Anna Hovet’s newly launched clothing line “HOVET” is a culmination of years of fashion experience, business relationships, and support from the city of Chicago. She remains firm in her business model of staying local, which includes manufacturing. Doing so, she sets herself apart from her competitors. Her customers love the consistent craftsmanship, technical quality, and materials selection throughout each collection.
Eric Carlson: What steps do you take to begin your creative process?
Anna Hovet: When I first started my line (Anna Hovet 2009) I used to try to do everything. Even non-fashion inspiration was good for my process. I would look at art history, museum art, color palettes on everyday items, advertisements from magazines. As my collections got simpler over time, I would tend to design based off what was in my closet — what I wanted to wear.
EC: So you want your collection to be cozy yet high-fashion?
AV: I have simplified the brand over the last year and re-branded to ‘HOVET’. This new ‘HOVET’ brand is much easier for me to produce and manufacture on a local level.
My chosen color palette is smaller, and that is better for me. People like simple, basic items. This recent collection has been our best selling line to date.
EC: What are some artistic challenges as a designer?
AV: Trying to keep artistic integrity while innovating can be an issue for any designer. It can also be a future issue for a business. Some fashion trends are in demand now and out of style by next season. Our best sellers can be so basic and simple. Part of my design process is learning my business sales and online traffic, and that helps me predict future sales trends.
EC: Why is networking important for your business?
AV: In order to be the brand host and make my clothing line a small business success, I’ve had to work with everyone from clothing buyers to retail buyers to trade show buyers. I’ve had to relate to other designers, be able to hold a conversation with pattern makers, and connect with the manufacturing small businesses in Chicago. Once the clothes are produced, my job changes to public relations and marketing. I work with models, photographers, makeup artists, and all other people that are involved in the industry. Everyone is important to your business. The ability to set your schedule and be on time helps your business stand out and be on the path for success.
EC: What other things are you involved in other than running your business?
AH: I’m currently tutoring at the Art Institute of Chicago and holding classes that focus on fashion brand consulting as well as fashion illustration. If a designer is looking to start a clothing line, I can consult them on how to make clothing patterns, how to network, and how to connect with a business to accomplish their brand’s needs. I act as a guide to the manufacturers, and I teach the importance of each business stage. So they’re paying me for the last eight years of my knowledge and experience — the everyday stress of running a clothing line, being responsible with my brand’s time and money, and respecting clothing buyers. The handbook that outlines starting a clothing line currently does not exist. The current fashion market dictates that it’s all about who you know.
Some of the best designers are total freaks, who push the boundary of fashion. They inspire others to express themselves. We need these rule breakers to be involved and push our comfort zone.
EC: What are some goals for the Studio Lessons? (Private classes offered in Anna’s studio)
AH: The classes are based on the same theory as the design consulting at the Art Institute Chicago. Most often, the goals for class sessions come down to what people want to learn. If they want to know how to drape and sew, we can focus our time getting them proficient while teaching new techniques along the way.
EC: After seven years producing a clothing line on a local scale, why keep investing in Chicago and its fashion industry?
AH: Networking is very important for a small business owner, and we need the customers to feel connected to our business or product. I’ve explored the idea of scaling my business as well as mass production. I’ve had meetings to try to expand my line with Macy’s. But if I were to sell at a department store level, I would have to manufacture overseas. Not manufacturing in Chicago would alter my entire production and change the entire brand model for ‘HOVET’. I like staying small. I like staying where I’m at with the new line.
It’s a very challenging time to be in fashion. You have to really want it.