Explain a little bit about Anique.
Anique is a women’s activewear brand. Our focus is creating designs where style and function collide to make clothes that can hold up to their job but still look cute.
When did you realize there was a need for your business?
I felt like there was a real need for functional items that were cute. I felt like I had a “duplicate closet”―I could either have my tough, functional pieces for working out, hiking, or riding, etc. and then I had my fashion pieces or the things that I actually felt cute in that had pretty details. I often felt like I would see a lot of activewear or outerwear that didn’t have a finished look. Or if it did, it wasn’t comfortable or functional for an active lifestyle.
Or worse, I was going to ruin it by wearing it around my horses or in nature, and I didn’t like that. I wanted beautiful pieces that I could wear anywhere I wanted. I am also not a huge “fashionista.” I am minimalist and very into basics―I like to have pieces in my closet that I can wear to dinner or drinks with friends but also look cute at a horse show or clinic.
What was the idea behind Anique?
Initially, with our first product―the Signature Quarter-Zip, our Sun Shirt, I felt like there really just weren’t any quality options for sun shirts. A lot of the sun shirts that are out there were not flattering—they are square-shaped, cut and sew garments, and I have never met a woman with a square body!! That is how men are shaped, LOL. So that was a start.
I was also super unimpressed with the quality and durability of the fabrics they were made out of and sticker shocked by the price. The other sun shirts on the market are made out of extremely thin nylon that has just been chemically treated with power mesh. While thin will keep you cool, it was not the quality of clothing that I wanted in my wardrobe.
I am also a fairly conservative dresser, so I don’t like the idea of wearing thin material (like what your underwear is made out of) all over my entire body. Power mesh also pills and gets stretched out quickly so the shirts didn’t last―not to mention using thin nylon puts every problem area most women have on public display. I just really felt there was a better way and started to design the Anique sun shirt.
What has been the overall impact of Anique on equestrians?
I like to think that we have helped a lot of equestrians add elegant, athletic looks to their closet while reducing garment turnover because of the longevity and durability of our shirts, which is better for the environment. When your clothes last longer, you don’t have to buy as much. I also like to think that we have helped pull a lot of cute outfits together, between breeches and belts.
What would you say is the most unique feature behind Anique?
I would say it’s how we work to create a fusion of stylish details and functionality. For instance, in our sun shirt, the ventilation and changes in the weave are there to create more airflow and faster wicking of sweat—but we designed them in a princess silhouette with long, flattering lines. The zippers are also a stylish touch in their rose gold or gunmetal, but the zipper garage sets our shirt apart from others because most just have a petit plastic zipper with no cover, which I think is less comfortable.
How has Anique helped riders and those in the equine industry?
I think sun protection is a must for all equestrians out in the sun in warmer climates. We should all be doing what we can to prevent skin cancer and keep cool in the summer, but it also helps girls avoid the dreaded summer farmer’s tan! And again, I think our shirts will outlast a lot of our competitors because we don’t use power mesh or cheap nylon―I like to think we are saving them money in the long run too.
Why do you choose to have your products made in the USA?
Honestly, manufacturing in China is a huge headache. It’s not efficient at all―for quality, luxury brands it just doesn’t work. I think manufacturing offshore if you are doing massive volume and want to pay for cheap labor can look inexpensive upfront because the item cost is lower, but in the long run, I think the consequences of shipping goods or even samples during development overseas with back and forth is not worth it.
It’s also not good for the environment. No one ever talks about the emissions of our supply chain uses but I do believe it is more than people with their cars! I think it’s really something a lot of consumers should be a lot more aware of―if they are driving Teslas or hybrids to help the environment, they should try to shop local too.
