Australian fashion label Anna Quan turns 10
Australian fashion label Anna Quan turns 10

Australian fashion label Anna Quan turns 10

“It has been a lot of hard work,” she says. “Ironically, I think it only gets harder as you go along. Because I feel like now we are in an awkward adolescent stage. We are not the new kid on the block, the shiny and bright thing. We are at a bit of a reckoning point where we are figuring out what the brand is in this phase. It’s a crossroads – we have the capacity to grow, but how much do we want to do that?”

I am constantly asking myself, what is the value proposition for the customer? Why would they buy it?

Anna Hoang

Currently stocked by the likes of Net-A-Porter, Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford and David Jones, retail seems to be the next logical step. But Hoang is not convinced.

“I worry about inventory, rent, inflation… I won’t say no, or never, but right now it’s not my top priority. I want to feel super-comfortable with every decision. I’m not ready yet.”

Anna Quan signature long-sleeved shirt: The style first resonated with New Yorkers.  

Hoang started Anna Quan in 2013 with a run of shirts, made because “they were relatively inexpensive and I knew how to make them,” she says. “I was a no-name designer, and they were simple to produce and sample.”

The brand first resonated with New Yorkers, who Hoang believes discovered it via celebrity stylist Kate Young, an early fan. “It was very specific. It was New York women who would write to me and say, ‘I wear the shirt on the subway, and people ask me about it all the time.’ ” It was the first sense she had that the products were finding an audience beyond Hoang herself.

And while Hoang will bring back those shirts, with their signature elongated sleeves, for a 10th birthday outing, the brand is now known for knit dresses, relaxed suiting and dresses that manage to be sexy and sedate at the same time.

A dress photographed for Anna Quan’s Collection ONE campaign: The spring/summer 2023 collection will be available online next week. Daniel Goode

When designing collections – spring/summer 2023 will be available online from Monday – Hoang searches for one thing: value. It’s not about cost, she says, but more about what the garment represents to the wearer.

“I am constantly asking myself, what is the value proposition for the customer? Why would they buy it? It has to be aspirational but also represent value for money. It’s not a sexy thought, it’s a bit boring almost. But why would someone want this? If I can’t answer that, that’s a problem.”

In May, Hoang will show at Australian Fashion Week for the sixth time. “It’s a lot of work but it does give you a bump in terms of recognition,” she says, adding that wholesale sales are dependent on which buyers are present. Again, she is unusually candid about the reality of fashion week.

“I only show the strongest looks. After 20 to 25 exits … people get bored. The idea is to get a taste of the brand. If you can’t show what you’re feeling or thinking in 25 exits, maybe you shouldn’t have done this.”

Hoang’s team working on Collection ONE: The Josie dress is in the foreground. Alex Wall

Hoang and her team of 12 have recently moved premises to Sydney’s Alexandria, and she thinks she might one day want “a full offering” for her customers, with accessories like bags and shoes to complement her meticulously tailored pieces. But not yet. That is a business decision, and one she will not take lightly.

“Creativity only gets you so far,” she says. “Then you need a business. You need to execute a plan. You need to think about what your brand stands for and how you want to position yourself. What is the point?”

She pauses. “What is the point?”

The point, she surmises over a long black, is to create beautiful things that people love to wear. It’s not saving lives, she gets that, but it can add value to them.

“I would never make something just for the hell of it,” she says. “A T-shirt with my name on it, or a bag for the sake of it: no. People can tell when you’re faking it, when you’re just trying to make money. It all has to give something to the customer. That’s the point.”

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