I know that you worked for a hat designer in Los Angeles and studied in Paris, London and New York. Why did you decide to launch your business here in Nashville?
Anna Zeitlin: I grew up in Nashville and wanted to be near my family. I loved LA, but knew Nashville would make a great home base, where I could travel from and get to spend time studying with designers I admired. I still try to get up to New York about once a year for inspiration, and am dreaming about my next trip to London. The slow pace of Nashville helps me focus, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in all that’s going on in bigger cities and never get anything done. But it’s also very important to me to travel and expose myself to as much art and culture as I can.
That makes sense. I’ve always felt that sometimes when creative people move to big cities it can become harder to stand out as an artist/maker due to the sheer volume of other talented people flocking to that location. Is there a specific place or designer you always try to see when you go to New York?
I always go to The Met, and try to hit a couple high-end department stores like Bergdorf’s. It’s like visiting a museum; the dresses there cost more than my car. Specifically seeing Valentino, Dior and Dolce and Gabbana up close are always inspiring. Have you ever looked inside a Dior dress? The seams are works of art.
What has been your relationship with the Nashville Fashion Alliance? How have you seen the local Fashion Industry change in Nashville over the past few years?
The Nashville Fashion Alliance has done a great job bringing people in the industry together who have been doing their own thing for so long. Nashville has the third largest concentration of fashion brands in the country, but before the NFA, you’d never know it. They’ve also done a great job spreading the word about how it benefits the whole community when you buy local, and giving people lots of opportunities to discover local fashion. I’m on the member advisory board, and we’ve got lots of cool things coming.
The photos that you have on the Fanny & June blog and Instagram are incredible. What has the process been like finding and working with good photographers? Has your approach to that aspect of marketing changed over time?
Thanks! Everything is changing about the way we shop. The internet is now the world’s storefront, and good pictures are the best way to communicate with your customer. Recently, I’ve been working with Kelli and Caleb Dirks https://www.dirkscreative.com/ their work keeps blowing me away. I’ve always collaborated with friends for photographers, but I now go through an agency to find models. And I am a firm believer in hiring a professional hair and make-up artist, it can really make a difference in the photos looking professional. This last time I also worked with a stylist which also made a huge difference. I think a hat is something you really need to see on a person to get its impact, so I’ve always tried to get photos on models, but I’ve definitely been trying to pay more attention to who I’m marketing to, and really think about how the model is dressed – not just is it a cute outfit, but would the whole look appeal to my customer?
That is smart. I agree that social media and the Internet play a crucial role in how people choose to invest in brands. Do you have plans to open up a brick and mortar location or does your online presence make the most sense for you at this point?
I’m not really interested in opening a brick and mortar. I see clients by appointment in my home studio, and that works nicely for me.
I know that Fanny & June hats can be purchased at local stores here in Nashville, how did you determine which stores made the most sense for your brand? Do you work with stores outside of Nashville as well?
I don’t work with sweatshops so it’s important to work with stores whose price point matches the higher cost of handmade. If they sell other hats are those hats handmade in a small workshop or mass-produced in a large factory in China? Are the other items in their shop well made using natural fibers? I occasionally work with stores out of state, but I don’t go to market, so it’s harder to make those connections.
Do you collaborate much with other designers and if so how does that affect your process?
I’ve been doing a little of that recently and it’s really fun. It usually starts from a piece I’ve already designed, that I will do in a custom color.
What is your design process like?
I always make my best work when I’m thinking about what I’d want rather than what other people might like. It starts with the materials. Sometimes I’ll
sketch to get the idea down, but usually it’s down to trying things out.
Do you work with any assistants?
I am drawn to the simplicity of your website and I like the fact that you only make hats. As a fashion junkie I tend to fall for brands that choose to commit to one or few things rather than several. How did you decide to focus solely on hats? Do you have plans to move into other realms?
I enjoy sewing clothes for me, but I’m not interested in selling clothes. I think it’s helpful in business to have a niche. Hats are a growing market, and there’s still a lot of room in that world to explore.