Artist, stylist, woman entrepreneur, Anne Élisabeth plays with shades, fabrics and challenges, for her pleasure and ours.
By inspiration, Anne Elisabeth absorbs odors, colors, sounds and feelings; on expiration, she creates patterns, dress designs and poetic stories that reveal them.
On Thursdays and Sundays, Anne Elisabeth and her sisters sew while listening to music. The father is present: in the family living room, I imagine him marveling at the beauty of the fabrics, like the painter Vuilllard immersed in the feminine universe, reveling in seeing them all at work, happy to be together and to create. To create to be beautiful, to go dancing, to celebrate.
His mother is a pretty, cheerful and energetic woman, always ready to go out with friends. And to go out, you have to get dressed. As a child, Anne Elisabeth was sometimes jealous of her classmates dressed in pink or blue gingham, in wise and classic clothes, while she and her sisters wore original, sometimes eccentric, outfits. But this feeling is temporary. Very early on she dresses in subtle colors, which have no name, which miss the fashion, but not the style.
A taste for adventure
In 1977, Anne Elisabeth and her companion set off with their backpacks on a long trip to Asia: Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Bali, Singapore. Blocked for several days by a storm, they find refuge on an island in the Philippines. Anne Elisabeth discovers there, on a local market, magnificent flour bags personalized with the emblem of the producing company (“Milling Company”): each with its lettering, its images, its colors. She already imagines the bags transformed into tops that are as pretty as they are comfortable. She buys some of them, develops her prototype and in the following days she buys or has bought all those she can find. The family that houses them is asked to contribute and undertakes to send the entire production in containers. On their return from their trip, three months later, the couple will collect three thousand beautiful pure cotton tops from Le Havre; they will be named “The Millings » .
Learning the trade
The top has its little success, and the audacious couple decides not to stop there. New objective: to make themselves known. A tiny stand is rented at the ready-to-wear fair where all the major brands are present. They hope to sell the tops. At the last minute, Anne Elisabeth decides to add a little sailor dress that she has just finished. The tops are ignored, the dress is a hit. Journalists are crowding in front of their stand. Anne Elisabeth, pregnant to the core, had to take responsibility for this success and, above all, for following the model. She knows how to invent, cut and sew, but that’s not enough: how do you adapt a pattern to different sizes? Who are the fabric suppliers? The path has yet to be mapped out.
Second stage: trade fair visits. Also, at the fabric fair in Munich, attracted by the beauty of the pretty prints on the BOUSAC stand, she met Mr. Gérard, a leading figure in the world of textiles; he listened to her and took her under his wing. For ten years she would train with him.
The creative process
With her senses awakened, Anne Elisabeth allows herself to be touched by light, nature, landscapes and fragrances.
On the lookout for remarkable gardens, she rides her bicycle, spots a grove of flowers, stops, admires it, takes a few photos. In the garden adjoining the small family home, she watches for the buds to blossom; she notes the variations in the shimmering light on the black cauldron in front of her studio: morning or evening light, each one reveals it differently.
In Capri, she is under the spell of the mosaic-covered floor of a small chapel; the refined, transformed motif will be found in her new collection. The flight of a stork, a swan in the glittering light of autumn? Photo! In her urban walks, she mentally personifies the city with its dominant color. Paris is grey and chalk-white; London is steel and blue-grey; Lisbon is ocher.
A lotto game, a pochade or even a naive crust unearthed at a flea market, old fashion prints or record sleeves are all sources of invention. Inspired by the graphic design of the artist and architect Hundertwasser, Anne Elisabeth creates her “Utopia” print in pastel, reversing the colors, a cold and vegetal variation, another purple and warm; it is the latest addition to the winter collection.
In her studio, she works on photos on the computer, enlarges a detail, reverses contrasts. Or she takes out her acrylics, pastels and colored pencils according to the idea she wants to develop. The sketches are pinned to the wall.
Other materials, sometimes old creations or even a fabric found on a market, will be placed next to it, on the work table, for future transformation. There, thousands of pieces of colored fabric, plain, arranged by color, are kept in jars like a living range of colors, witness of a whole life. This is her method of transmitting colors to the printer: for her, no tone is more faithful than the real color taken from her collection.
If colors are important, words are important too, especially if they are evocative. On her blog you can find “mirabelle gold”, “rosewood”, “rose arpeggio” and other poetic associations of her own. The atmospheres she perceives when reading novels can be found in one theme or another, such as the “Ukrainian Night” born of Mikhail Bulgakov’s “White Guard” or “The Spring Bird”, in homage to her cult writer Murakami.
In her workshop, she feels like a chef in the kitchen: sweetening, spicing, tuning, the whole culinary vocabulary qualifies her creative process.
Each season Anne Elisabeth creates all her designs. They are printed in Italy. Depending on the type of garment she has in mind, they are declined on different supports, chosen for their fall or their weight, their lightness or their crunchy aspect. She draws all the shapes, passes on her sketches to her pattern maker who will make a canvas of them, then the pattern. After fitting and validation, it is the stage of industrial production. Everything is made in a small factory in Morocco, she goes there regularly, checking the cut and the chain.
At the back of one of her shops she has set up a small photo studio. She takes the photos herself, edits them and adds them to her e-commerce site. A simple and original device allows her to present the newly created fabrics: suspended on a thread in the wind, in a landscape in harmony with the pattern, she freezes them in a photo which, accompanied by a text from her pen, will feed her blog.
You often come across Anne Elisabeth in her shops. There she meets her customers, listens to them, and is delighted to see them showcased by her creations. A mother shares her choice of dress for her son’s wedding. A sales representative tells her that she feels more confident when she wears Anne Elisabeth. A woman doctor claims that beautifully dressed, she opens the hearts of her patients, who are more inclined to trust her.
A dream collaboration
Behind a great man there is a woman, behind Anne-Elisabeth there is a husband, a companion of the first days; if he is in charge of management and finances, he is also the first glance. Together, they draw up the broad outlines of the collection.
In her plans, perhaps a book. Anne Elisabeth has a light and colorful pen. She cultivates her taste for writing on a daily basis. If I dream for her, I see an exhibition in Giverny, in Monet’s house, next to this magnificent garden which inspires her on each of her visits, whatever the season.
Anne Elisabeth’s website: https://www.anne-elisabeth.com/en/