Anna Hoang needs little introduction. The designer is the creative genius behind fashion label Anna Quan, a now-cult womenswear giant that has become synonymous with subtle detailing and unique tailoring. It might seem from Hoang’s upward trajectory of success since debuting her namesake label at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2015, that her journey has been a feat of pure passion, but it wasn’t originally where the designer had imagined herself (and still sometimes, wonders how she got there). The rest is history though, with Anna Quan being seen on the likes of celebrities worldwide, including Kendall Jenner, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson and Naomi Campbell.
On Episode Five of The Flipside, Sali Sasi and Julie Stevanja speak with Hoang about the origins of the Anna Quan label, explore why jumping into the deep end can sometimes the best way to get started on your passion, and how tech has helped accelerate the business. Here, three lessons we learnt from Anna Hoang.
If you listen to any type of entrepreneurial podcast or read the stories of some of the world’s most successful founders in their memoirs — you’ll often be confronted with the same admission from each when it comes to the early days of their careers; they had no idea what they were doing.
That’s how Hoang remembers the early days of Anna Quan. What started as a side exploration into design while studying, and eventually graduating, law, Hoang admits that she just “organically” started creating, and eventually, built what is now the iconic Australian label.
“I was like, what is this showroom business? How do you sell clothes to people? I didn’t even know that. It’s kind of cringe,” she tells the hosts.
Stevanja agrees, noting her and Sasi’s early days at athleisure business Stylerunner.
“When we started… we had no idea what we were doing,” she says. “We didn’t, but we quickly learned through the questions that we were fielding. So sometimes, it is naive to throw yourself in the deep end as long as you are conserving how much resources you put into that. You can actually learn a hell of a lot in the deep end by actually just being in the process and coming against the questions and then working it out on the way.”
The teaching? Sometimes, throwing yourself into the deep end can be the best way to get started.
Anyone who has an Anna Quan piece in their wardrobe will tell you, the designs are not only remarkably high-quality and built to last, they’re designed with the intention to forgo trends and live as a staple. That’s an ethos that has been engrained by Hoang since the beginning, who began her design journey with the re-imagination of the simple white button-up.
What Hoang learnt quickly, was that her dedication to getting each and every piece right — from fabrics to silhouette, tailoring and even colour, has been what sets her brand apart.
“There’s more people in the market or competitors or just everybody vying for an audience, and you have to think very hard about your audience, how you are going to make an impact and what your value add is. If you don’t have a value add, then maybe sit down and consider having one.”
Like most businesses, the pandemic forced a complete shift in the way Hoang and her brand operated. Unlike previous years when the team would travel to Paris to attend showroom appointments, everything had to be swapped from a real-life model to a digital-first approach, something Hoang admits was not the brand’s usual undertakings.
“We had to produce more digital assets,” she explains, adding that the brand created far more video content than in the years prior. “We started formalising, and this actually probably made the business better and probably expanded the business in the last two years, because we were forced to create all these digital assets, and because we were forced to create these digital assets, we probably sold more things.”
For wholesalers, who would typically see the latest collection in a runway or showroom format, Hoang and her team created walkthrough videos that could be viewed remotely.
“It was interesting, an interesting experiment which we kind of expanded on and it worked. I’m always learning lots of new things,” says Hoang, adding "[Technology] actually helped amplify the business a lot more."