Monday, February 22, 2016

Crochet A to K: a Q&A with designer Anna Kosturova

Anna and I have known one another for almost ten years. Hers was truly the first collection I discovered many swim shows ago and immediately envisioned for the new boutiques at Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita I was then launching in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico with Strategic Hotels and Resorts. The rest was bikini history, you could say, with Anna Kosturova's hand-crocheted swimwear and cover ups standout performers and guest favorites.  I recently asked Vancouver based Anna K to share a behind the scenes look at her role as a designer.  I hope you enjoy her inspiring insights which show yet again that following one's heart is the happiest way to journey! 

Q: We share an undeniable addiction to beauty and, I suspect, to pattern, texture and color as well.  What is the source of your obsession?  Who or what inspires you? 

A: Thank you for your kind words! Yes, so true! Your recognition was, and is, big for us. Every time I stepped into your magical store I was immediately inspired and incredibly proud to be among the best that this industry has to offer. See there, Punta Mita boutiques for example -- amazing things around me inspire me! It’s never just one thing... my travels are always a big part of inspiration. People, nature, colors, textures and patterns seen around me while traveling are always reflected in collections. 

It’s travels but it could also be a close to home situation – a girl standing in line at the grocery store wearing an amazing combination of colors…. or just a pile of laundry creating unexpected color combos…you just never know…. My mission in general is to create, design, invent crochet stitches and silhouettes in as of yet unimagined ways. Uniqueness is important to me so I do take tremendous pride in this process.  I don’t “borrow” designs, I create them from scratch.

Here is an example of inspiration: I was at a party and they served all kinds of chips and dips and I was just completely “smitten” by the beauty and geometry of the lotus chips. They became a perfect inspiration for a crochet stitch motif for our Bella (group) -- bikini, rash guard and a miniskirt. 

photos courtesy of Anna Kosturova

Q: You studied mechanical engineering.  How did you gravitate towards crochet as your medium of choice? 

A: Haha, my engineering background is a different lifetime altogether, completely unrelated to what I’m doing now or even who I actually became as a person. At that time I didn’t even know I would be a fashion designer. I just pursued it to have a degree of some sort…you know… to keep my parents happy. It took some time of soul searching until I figured out who I am, and I finally figured out that being a fashion designer is what I was born to do. 

Why crochet? Several reasons – I was always fascinated by anything handmade, really. I always loved knits and crochet, the way they fit on the body.  As I mentioned, uniqueness is important to me and I was fascinated by crochet also because it allowed me to have a higher degree of uniqueness than wovens.  I'm able to design not only the actual garment but also the “fabric” and “print” if you wish – I can dictate how open or close the stitch will be, whether the pattern will look lacy or geometric… etc.

Also back in early 2000’s when I started my company, the only association people had with crochet was cheap, soggy bum, hippie bikinis or Grandma doilies. I thought to myself, there is so much that can be done here, and it bothered me that this craft was frowned upon.

I wanted to bring it into the new century and help in giving it a firm place in fashion. I was aching to give it a modern, sexy spin.  Now, it’s 2016 and crochet is unstoppable! It’s not just a trend wave, it became a classic, equally as respected as knits! I have pretty much dedicated my life to promoting and developing this art so it feels good to see this change.

Q: Do you crochet? 

A:  A little bit but not really good enough to make an entire garment. To be honest, I do not attempt it. I’m more of an idea than detail person… also I’m just not patient enough. To be a good fast crocheter is like playing piano -- you have to put hours of  “rehearsing” into it.

Q: At what particular moment did you know you were a designer?  Why swimwear?

A: Consciously – at around 27 when I finally acknowledged that fashion makes me happy and decided to purse my love for fashion professionally. It was a journey, really and this realization didn’t happen overnight. 

But unaware /subconsciously, intuitively -- ever since I have a memory of my own existence, lol. As a kid, going as back as far as 3 years old, I had a particular fondness (obsession) for clothing. My childhood was filled with fashion and designing. I would raid my grandma's closet full of glamorous 50’s American fashion that our relatives that emigrated to the USA after the WW2 were sending back to Czechoslovakia as a way to help.  As my grandparents were farmers, none of those dresses and jackets were useful to them so they were just sitting in their boxes and when we came to visit in summer,  I was in heaven – magical moments really.  I was endlessly playing dress-up. 

