Annie Larson is a Minneapolis-based fashion designer who specializes in knitwear. She recently took part in the New Land of Milk and Honey, a collaborative project exhibited at the Soap Factory. Even more recently, she launched an online store and knitwear label, ALL, featuring sweaters in a variety of colors and patterns, made-to-order on her Brother KH-950 Electroknit knitting machine. Annie was able to get a hold of herself to answer a few of her own questions to post here.
[flyer for New Land of Milk and Honey by Eric Carlson
What have you been doing for the past five years?
I worked at Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown for just over a year near the end of my undergrad. I loved Al’s more than any job I ever had–it will always be one of my special places in Minneapolis. After a second summer there, I applied for an internship at Target. Skip over the next three years where I end up taking a full-time design position, a real job, to last August when I made the decision to resign. Taking advice from a friend, I started a journal about quitting my job. The journal was called, “Quit Your Job,” and I wrote it in for four consecutive days. Here we are…
08 30 2009
Today I decided to quit my job. It’s funny how my attitude immediately changed, I feel different. I went out to see friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile and putzed around on my bike for a few hours. I told everyone I saw about my decision, hoping that my friends would weigh in. I stopped to get a coffee and talk to Matthew, something I hadn’t done freely in a long time, maybe a few years. I was relieved he was there, I needed to spill my news to an adult. His response was positive, which was the boost I needed. I came home happy.
08 31 2009
Monday at work, the absolute pits. I’m already checked out. I saw Fletcher later in the evening. His presence reminded me that I can do whatever I want.
09 01 2009
I practiced being unemployed today by calling in sick. I love these days. I spent all day transposing patterns and knitting. I thought about not having a job.
09 02 2009
I looked at jobs today on the Internet. There are jobs out there, just in case.
Since then, I have been focusing most of my energy on opening an online sweater shop, which I was finally able to do at the end of April. I knit from home every day to send knit goods to people in places like San Diego, Portland, New York, London, Los Angeles, Seattle, Australia, and so on.
Machine knitting is blowing my mind.
What’s the deal with the Internet?
Communication and expression on the Internet is important to me.
What do you think about fashion?
The fashion world is really interesting to me. One thing that has recently captured my attention is the influence of fashion and style bloggers, and how their work effects the role of editors and magazines. I’m also intrigued by what the Internet has to do with all of this, how designers are using it to propel their labels, and the online identities that are created in the process. I gawk over runway images from high profile shows, because fashion is such a spectacle! It just tickles me to know that presentation is still valued in this industry, that designers showcase their work in outlandish ways because they can.
What’s been on your mind lately?
I have been thinking a lot about moving. I’ll hear Lou Reed sing about New York, and I’ll want to move there. Then I’ll hear Randy Newman sing about Los Angeles, and I’ll want to go there instead. I’ve been working on a couple different schemes to get out of the country, and if that happens I think I’ll be temporarily relieved.
Another thing that has been on my mind is the importance of dialogue and critique in fashion design. There is this class of young designers (myself included) that exist outside the realm of fashion writers and critics, so there are fewer critical dialogues about our work. Is a person who appreciates fashion qualified to critique it?
What are you going to do this summer?
I’m looking forward to a trip to New York.
Is Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons your favorite designer?
Do you really only have one favorite?
No! It’s hard to have one favorite. Norma Kamali, Mary Quant, Alexander Wang, Andres Courreges, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Pierre Cardin, Ashish, Karen Walker, Jim Drain, Balenciaga, Hussein Chalayan, Bernhard Willhelm, Issey Miyake, Henrik Vibskov, and Betsey Johnson have all been my favorite at some point. I believe there is a time and place for everything, even Donna Karan!
Tell us an embarrassing story!
I stepped on Brett Smith’s art in The Austerity Cookbook last fall at the Soap Factory. I stepped on the barricade. Everybody saw, and I didn’t know if I should try to put the pieces back together. I didn’t, but I found out later that I probably should have.
What characterizes your work?
The use of color has always been the primary quality that defines my work, even before I started designing knitwear. I was never interested in making couture gowns. I was only interested in designing garment shapes that allow me to curate palettes of color and pattern and exist within those boundaries. The garment shapes then become building blocks for transforming the body, and the final impact relies on the interaction of color. Even when my job at Target was to sort thirty-six colors of a pique polo, I would heavily consider the way the colors would look next to each other in the store presentation. The presentation style would often dictate the final assortment. Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I should have chosen Soft Lime instead of Lime Peel.
Humor and optimism have been other prevalent factors in the way my work is created, presented, and perceived. The overdone, bubbly sense of YAY! in my design and presentation is not fake, and if you know me as a human, you know it’s true.