Talking shop with creative director, Ainy Naim.

From a series of unique, one-off commissions for some of the music industry’s finest figures (think heavyweights like Alicia Keys and Nas) to a fully fledged fashion label, ANZ is the East meets West contemporary knitwear offering from the creative director and Central Saint Martins alumni, Ainy Naim.

Having made its initial debut in 2014, today the brand boasts a vibrant aesthetic and a socially conscious perspective (“I wanted to show people how rich and colourful Middle Eastern culture is,” Naim told Vogue Arabia earlier this year). For Collection III she’s tapped Vanessa White and Cole Cook to play model; below we learn how it all happened.

Your Instagram game is pretty strong. Can you talk us through your relationship with the platform?

I have always embraced social media as it is an amazing place to find design inspiration and other creatives that I want to collaborate with. Instagram and other social media platforms are essential for any emerging brand and gives a global audience to anyone that wants to put something out; it has allowed us to reach some really exciting talent in a very organic way and we use the platform really to build community and express the brand visually. We like to reference some of the lost creative techniques that were around prior to advances in digital technology and give them a modern, energised twist.

You’ve collaborated with the artist Simona Ruscheva on some graphics for the new campaign, how did that come about?

Simona is an incredibly talented artist and part of the core ANZ team. When we launched I started working with actor and musician Quincy Brown, who I met in New York and wanted to reference B-Boy hip hop cliques but in a modern way. With Simona we developed a series of Toons that we used not only across the campaign but in limited edition sweatshirts – they instantly sold out. As an organic progression these morphed into caricatures of our models in the latest campaign. I love the work of Jamie Hewlett – cartoons and pop culture – so wanted to integrate these into our brand DNA.

And do you have a favourite piece from the collection?

I love all of the collection; when I design pieces I tend to be most excited about the most recent product – the thrill of the new I guess – but I always revisit pieces and they end up with their own unique appeal or special memory. Benchmarks like getting our first stockist through to certain people wearing a style, or the first time I saw someone wearing a piece on the street all make the pieces special to me. Currently the robe is my favourite piece and the one that I have been wearing most; I gave one to the incredible Jennifer Hudson when I was last in NYC and she has also been wearing it out and about which is such an honour.

Vanessa White and Cole Cook both feature in the new campaign, how did that happen?

Again it was a fairly natural progression with what I was creating and who I have been working with. I think that models have always been multi-faceted [White’s a musician, Cook is a filmmaker] but the era of the model now is very different to the decades when I was studying fashion where, apart from maybe Kate Moss, Sophie Dahl and Devon Aoki, models were pretty formulaic and to be a model was the epitome of what is beautiful, which somehow made it difficult for them to be recognised with other talents aside from being clothes horses. I love people and stories; I like to work with friends and people that I can relate to and find inspiring.

We worked with RJ Mitte, who I think is one of the best actors of our generation on an earlier campaign. Vanessa is a gorgeous human being, a really cool girl and I love her personal development from one of the UK’s most successful girl bands through to where she is now, creating and dropping her own music. Cole is an incredible talent and I love his work as a photographer and director. He has a unique look and is a truly beautiful human being. 

We’ve discussed your collaborative tendencies, does this figure into your designer process too?

I like a mixture when I am working. Sometimes I take myself off to a quiet place to gather inspiration and initial concepts, and then when I have my vision I like to bring in people and the team to help shape what I want to achieve. We have a really fun time creating everything and I feel that it is always best to bounce ideas around and work with people that keep that creative energy.

Cool. So what’s up next for ANZ?

Having had such a successful year we are going to continue dancing to our own beat! We have some really exciting things going on including bespoke commissions (which I love doing). We made some pieces for Nas and are working on something with Maxwell. We are also discussing some potential collaborations and would love to work with a brand like Nike, Cross Colors or Cazal, someone with heritage and an aesthetic that I love. Artist wise we have just started a project with Tamera, who I think is going to be the future of British music. We heard some of the things she has been working on and were blown away, she has a unique style and is definitely one of those rare talents that is at least a triple threat!


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