Annie Griffin is proof that when you follow your passion, good things happen. Born and raised in Memphis, Annie followed her heart to Atlanta after college to pursue fashion design. In the years since her arrival in Atlanta, both her career and eponymous label have been taking the Southeast by storm. Lindsey Hedgepeth, a StyleBlueprint Memphis writer, caught up with this talented and creative entrepreneur to learn a little about what makes her tick, as well see behind the scenes in her studio. We loved finding out things she likes most about her hometown, about Atlanta and about being her own boss, not to mention that her gorgeous threads are available in all of our StyleBlueprint sister cities! Shopping spree, anyone?!
What do you love most about Memphis and what do you try to do when you come home for a visit?
I love cooking out with the family and big holiday gatherings. I just went to Alchemy in Cooper Young over Thanksgiving, and it was delicious! Memphis has so many new hot spots I haven’t been to. I’d have to stay for weeks to visit them all!
What (or who) brought you to Atlanta?
I met my husband towards the end of college. He was moving to Atlanta for a new job at the same time I was finishing school. After a long distance relationship, we wanted to live in the same town. Atlanta sounded like the perfect place, still in the South, but big, new and exciting.
What do you love most about Atlanta?
Atlanta is a big city, but it’s still reminiscent of a small town. I grew up in Memphis and my husband and I lived in NYC briefly and loved it. We do, however, realize how fortunate we are to live in Atlanta, where museums, restaurants, parks and grocery stores were just a car ride away. For us, Atlanta is the perfect balance of both worlds.
You and your sister, Robin, run Annie Griffin Inc. together, correct? What’s it like being a sister act? How do you complement one another in your business and daily life?
That’s right. Robin became a partner last year. Being partners and sisters certainly has its challenges, but our personalities tend to complement each other in business. Robin has never met a stranger, which plays out beautifully in sales, and I’m a bit shy and love to design. It has been great having her there to try on the designs and offer advice during the design process. Her feedback has been invaluable.
You are so young to have realized your dream. What comes next?!
I’m not sure we’ve completely realized the dream yet. It feels more like we’re in the middle of one. It’s hard to guess what’s next. We’re just having so much fun coming up with new designs and watching them come to life.
What inspires you?
My inspiration is really everything around me in my daily life. I am inspired by architecture, nature, my closet, interiors, my travels, nail polish colors, you name it… I am always looking for things that catch my eye, and I love having a camera phone, because I can capture everything that I find intriguing along the way.
Your designs have great names with personality, are they named after friends/family?
We name them after friends, family, co-workers, people we work with in the industry, and occasionally we just use a name we like. But usually there’s a reason behind them.
Can you describe your creative process?
First I start by making an inspiration board, which includes magazine tears, fabric swatches, color chips, etc. I then start sketching out the silhouettes I want to use for the season, and finally I decide what colors and prints we are going to offer for each delivery.
We have readers in Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Birmingham and Louisville. Can you tell us what local boutiques in those cities carry your line?
- Memphis: Oak Hall, Isabella, Lavish
- Nashville: COCO, Emmaline, Hemline
- Atlanta: Poppy’s, Dora Rae
- Birmingham: M Lavender, Manhattan South
- Louisville: Boutique Serendipity, Glasscocks
What do you love most about your career?
I suppose I’m most excited about the company itself and how Robin, Shanna (who helps manage our operation) and I have each grown in our roles. I couldn’t have said that this time last year, but everyone’s positions have become so much more defined. It’s such a joy to watch Robin sell and Shanna, our behind-the-scenes wizard makes our lives so much easier. We’re a team, but individually, we get to focus on our strengths. So I guess what I love most right now is how we’re all excelling as individuals within the company!
What are the biggest challenges you are facing with your company?
There are always challenges when growing a business. As the designer, I am always trying to relate to the customer. I’m constantly trying to think of unique designs that are wearable and fresh with a classic feel, but I also have to stay true to who I am as a designer. Robin has a very different set of challenges. We’re a small company with some pretty aggressive seasonal goals. With very little marketing power, she is constantly thinking of innovative and creative ways to reach out to potential stores. She is always surprising us!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a fashion designer, and has it been hard to break into the business?
I concentrated in painting in college but have always loved textiles. I worked in interior design after college, and I really think being around beautiful fabrics day in and day out peaked my interest in fashion design. So I enrolled in SCAD, then launched the line when I was 25. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever tackled, but having my sister in charge of sales has really helped give us that push we needed.
What are your hobbies?
I’d have to say my favorite hobbies are traveling (when I have the opportunity) and playing tennis. I have loved being on a tennis team since I moved to Atlanta. It has been greet meeting new people in such a big city through a sport I love.
We have also been able to donate to some different causes this year, and it has been really fun having the opportunity to give back.
What is your favorite travel destination?
We love the North Carolina mountains and the Gulf Coast, and last summer my husband and I got to go to the wine country for the first time, which was incredible!
Congratulations to you and your husband on the birth of your son! Can you tell us about the nursery?
Thank you!! We have an antique white theme going on with the crib and the glider, and then a Swedish painted gray chest that will double as a changing table. It is all neutrals, with a lot of lamb items. (I thought a lamb theme would work for a boy or girl.)
Any plans to create a children’s line? We know your baby will be the best-dressed on the block!
Awe, I wish! Maybe in the future. We are going to keep doing what we are doing for the time being, but don’t count it out.
What is on your must have shopping list for fall 2012?
Simple, vintage leather bags. Statement jewelry. Sheer, over-sized sweaters.
From our Fall Collection: I’m most excited about the Elizabeth Dress in Orange Color-block and the Margaux Blouse in the Navy Ikat.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Getting my hair cut. I go about once a month.
What one word best describes you?
That is tough… but I’d say a dreamer.
What event(s) are you most looking forward to this fall in Memphis or Atlanta or both?
This fall we have a couple of weddings, UGA games in Athens (my husband is a huge UGA fan) and a trip planned to the North Carolina mountains. I always look forward to The Atlanta Arts Festival at Piedmont Park. All the vendors are so inspiring.
What books are on your bedside table/e-reader?
What are three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God):
Coffee, traveling and tennis.
Thanks Annie! For more information about Annie Griffin Collection, visit the website: http://anniegriffincollection.com.
Photos courtesy of Annie Griffin Collection.