Posted on October 18 2016
Below, Anji discusses the inspiration behind brand name 'WE ARE MORTALS' which originated from this experience of understanding how short life is and feeling the need to live it to the fullest without holding back.
Q: What stimulated your interest in fashion?AB: I wouldn’t really say that my mom was into fashion but she did sew clothes for me when I was young, so I’m sure that influenced me a lot.
Q: What forced you take fashion more seriously and make a profession out of it?
I would say my mom was the driving force behind that decision as well. I originally went to school to become a teacher, but eventually, I felt I needed a creative outlet so that’s when I learned to sew and started making fanny packs and leggings as a little side-project. After a few years of doing this hobby, I found out that my mom had lung cancer. When she passed away, it made a huge impact on me and I felt compelled to move to LA and pursue fashion as a career.
Q: Did you study fashion design or self-taught?
AB: I’m self-taught! Learning to sew was easier than I thought it would be, but learning to navigate the apparel industry here in LA wasn’t easy. Sourcing fabric and finding manufacturers to work with are really challenging tasks at first, but once I started making connections, it started getting easier and easier. I doubt that fashion design school even teaches you those types of things anyway, so sometimes it is better just to jump in and learn as you go.
Q: What’s your motto?
AB: There are many quotes that come to mind, and of course the tagline for the brand ‘The Future Has No Gender’, but I think one motto I really try to live by is one I came across that says “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” I don’t really pay much attention to trend forecasts, and instead try to follow my own instincts and be the change I want to see in this world.
Q: How would you describe your brand?
AB: WE ARE MORTALS is a street wear-inspired brand that represents the new generation and its progressive mindset. As MORTALS we are all equal and we are all united through the human experience. Our clothing is intended for any identity across the gender spectrum, so we reject labels that categorize us based on sexuality, gender, race, etc, and instead see identity as a fluid thing. We view personal style as an artistic expression, not as something that should be used to classify people.
Q: Does your methodology differ when designing womenswear compared to menswear?AB: No, it really doesn’t. I think it’s so ridiculous that certain clothing has to be for women or men exclusively. It divides us, reinforces stereotypes based on gender and sexuality, and doesn’t allow representation for all of the people who identify as non-binary or somewhere in-between male and female.
Gender is nothing but a social construct, so there is definitely room to play with gender through fashion no matter who you are or how you identify. I think that any type of clothing can be worn by any individual, so I try to keep that gender-free concept in mind when designing. I base my designs on streetwear silhouettes that can inherently be worn on any body type, and then add touches of femininity and masculinity in the most balanced way I can.
Q: How do you balance creativeness with market?AB: I would pinpoint that issue as the number one challenge for me, and most likely I’m not alone. As an entrepreneur sometimes it seems nearly impossible to do everything I need to do, but I just keep bouncing back and forth between ‘creative time’ where I get inspired-- sketch looks and brainstorm, and ‘business time’ when I’m focused on promoting, advertising and sales.
Q: What are you captivated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
AB: At the moment, I’m thinking a lot about dance as an inspiration. I studied dance my whole life growing up, so it’s something that’s powerful to me and now I’m taking every opportunity possible to incorporate dance into the brand.
I’ve been especially captivated by voguing for a long time now. I’m not a voguer myself, but it’s the coolest thing in my opinion, and the history behind the art form is so interesting. I tend to work with dancers rather than your typical ‘models’; so far Infinite Coles, King Saturn, and Kanerflex and Melamurder, are several of them. My upcoming collection will also feature a design of dancers’ bodies in voguing poses outlined.
Q: Who inspires you the most in fashion industry?
AB: Yohji Yamamoto is always a favorite, but honestly right now it’s impossible to pinpoint one designer because there are so many completely new designers emerging who are totally amazing. Every day I discover someone new. It’s a really good time for fashion right now, with designers mixing street wear and avant-garde looks!
Photo: BRIAN VU
Q: Where do you see yourself in 4 years?
AB: I want to see myself orchestrating WE ARE MORTALS once it’s become a worldwide recognized brand. It will be so incredible when I’m able to build up a team of people to help carry this brand forward who are the best at what they do.
So far I’ve been doing just about everything on my own as brand owner, but I believe I’ve created something that can now stand on its own and attract the right people and opportunities.
Q: Is there any place in the world you haven’t been and would like to visit from a professional viewpoint?
AB: I haven’t been to Berlin yet, and it seems like the creative community is really thriving there so I’m sure there are a lot of opportunities to collaborate with all kinds of artists.
Q: What guidance or advice would you like to give to young designers?
AB: If you want to start a brand, I would recommend really thinking about what you want your brand to represent. Everything speaks to people in one way or another, so I think it’s best to be intentional about what your message is or what kind of voice your clothing line has.