Also my aunt, mom or sister – whoever was free at the moment - would make my clothes based on my design. I’ve been always “designing” I guess.  When I got into the school system, that message got suddenly watered down as I was busy trying to be good at every subject.  I never thought about it as something to pursue as a career because it came so naturally to me and I didn’t pursue it for 5 years while at university….

Why swimwear? I was born in a landlocked country, Czechoslovakia. It was before the wall came down so we couldn’t travel to other countries with sea or ocean.  As a kid, I remember being always fascinated by the ocean, sea life and water in general. I spent every possible minute of summer by the pool or a lake.  I lived in my bathing suits and wished that summer would never end! I fantasized about an ocean and I promised myself that one day I would live by the ocean.  I love scuba diving and surfing and for all that fun, you need a bikini!

Water is my element, it’s where I feel at home. With that of course comes hand in hand a love for the bikini. Designing swimwear and resort wear is really just a full circle thing for me. I’m just perpetuating my childhood dream and everything I love is what I’m making my living of. It can’t get better than that! 

Q: There is a natural evolution to what you term the "affordable couture collection”.  When did the silk tie-dye apparel enter into the picture?  Kids collection?  Bridal?  

A: It was all just a natural progression and a very organic growth. It was also triggered by demand. Kids was added when one of the Barneys buyer saw my women’s line and wanted to have some of the styles in kids' sizes. Tie-dye was added because it’s another handmade category that I feel passionately about. And it compliments our crochet line.  Bridal was added when we were getting approached by our online customers requesting some of our dresses for their weddings….etc.
Q: Share a little bit about Sports Illustrated and your consistent presence in the swim issue.

A: Sports Illustrated is an important part of our industry, an institution really. Retailers and people that are into bikinis in general look up to it for the trends in swimwear. They show important established brands but also new exciting brands so it’s great as a reference guide, too.  We have been lucky that we have been in it for the 10 years in a row now, even got on the cover in 2008. It’s remarkable really!  They get thousands and thousands of bathing suit submissions for their photoshoots so to be picked from amongst the sea of it all means a lot to us and it’s a great confirmation that we are doing something right.

Q: What is next for Anna K ?

A: Creating more beautiful things! We are adding accessories and home d├ęcor!

Q: Any resort style tips you want to share with us?  

A: You need two types of shoes - Soludos, (or another espadrille style) and lace-up Grecian style sandals. Everything goes with them (well, and flip flops for the pool).  A layered jewelry look, scarves and a great bag …hat optional.

For more about Anna Kosturova and to shop her crochet and silk tie-dye collections, go to and follow her on Instagram @annakosturova  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

a hint of spring

Saturday: frayed jeans and a rose colored topper;
metallic heels and a flash of a color with a cobalt blue bag...

Prince Street...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

in the garden

Inspired by Frida Kahlo, Tia Cibani Kids welcomes us into a lush collection.
Art Garden Life is infused with vivid color, pattern and texture.

The botanical and cactus inspired designs celebrate life with tassels, tulle, pom poms, flora and fauna embellishments drawn from both desert and jungle.

photo courtesy Tia Cibani Kids

When not mesmerized by crisp capelets and perfect pleats of almost ceremonial style silk pieces, we are seduced by the softest cashmere color-blocked cardigans, leggings and caps which complement the layered story.

photo courtesy of Instagram @tiacibanikids 

The color palette ranges from the softest, pastel hints of rose, sky, mint and lilac to deeper pigments --coral, green, purple, golden yellow and earth brown -- artfully applied to silhouettes drawn from traditional Mexican clothing and Frida's trademark combinations. 

Surreal? Tia boldly taps the heritage and power of Frida Kahlo and interprets each for today's modern dreamer, who in this artful vision, happens to be a beautiful child...

photo courtesy Instagram @tiacibanikids 

fashion speaks louder than words

14th Street ....

Monday, February 15, 2016

cold outside

at Playtime New York kids show, a F/W '16 trends installation by Julie Malait inspired by the cold!

mineral tones... 
colors of the 'frozen landscape'...
snowy cloaks and marbled prints...
chunky knits...
cool grey, ice blue...
@iloveplaytime, #playtimenewyork
Metropolitan Pavilion

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Harlem hearts

in memory of Ina, a friend and neighbor, a stroll through historic City College streets yesterday evening...

St. Nicholas Avenue, Convent Avenue...