- Fashion & hat designer
- Creativity coach
Ms. Anna Lee is an artist, designer, beekeeper, and creativity coach who has blended her talents to offer Creative Guidance Sessions for folks on the verge of a shift or expansion in their creative practice or career. She’s navigated the fashion industry for over twenty years, working in nearly every facet of the product design and development field in both cottage and corporate industries, with an emphasis in hats and cold-weather accessories. She also produces multidisciplinary collaborations with creatives, teaches workshops on creativity and nature, and facilitates evolutionary community building through events at The Arthouse—her studio, gallery, and apiary in Moorhead.
Process, Featured Projects, & More
The Gray Matter Series is a collaborative fashion series Anna has produced for the last seven years as an outlet for different creative concepts that spark at the perfect time. They originally were aligned to the fashion calendar and Anna would work with some of her favorite creative collaborators based in Minneapolis to try out different concepts, push themselves creatively, and really act as an opportunity to play in their fields. “The Sense of Place collection, for example, was inspired by the idea that where we are impacts who we are, and it gave me the opportunity to play a bit more with my hat-making, dive into textile design, and develop a line of lipstick that coordinated with everything,” she said. “It was maybe the most gorgeous, wearable collection I’ve made to date.”
Anna’s design process really looks different depending on what she is working on. When she is designing for a retailer, she spends time getting into the mindset of the person who may purchase it, and cross-references trends and sales data to see what should be repeated, and what should change from the previous year.
When she is designing for her own collections, Anna doesn’t worry too much about trends. She gets into the flow of the inspiration, often through a playlist she has compiled, and pulls together any images or materials that have informed the process so far.
A good portion of Anna’s work is also helping others through their creative practice and flow, so she has built tools and resources for moving through blocks and challenges. “When I hit a wall creatively, I love to come up with solutions or answers that will also one day help others in similar situations,” she said. “I live my process in inquiry, as there is always more to learn and create.”
Recently, Anna has been spending more time in intentional contemplation, working through fashion concepts without being connected to technology in any way. “So much modern creativity has become regurgitation of what others are doing, which can be super fun and a type of call-and-response way of connecting with others,” she said. “There is a time and place for everything, and I think it will continue to be more important for us all to unplug and dream up a new future for ourselves.”
Some of Anna’s headwear and scarves from her “Gray Matter Series”
Anna’s 5 Favorite Places to Shop
1. Zandbroz Variety
“I worked here in college, so I am a long-standing supporter of this pillar of downtown Fargo. I can always count on being able to find great books, cute cards, and I love the pen selection.”
“An affordable and engaging way to support local and regional craftspeople and artisans.”
3. Baker Garden & Gift
“Their staff is super knowledgable and I can always find inspiration for my growing pollinator gardens here.”
“A great resource for regional art, and their museum shop has been carrying art supplies and work by local artists.”
5. Alicia Hauff Studio
“I love working with folks directly to purchase their work. Artists like Alicia Hauff have much more going on than just the work in local galleries—she is creating a line of foraged plant-based inks and I cannot wait to purchase the first release this autumn!”
Anna’s 3 Musts for Fashion
1. Pairing Form & Function
“That perfect Cold Weather Combo that keeps you toasty even on the most ridiculously cold days. There is nothing quite like having the right gear to not let a cold snap get in your way of looking cute and being warm. I love my insulated puffer coat, and when I can rotate some warm but unique hats and coordinating mittens and stylish snow boots, I am in the best mindset to pair form and function and get through another winter.”
2. Capsule Wardrobe
“I am a big fan of the Capsule Wardrobe. It allows me to invest in high-quality pieces from independent designers and I keep the looks fresh with fun accessories that either I have made or purchased from other indie designers, and everything coordinates so it is also great for travel.”
3. Statement Dress
“Somewhat like a statement necklace, it can hold its own. I love to have at least one stunning dress that is also easy to wear but stands out enough to feel special.”
Q&A with Anna
You call yourself a trend-forecaster. What kind of trends are you seeing on the horizon, especially with hats?
I am eyeballs deep in preparing trends and designs for AW2024 for my largest client right now, and I kinda love where things are at. Fashion is both streamlining and getting weirder, and I am here for it. The macro trends I get excited about are sustainability and self-expression. If one can blend the two, all the better. I have been working with my colleagues to find ways to better utilize recycled yarns, use deadstock materials in a mass-manufacturing scale, and find ways to reduce sampling through better-utilizing technology. But when it comes to fashion trends, the three words I will use are volume, color, and texture.
Where did your interest and love for bees come from?
I have always been intrigued by bees, and after a trip to Crete in 2019 where I connected to them in a historical/cultural/spiritual manner, I decided I would start keeping bees when I had the space for it. Once I started beekeeping in 2021, I became more committed to the advocacy of all pollinators. Honeybees are not native to North America, so it is truly the native bees and butterflies that require our support.
A lot of creatives tend to be introspective about their work and pride themselves on individuality, yet for you, it seems to be about building a creative community. What for you are the three main reasons having a creative community is so important?
I have always been intrigued by the way things work, and who is impacted by those things. We may create in solitude, but we do best when we are connected and engaged with the right community for us. I am going to tie this into the love of bees question—we need to recognize that we are part of something greater than ourselves— our own metaphorical hive. No one bee looks at the hive and asks herself: ‘How am I going to make all of that honey to fill the hive?’ But so often, artists of any genre have this mentality that they have to come up with some way to really make a difference or answer some sort of question. The key is in understanding that one is part of a larger picture.
Tell me about the arthouse—it feels almost like a creative sanctuary of sorts, especially with the apiary where did this idea come from?
It is absolutely my creative sanctuary, which I have started sharing with others in the last year or so. It started as a place to literally house all of my ideas and areas of my creative business. On top of being a designer and artist, I am a Creative Guidance counselor who helps folks find grounding in their careers and practices. I also host workshops and gatherings on a monthly basis and have been hosting artist residencies as well. The pollinator gardens will grow next spring and summer, and the apiary will continue to be a steadfast fixture. As for the gallery, I just closed the “Oh Snap! A Celebration of Instant Photography” show (we had over 20 different instant photographers submit collections) and the remaining show for this season was the FMVA Studio Crawl Oct 7-8. Select goods are also available the the Rourke Museum shop for the holidays.