Walthamstow-based clothing designer Anna Skodbo talks about starting a business and the everyday objects that inspire her work
Images: Stephen Berkeley White
Anna Skodbo invites me into her home and workspace, which is as interesting and multi-faceted as the designer herself. Fallen mannequin body parts lay in the garden. A brightly coloured bicycle matches Anna’s brilliant green and yellow hair and a honking great mural is emblazoned on an outside wall.
As well as producing sustainable clothing ranges, Anna is an accomplished harpist and plays at festivals around the UK in her spare time. She also finds time to give university lectures on the various processes involved in clothing manufacture, from sustainability to fabrication.
Her clothing label Phannatiq is billed as “ethically produced attire for those that don’t do shiny”. The distinctive prints are taken from everyday life: a high-vis vest, a chain link fence and graffiti from Hackney Wick; fly tipping in Walthamstow (featuring mattresses) and stripes from her tortoiseshell cat.
Phannatiq was officially launched in 2011 at London Fashion Week, just six months after Anna graduated with a first class degree from Hertfordshire university.
“The first six months were fine but the difficulty came after that. But I knew it was going to be a slow growth business, so I went into it with absolutely no naivety in that sense,” she reflects.
“Having worked in events, I’ve seen a lot of startups come in with all cannons blazing and they blow themselves up within a year.”
Anna sustained herself by working in other jobs while she built the business organically, then launched a successful Kickstarter campaign which allowed her to reposition Phannatiq as a more commercially viable product.
Her dresses have been worn by singers Pixie Lott and Alison Lowe, MP Stella Creasy, DJ and transgender icon Munroe Bergdorf, and vegan baker Tegan Christmas.
Each print is made by silkscreen rather than digitally, so that every piece of clothing is individual with its own little discrepancies.
The fabric is produced in the EU and most of it is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard – a strict set of criteria that follows the material through all stages of production, from the plant to the storage to the dying process. The receipts are made from recycled paper, the mailing bags are biodegradable and there are no swing tags on the clothes, thereby reducing landfill.
The Gil t-shirt uses bamboo and organic cotton grown, spun and knitted in the Izmir region of Western Turkey. Anna says: “Not only do they grow their own organic cotton and use wind power, they have water projects in the region and they’ve instigated a lot of sustainable irrigation systems and they do a lot of work with water supply for residential use.”
Phannatiq features regularly in high octane fashion magazines such as the ready-to-wear section in Vogue. Yet although the brand graces the pages of such a publication, Anna ensures that her designs are clothes for all people, for all genders and all sizes.
“Without meaning to, I’ve designed clothes that will often fit a huge range of sizes, because of the way they hang. We have a couple of hoodies that will fit a size 6 to a size 26 and still look good.
“And it shows people that read Vogue that people can look different.”