Plain and sombre are precisely why Anaabu’s line of garments is sought after, writes Nadia Badarudin
THE story of local fashion brand Anaabu begins with its founder’s passion in thrifting.
Popularly known among modern urbanites, the term refers to shopping at thrift stores as well as bundle or vintage clothing stores, in the hope of getting cheap and rare outfits, an activity which can be even more satisfying than shopping for new clothes.
Ana Abu, a Kelantanese, founded Anaabu in 2010 after she fell in love with thrifting and vintage clothing.
The 28-year-old entrepreneur used to work as a civil engineer (she majored in offshore structures and oceanography at Universiti Teknologi Petronas) and considered thrifting and selling vintage clothing on her online store and at weekend bazaars, as her part-time job.
Being uniquely fashionable herself, Ana blogged about her newfound passion and gave styling tips to fans on social media.
After two years of working as an engineer, Ana quit her job and got serious about her little venture by setting up a concept store in Shah Alam, Selangor, in 2012, where the industrial features and space reflected the founder’s engineering background.
Ana, who is of Cambodian-Malay parentage, comes from a family who runs various small businesses.
“My father sold vintage clothes when he migrated to Malaysia in 1977. When I was small, I used to travel with him from state to state in his Nissan van to sell denim pants at night markets,” she recalls. “I have aunts who have bridal and textile businesses too.”
But despite her family influence, she did not actually have any particular interest in fashion or garment-making in the beginning.
“My interest in fashion only grew after I graduated, particularly when I started thrifting and selling vintage clothes,” she says.
“That was how I learnt the trade. I started backwards, from running a fashion retail business before going back to the roots, which is learning the basics of creating a garment like sewing and making patterns.
“My father is my inspiration, hence the brand name.”
The idea for the label to roll out original designs only came into the picture after Ana teamed up with her husband in 2014.
From purely curating vintage clothes, the label has stepped further into the industry. It currently produces new ready-to-wear collections twice a year, footwear and capsule collections based on customers’ demand and feedback.
LOOSE AND PRACTICAL
To the uninitiated, Anaabu’s androgynous style and design concept are quirky and minimalist to the core (imagine Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi or something along that line). Each piece is tailored in simple, loose cuts and made from somber-looking, non-patterned fabrics. The pieces come in plain, earthy colours, suggesting humility and modesty.
Its first unisex collection, Him & Her was launched earlier this year to rave reviews. It’s still in high demand.
“Our mission is to create a modest lifestyle where less is more. We believe that practicality, modesty and beauty go together in fashion. So we create collections based on classic pieces with added practical statements to make each piece unique, but wearable for the average person, says Ana who admires local designer Tsyahmi as well as European and American fashion brands like Vetements and Everlane, respectively.
“We love to play with natural and earthy colours (white, black, grey, brown, blue etc) and natural fabrics such as cotton and linen. They’re great for visual and function; the fabrics are breathable and long-lasting,” she says.
Those who know Ana or have been following her on Twitter or Instagram say the brand DNA is a reflection of her own style and preference.
“Yes, Anaabu reflects my personal style and collection, which is mainly loose and practical,” she says.
“I like androgynous pieces, particularly those that are oversized yet simple and wearable. I love to mix and match. I like practical attire and accessories such as bags, shoes and sandals that let me walk freely. A heavy bag would be a burden and high heels can break my posture.”
Some find Anaabu’s pieces dull and that minimalism is just a fancy buzzword the label uses to sell the line.
Ana disagrees. She says minimalism is not just about how you look.
“It’s also about how you feel and how you appreciate simple things in life. I like the idea that we don’t have to try too hard to look good. Dull pieces can be good if you style them creatively. Dull for you means amazing to me, beautiful for you may be yucky for me, and vice versa,” she says.
Ana says running the show and keeping up with the fast-paced industry are huge challenges especially for someone from a non-fashion background.
She says the key lies in being keen to learn, having good taste in fashion and believing in living modestly.
“I think engineering and fashion designing share a common concept. Both have taught me to invent, adapt and evolve based on the environment while staying true to basic principles,” she explains.
“At Anaabu, it’s about how we differentiate our brand from the rest. It’s not really about being different; it’s just about us being us.
“By believing in living modestly, we hope to create a fashion culture where people can wear something simple and still look nice without trying too hard.”
On top of it all, having a clear-cut business focus is crucial.
“Our tagline is You Have It In You. We tell people to believe in what they are, to be confident in what they wear and to feel good everyday, no matter what,” she says.
“Our focus goes beyond selling or designing beautiful clothes; We’re actually trying to sell the confidence that many people need.”
IN HER OWN WORDS
1. Do you have a hobby?
Yes, reading manga (Japanese comics) and playing Sudoku. Both help me to balance my left and right brain.
2. Any celebrity you want to dress up with your pieces?
Why a celebrity? We love to dress any woman, even the elderly.
3. Name three items that you always carry in your bag.
I carry a small sling bag with must-have items which include a man’s wallet (I like it for its practicality), a handphone as well as a pen and a small notebook.