Most fresh fashion grads take the usual route of working for large fashion houses and establishing notable connections, before striking it out on their own, if they ever do. But not Anais Jourden Mak. Instead, she established her eponymous label in 2012 immediately after emerging with a fashion design degree from the famed Studio Bercot in Paris. Based in Hong Kong, the 31-year-old sees that plunge as an advantage now. “In the past, people used to covet big brands. But now, people take pride in wearing brands that no one else has heard of,” she says.
The label is known for sheer flouncy pieces in feminine silhouettes, but with a twist. Stemming from Anais’ obsession with fabrication, textures and traditional craft techniques like smocking and embroidery, her distinct aesthetic is what she calls “a subtly perverted take on formal femininity” – think double-breasted blazers and layered maxi dresses combined with unexpected modern details such as metallic applique and risque sheer lace.
And her star has been steadily on the rise, from being a semifinalist for LVMH’s Young Fashion Designer Prize in 2015 to showcasing a futurism-inspired installation for cult Parisian concept store Colette in 2017 before it shuttered. Most recently, she collaborated with Christian Lacroix for her Spring/Summer 2020 show in Paris, while getting the attention of fashion week goers and streetwear enthusiasts alike with her custom project with Nike, sending classic Air Force Ones – sans laces and pimped out in gold frills – down the runway.
While she’s now a fixture at Paris Fashion Week, with her designs spotted on celebrities (including model Bella Hadid, actress-singer Keke Palmer, as well as Ariana Grande, who wore a puffer jacket from the brand in her 7 Rings music video), the designer says she draws inspiration from humble everyday life in Hong Kong.
Her childhood and penchant for dressing up with friends influenced her Spring/Summer 2020 collection – from the pleated uniform-esque skirts, and slinky dresses fit for a club. “I’m inspired by the girls around me,” she says. “For example, when I go to a manicure salon, I observe the different colours and shapes that girls like to do. I question who they do this for and how these trends have come to be.”
Anais says her goal is to encourage women to articulate themselves through her clothes. “Women today are capable of so many identities, and it touches me when they can express them.” And with her pretty, feminine designs, it’s not hard to see why women love them.
This article first appeared in Her World.