photo credit: Neda Abghari
In the summer of 2009, Anna McCraney had toiled her way through Bravo’s brand new fashion design competition, “The Fashion Show”, hosted by Isaac Mizrahi, and found herself walking away with a 125K prize and bragging rights to reality TV survival and domination. When asked if she was worried that the fashion industry wouldn’t take her seriously because she had participated, she laughed and said, “It’s fashion, it’s not supposed to be serious!” And that is just it, Anna wants to have fun, and she wants to do it for a living. She was in it for the money.
What the half-million viewers didn’t know when they ultimately decided her fate as winner, was that the effortless and flattering, bold and flirty designs that solidified her win, are rooted in her past and present, successes and failures. “I can throw a party, tell a story, and make a dress … that much I know.” Her designs incorporate history, art, and music, three things she believes hit an emotional chord for people, and she translates them to her clothes through fabric, color, and smart, detail driven design. Her connections to the art world through her time at the Rhode Island School of Design, collaborations with DIY collectives like Fort Thunder and Space 1026, and cutting edge printshops and galleries such as Forth Estate and Halsey McKay, keep her inspired by the world of fine art, that in her eyes, perhaps, has a more pure connection to the self. On the flipside, her professional life, spent as a teacher, buyer, sales rep, and designer for brands like Dolce Vita, give her that connection to the girl she designs for that every designer must have. In her life before Bravo, Anna was a dive bar debutante in downtown New York and Brooklyn. She designed collections as homage to the B-52’s and had her models assume wrestling personas and battle each other. Versatility, malleability, and transformation in the designs and the woman the wears them inform her line, and always have.
In March of 2011, Anna opened her flagship boutique, annabelle on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The shop is right at home in this mix of culture, high and low, one of the few remaining neighborhoods in New York that resists corporate invasion. The store’s Scottish damask wallpaper and antler chandelier juxtapose the eclectic mix of colors and prints, many created by the designer herself, and it’s fully stocked bar at the cash wrap is for customers who come to shop and stay to gossip. Limited edition designs in vibrant colors and prints, beautiful cast porcupine quill jewelry from K/LLER collection, slick leather jackets from Gar-de, colorful shoes from Osborn, and select works from artists and friends, rotating every three months, are a welcome addition to the merchandise mix. Anna’s discerning eye allows not for the dilemma of what to buy, but what not to buy.
Most of all, Anna has not forgotten her roots in the South, in color and culture, narrative and nuance, education and celebration, and in the nature and the nurturing of a line of clothing that will inspire us to notice not the dress, but the girl.