Material Girls: Designing avAna
Between the seams is a sense of magic. A sense of the Orient lyrical. But most importantly, all of the outfits designed by duo Aldegonde Van Alsenoy and Anna Van Ravesteyn feel beautiful. For their world, is a material one.
“Choosing the right material for all our clothes is most important. The pieces have to feel comfortable. They have to be high in quality. The material is what we base our silhouettes on,” explains Aldegonde.
More than a year ago, the two women started their clothing brand avAna in Hoi An – avAna being a catchy anagram of their initials – today, the brand has become a recognized and recommended source of wearable art, unique to the heritage town. Their designs are original and chic, always with an emphasis on comfort, particularly for tropical climates.
“All our designs are intuitive. We work more with a silhouette – a certain look – rather than conceptualizing over a whole collection. We’d rather to work like this, organically, feeling the tones and fabrics,” expands Aldegonde.
For both Anna and Aldegonde, environment is key. Both have backgrounds in fashion and design. Aldegonde founded the ‘Betet Skara’ brand in Antwerp, which turned traditional hand-woven clothes into fashionwear. Anna was has more then 30 years experience in retail. She worked several years for the vogue stores in Australia. Both women, however, feel most centred in Hoi An. And it’s not just because their husbands are here too!
“Hoi An has a good energy. There is a quiet sense of the creative all around; you feel naturally inspired. There are also that nice contrast of the traditional and the new. It is a town that is evolving, with many artistic personalities. For Aldegonde and I, this is the core of our creative work. Everyday we feel blessed to live and work in Hoi An,” says Anna.
Both women have developed long-lasting and harmonious relationships with their tailors and other local crafts people. They commission work from about 14 people outside of their shop. The sense of the local community ranks high in both Aldegonde and Anna’s decision to live and work in Hoi An and Hoi An only.
“We work with a lady who hand knits clothes. We train locals and give them chance to upgrade their crafts to more modern designs. And we have a number of freelance sewers. While we give them a design concept, we also give them creative room, so there is a constant exchange of ideas. It’s a very interesting process,” Aldegonde explains.
While avAna don’t do ‘collections’ per se, they do have themes. The current feel for summer has been vaguely inspired by Marc Jacobs, Helmut Lang, Vivienne Westwood and Haider Ackerman. But the common thread in their new designs is the avAna pants – which come in the style of Aladdin, Zouave or Afghani trousers. The pants are designed for the heat, with stretchy, soft fabric. Their cut is distinguished by a wide waist and loop of material that gathers around the knees and ends in the ankles. This style reinforces an Asiatic aesthetic; lightweight and natural, and using soft summery colour tones such as lilac-violet and brown-hued pink. Anna and Aldegonde suggest wearing them with Oriental sandals, a short top or small jacket.
Accessories such as handbags with tassels and silk scarves further enhance the look. “Think Arabian tales, light silk fabric with dazzling graphics, warm nights and tropical plants – all of these images in a tangle of imitations and stylistic borrowings. This is summer avAna,” says Aldegonde.
Beyond clothes, avAna are also currently featuring a special jewellery collection called Three Trees – diamonds designed in prime gold or silver. Check out their new store near the intersection of Le Loi and Nguyen Thai Hoc streets.