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How a Melbourne-based designer transformed leftover sportswear into an experimental clothing label

PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEKHENA PORTER 

WORDS BY AASTHA AGRAWAL 

 

Where style meets ethics.

Remember when op-shopping was uncool? It might feel like a fever dream, but there was a distinct period of my childhood where second-hand clothing was synonymous with daggy hand-me-downs, mothballs and old people (anyone over 25, according to my 10-year-old self).

With the rise of Depop, thrift hauls and reworked vintage, 2021 op-shops are daggy no more. Unlike some of us, New-Zealand born designer Annie Enoka saw the beauty in hand-me-downs well before Savers was a coveted shopping destination.


Keep up to date with ethical designers over at our Fashion section. 


After being exposed to the industry through years of retail work, Annie felt that some elements needed to be changed to ensure better quality and longevity of clothes. Determined to make that change herself, she started practising her hand at creating pieces from other designers’ leftover materials.

With a steady goal, a passion for the process and plenty of pandemic-induced free time, Annie was ready to really get down to it. She created an extension of herself – an experimental, eco-conscious brand, Anni Enoka.

Hey Annie! How’s it going? Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into the fashion industry.

Hey! I’m Annie, I’m a self-taught designer and I started my brand, Anni Enoka, officially in March 2020. I’ve been in Australia for three years now. Back in New Zealand, I had always been in the fashion industry, so my history with fashion stems from working retail. I always knew that when I moved here, I was going to start leaning towards starting my own brand. 

The pandemic definitely helped put things into perspective and made me reevaluate what I really wanted to do. At first, I wasn’t so business-focused, I used to just string out ideas and make pieces for fun and the business naturally grew from there. Eventually, things started to take off. I started doing custom orders and  thought, ‘Wow this is working.’

Where did your passion for eco-conscious clothing stem from?

Growing up in New Zealand – being from such a small country and feeling like you’re quite far away – you [feel] like you [have] to make do with what you have… as a kid, thrifting or going to the op-shop wasn’t a cool or trendy thing to do, but I really thrived and loved finding pieces. I would start by finding a vintage piece and work out how to design something like it, but with a little more edge. 

I think any brand that is thinking of starting [out] has to consider the fact [that] there is already a tonne of businesses and we don’t need another one that plays into mass consumption. A big thing for me was making the pieces myself. The slowness of that process allowed me to also learn how things are done, rather than going to a factory to get things produced.

 

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A post shared by (Anni Enoka) (@annienoka_)

I’d love to know what Anni Enoka is all about! What’s your style and where do you get your inspiration from?

I’m interested in sportswear. I think of myself as a customer, I think about the things I like wearing and use that to make my products. I would say my work is a mix between street [wear] and sports style, but I guess I’m more interested in how things work. So as I’m learning a new technique, I start making a piece. 

In terms of inspiration, it can be hard to find a middle point because obviously, I want the product to be stylish, but I also want to ensure it stays true to what I’m into. Growing up in New Zealand has also been a huge inspiration and a driving force for me…  I’m actually going back soon to take some time [off] and re-inspire myself.

You mentioned you use found fabrics and deadstock for your creations. Can you tell me where you source the material from?

I get my supply from a place called Remnant Warehouse in Sydney, as well as from designers who often have leftover fabric from their creations. I get a lot of stretch fabric, so it [often] ends up being deadstock fabric from other sportswear companies – which is interesting because I’m making pieces from the same fabric, but just with a lot more care and time.

Do you make pieces to order or custom pieces? Or is it more collection-based? 

I sell mostly made-to-order pieces through Instagram, but I’ve just recently [been] stocked at a local store, Error 404I have an online shop too, but I’ve found that in terms of production, I only want to work with what I can keep up with and I want to have my platform build organically, rather than rushing into things.

 

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A post shared by (Anni Enoka) (@annienoka_)

What are some things that you keep in mind when you’re creating your pieces?

I just don’t want to be left with all this stock, so in terms of sustainability, my interest in production really helps with that because I don’t want items just sitting in my studio. Also, I feel like the customers are a lot smarter now; they’re wanting something that is a bit more unique and they [want to] feel powerful wearing it because they know someone has made it, touched it, and thought about it. I think people are also wanting to support local designers more and are wanting to have something that’s a bit more thought-out.

Are there any challenges you have faced or are still facing when creating your clothing?

Definitely. Starting the business by myself has been interesting, financially. I haven’t had any funding so everything came from the money I saved when I started making a few pieces here and there. It’s crazy to me how things have managed to work out.

Where do you see yourself and your brand in a few years from now?

I want to continue making pieces and I would love to eventually have a team. It can get pretty hectic as it’s just me now, but building a team and having everyone understand my direction would be great to have one day!

You can browse more of Annie’s pieces here.

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