere wool blend.
The exciting upside to this is that designers are forced to re-think their strategy. Andy recalled that he used to use forecasting books to predict the next trends. Now, he looks online at streetstyle blogs. However, when I asked him if he Tweets, he shook his head and said that he just doesn't know how he would use it to his advantage. Baby steps.
You can tell that Andy puts a lot of analytical thought into every aspect of his brand. Take his
Spring collection for example. Andy examined historian Michel Pastoureau's Blue: The History of Color to fuel his inspiration. The book focuses on the importance of blue throughout history and why it is considered one of the most popular colors. According to the book, the color reflects strength, triumph, romance, and unity, which are all adjectives that could describe Andy's line. Thus, the presence of sky blue colors and turquoise are worked into a modern structured silhouette. Structure is a strong point for Andy, but this Spring he has worked jersey into the mix to marry structure and comfort.
Andy sells in the U.S. at Neiman Marcus online and various boutiques around the country. For points of sale in your area check his website at www.andytheanh.com. Below are some looks from his Spring collection!