Off Cut Culture Club Vendor: Anneke Forbes

Anneke Forbes

Anneke Forbes, Designer

What inspired you to start this business?

Whether my parents know it or not, they were definitely the inspiration behind the launch of my line of outerwear in 2015. My father’s passing pushed forward the realization that life is short. I was tired of spending my days working jobs that weren’t quite right and ready to take a risk on my dream. The outerwear focus is thanks to my mother. Of all my fashion school creations, the one garment that captured my heart was a fuchsia coat that featured bound buttonholes. That detail was inspired by a coat my mother made when she was my age and had passed down to me. I wore it until the red lining was torn and the ivory wool far from pristine.  She had hand embroidered the interior, and her attention to detail and craftsmanship inspires the way I make and design coats and jackets to this day.

What do you like most about your business?

The feeling of pride afforded to me by a product I am truly enamoured with. The soft fabrics, the tailored fit and the bespoke details are all things that make clients’ eyes light up when I introduce my garments to them. I choose to create a beautiful product above all other design and business considerations, and this means that I can stand behind my jackets knowing they are impecible by anyone’s standards—but most importantly by my own. It feels so good to offer the world quality garments made with my own hands.

What do you feel differentiates Calgary as a supportive community compared to other big cities, in terms of businesses supporting other local businesses?

I studied fashion design in Toronto and struggled to establish myself in the scene there after graduation. Perhaps it was my youth and inexperience, but I always felt like a very tiny fish in an enormous pond. My experience in Calgary couldn’t be more different. My inclusion into the fashion scene began when I launched a lifestyle blog. Not long into my foray, Sarah Geddes of Sass Communications (now Press + Post) extended an invitation to a product launch event at a swanky retailer. I was so blown away by her interest in my blog, and her support continues to this day as she has become a loyal client who wears my jackets well. It was through this event and others like it that I met many of the creatives that would become my inner circle for the next few years. That group includes bloggers, photographers, stylists and modelling agents who rallied around me when I chose to take my business in a design direction. Calgary’s creative community knows that we can go further if we go together, and I’ve been a lucky recipient of this sentiment’s spoils.

How do you feel Calgary’s culture has changed or developed in the last few years?

Calgary’s culture has undeniably evolved and expanded since I moved here in 2010. A huge influencer has been the PARK organization. The team produces events that offer a platform for fashion designers and artists to showcase their work. I also believe the emergence of the blogging industry in the city increased awareness and interest in local boutiques and restaurants. A brand-new art hub that has already begun to impact Calgary’s culture is cSPACE King Edward—home of my studio. The building is buzzing with creation, and I can only imagine it will propel our cultural shift even further in the coming years.

Where are your favourite stomping grounds in Calgary?

The off-leash dog park! My husband Ken straps our son Levi into a baby carrier and I leash our eager pup Charlie, who shivers with anticipation of our daily walk. Ken and I connect over the day’s events, I pull faces at Levi to illicit joyful squeals and Charlie rolls in particularly smelly patches of grass, all under our spectacular Alberta skies.

Why do you feel it is important to collaborate with other businesses in Calgary?

Every business owner has had different experiences, so we can all learn from each other. I share a studio with fellow designer Nina Kharey of womenswear brand House of Nonie, and nothing makes me happier than having her punching away at her dreams alongside me. We bounce ideas off of each other, share suppliers, recommend resources and learn from each other’s challenges. I have also always found that being around other entrepreneurs, regardless of their industry, inspires me to work harder and dream bigger.

If you had a dream local business to work with in the city, who would it be?

I’ve always dreamt of having my designs immortalized by Calgary artist Maya Gohill. Despite connecting socially on occasion, I’ve never mentioned this inclination to her. Maya, if you’re reading this, let’s make it happen!

Where do you find inspiration / where do you go to feel inspired?

My designs are often inspired by menswear. The design themes are an obvious visual result of this fact, but I am also inspired by how men shop. They spend money on fewer, better pieces. To encourage women to do the same, I lean towards classic shapes and versatile colours, but I also make sure that if someone wants to wear the coat forever, the quality is going to be up to the challenge.

Each jacket also has its own story, but a recent one that I love is the Military Motorcycle Jacket. Our son Levi was born when I was designing the jacket and his name comes from Ken’s side of the family. His great uncle Levi was a motorcycle messenger during World War II. He was unfortunately captured by the Germans after a high-speed chase through the streets of Italy. Although there is nothing romantic about being a prisoner of war, I do like to think of him zipping down stone cobbled streets, and the jacket connects me to my own family’s participation in the war effort.

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