I am also a practicing minimalist and there’s a whole philosophy and lifestyle that goes with that, which is a whole bigger discussion, but I believe objects and the things in your sphere of influence all have energies. Look at your house… How much time and energy do people spend cleaning things or maintaining them? Or how people care for sentimental items, even fashion…
Things can make people feel good about themselves, sexy, or pretty, or confident, or bad―like when you don’t fit into your skinny jeans! It’s all energetic, so I personally want to have a line that doesn’t come from exploitive practices when our clothes are manufactured. In the factory that makes our goods, workers have proper benefits, hours, and are paid overtime, etc. I think that’s important. I like being able to go to the factory and speak with the workers, see the conditions they work in, discuss quality control aspects like the zipper, etc. I think it makes for a better quality product in both the physical and energetic.
What has been the greatest challenge to building Anique and what did you do to overcome it?
I think the hardest thing about having a product-based business is that you have to invest a large amount of your capital in inventory before you make any money from it. Depending on how fast you sell some items and others, sometimes it can be stressful as a small business to have the capital to do another production when you are still needing to sell your other inventory. Your capital can get tied up and then you can get stuck. I’m fortunate that this has not ever happened to us, but it is something as an entrepreneur I have to be very aware of.
Because we produce seamless garments like our sun shirts, the minimums are very high. Factories can’t do small runs of seamless shirts because one size takes one Santoni machine off the floor for at least a month. The average factory can have only 20-50 of them, which means if I take 6 to make the tubes for the arms and five body sizes, that’s a lot of time that the factory can only make shirts for me and not other customers. So the hardest part is just timing it right.
We have a very good relationship with our factory in Los Angeles now that has played a huge role in being able to adjust the timing of our inventory deliveries and supplies to make the shirts, which has helped us be able to grow. But I think what has been a bit of a challenge was also a great strength because, honestly, it would be very hard for another brand to knock off or make their own Anique sun shirt.
The initial investment in a custom seamless design is a lot, and the capital required to make the runs is high. I am always flattered when I see low price seamless enter the market from cheap, offshore, or white label productions because I know, while it might be seamless, there is no way the yarn and overall weave is as intelligent or thought out for active women.
How has your business shifted during the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, we did most of our business through our sales reps and our large network of tack shops, but when horse shows came to a halt and everyone was scared to go into retail locations, we had to shift quickly to sales online and supporting our tack shops with a lot of brand marketing so they could push our products online as well.
I am fortunate in that this is an area I have a lot of experience and resources in, because of my digital agency Entrigue. I was able to quickly pivot our resources to driving online sales and we were able to replace that revenue, keep the shirts on the market, and then drive another production for the collection we now have available. With fashion, I think it’s all about pace. You have to keep moving quickly or you will sink, so we had to sell those shirts to make new ones to have inventory for our current season, which has sold out quickly because so many stores needed inventory restocked when the world re-opened.
How do you see the future of Anique?
We have some great new pieces coming out! I am very excited to have more cooling/sun shirt options for customers in 2022 and new designs. I get inspired by creating a new fusion of fashion and functionality, so I am looking forward to showing our new tops and outerwear designs.
What advice do you have for aspiring equine entrepreneurs?
If you want to start a product-based business of any kind, be prepared to spend a lot of time counting and doing inventory. The other thing is, don’t rush into putting things in a fulfillment center or hiring a lot of staff. It’s very important to go through the process of filling orders and dealing with the issues that come up with packaging, shipping and logistics, and customers. If you are able to be hands-on with your products, you pivot quickly and fix things or take advantage of collaborative opportunities without additional costs.
The big thing is that you need to learn the process and come up with solutions as you grow because if you don’t know how to do a job, you can’t train a staff properly or help with process efficiency later when you scale.
The other thing I would say is that if you want to have businesses, just know it’s a lifestyle, not a job. If you want a job, work for someone else. Sometimes you have to work a lot, sometimes you don’t. That is being an entrepreneur. If you want the ultimate freedom to live by your own rules it’s great, but just know daily work has to be a part of your lifestyle because you don’t build a brand in one year or two or even three―you build it by doing little things each day that move the entire business forward, but it takes years to have something lucrative that has momentum on its own.
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