Having worked for fashion big names such as Henri Bendel, Selfridges, American Vogue and Vanity Fair, Anna Garner wanted to take those experiences and channel them into something that could support and showcase emerging as well as established designers – thus The Garnered was born. From beautiful hand-sewn gloves from France to ceramics bowls from New York, the retail platform merges the world of fashion, craft and design – it is not a fashion site, but with its founder’s background, there is very much a fashion “eye” in evidence. Recently, The Garnered recently launched a pop-up in Landmark, Hong Kong – and we managed to catch up with Anna Garner for a chat.
You have had a long history working at some very established retailers such as Henri Bendel and Selfridges – what inspired you to start your own platform and how is The Garnered different?
I felt having worked at some of the most amazing companies in fashion and retail in London, New York and Paris, there was an opportunity to do something whilst very international, on a more personal scale. I felt there was an audience that was yearning to have a more personal interaction, something that was more curated and finely edited, and ultimately about great and lasting quality. Getting something from The Garnered really is a personal experience, everything is packed and shipped directly from the designers with a handwritten note.
I wanted to bring a fashion audience to luxury craft and vice versa. The Garnered is different too in that I also saw an opportunity to answer some of the problems that occur in traditional retail. I really wanted to provide a very nurturing and beautiful environment for our designers to be showcased and for our customers to shop at.
For example, we work really collaboratively with our designers to make sure we correctly represent their vision of their world. I also wanted to find a way to invite the customer and audience behind the scenes, to make them feel as if they are stepping into the studios of the designers – I really wanted to highlight some of the unsung heroes, the makers who aren’t the face of a brand but as they are called in France, the “petites mains” who are the ones who “make” it happen. I was thrilled to show the team of artisans at Causse (glove makers) in France for example. The company is owned by Chanel, but for me the important and most fundamental thing is to highlight the amazingly talented artisans who make every pair of gloves by hand.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced running The Garnered so far?
I think managing our very first pop-up on the other side of the world, in Hong Kong, when the business was not even a year old!
What is the most rewarding experience?
Getting great feedback from customers who often write to say how much they love the pieces they have received. It’s very special to receive something that has been made by hand and often made to order especially for you. We often send images of the making process so customers can see how their items are made – it’s very personal and it’s exciting for the customers to feel like they are part of the process. It’s wonderful to promote this sense of connection between our customers and our designers.
What does Christmas mean to you?
Christmas means family first and foremost. It also means entertaining and catching up with friends. We love to be at home for Christmas – we all decorate the tree and sit down to a long late lunch on Christmas Day. It’s of course the busiest time of the year for anyone in retail but it’s also the most exciting, especially when I think about all the gifts that are being given around the world from The Garnered!
What is your favourite gift to give for Christmas?
As is on the agenda for many of us, I think it’s about less is more. I love giving a few really special gifts that have been really thought through for that person – it could be personalised stationery or a hat hand-knitted in their favorite colours.
What was the best piece of advice you were given?
My former boss, Ed Burstell, who was the president of Henri Bendel whilst I was fashion director, wrote me a beautiful letter after I had left and I was at a career crossroads, “Always believe in yourself” are words that are in effect simple but it is a fantastic motto to live by and it is a message I pass on to my three boys every day. It’s a very simple but powerful statement.
How can we ensure there will be a re-appreciation of crafts and lovingly-made products in the next generation?
I think the next generation are already leading this re-appreciation. There is far less emphasis on materialism – the millennial attitude is very much about “values” rather than “value”. They appreciate authenticity and shun overconsumption. Craftsmanship is all about quality: it’s the antithesis of mass production and I think the next generation are a very conscious consumer – buying less but buying better.
Responsible design. Sustainability will become more and more important – it’s a natural by-product of craftsmanship as everything is hand-made and traceable but it will spill into every facet of our lives.
Photography by Sarah Weal