Hi! We are Ana + Zac.
We are the founders and operators, the ones behind the scenes. We don't spend much talking about ourselves but felt this might be the right time to introduce ourselves in a new way. One of our customers recently suggested it would be interesting for our community to learn more about us so she put together some questions for us to answer.
What is your favourite part of the clothing design/manufacturing process? Least favourite?
A - I like the development process. I love colour and shapes and solving problems. I take a really long time with it so when I see other brands releasing similar styles that I am working on that's a little annoying but that's what fashion is. Simply put, it's a shared energy field. I really love taking photographs too, that for me is the most creative element because I must keep it fresh while sticking to our brand identity and ethos.
Z - I like seeing our ideas develop into the finished product, how all the elements work together, it's like a story. From a simple idea, to a sample to the final pieces we send out to our customers. I love seeing people wearing our clothing and enjoying them. Obviously I don't love it when things don't happen as planned, process and outcomes hard to control even if we are super diligent. There are always problems in the world of clothing production.
If you could live in one A+Z outfit for the rest of eternity what would it be?
Z - The Tennis Shorts and a Classic Crew tee is pretty much my uniform in the summer. Summer is my favourite season so if I could wear this combo all the time I would. I don't really want to be cold. In the off-season I wear my favourite hoodie and the basic sweatpants or my waffle. Anything that I can double up to keep me extra warm.
A - Probably a white Baby Tee (I have many that I rotate), Tanksuit in whatever colour (right now I am rocking a red stripe sample and the grass colour) and one of my Tokyo coats. It's a great travel outfit that you can wear all season. I'm like Mr. Rogers because my closet has multiples of the Tanksuit and Tokyo coat in all the colours and I switch them up depending on my mood.
What's your favourite A + Z piece?
A - Anything new.
Z - Anything that sells out quickly like our pants.
What inspires your colour selections? How do you decide on the colour scheme for upcoming collections?
A - I love collecting vintage travel books so I can tear out the pictures. I'm particularly into 1970's Alaska right now. I am very inspired by nature. I love real life and what surrounds me in any setting. My father, who was a very fine artist, taught me to stop and really look at something no matter how mundane. He taught me that beauty is in everything and to appreciate that. I think that is where we find the best colours, not from a Pantone trend book. However I do really love a good Pantone trend book, I'm not gonna lie. There is a fine balance between being original and moving with the times.
We are working on colours 2 - 3 years in advance, a small portion we follow through with and some we wait on, some we don't ever produce. It's all about the flow and making sure that the colours we produce work well with previous seasons.
What colours do you have in the works for future collections?
A - For spring 2024 I was very very inspired by menswear, particularly stripe shirting, like, how can we take a dressy work style look and make it soft and casual which you can still wear to work but also wear at home or wherever, traveling or errands. I was interested in creating a masculine versus feminine vibe within that theme. Soft and light versus crisp and bold while keeping it fresh and pair-able. Plus you will see our own take on denim too.
1970's Alaska is the theme for fall 2024, think less forests and more desolate outposts with rusted ships stuck in the ice.
What does the word ‘community’ mean to you as a business owner?
Z - Improving the small town that we live in by operating our business out of here, hiring local staff, putting on events and helping to draw people to the town, donating to local environmental organizations and supporting other small businesses by propping them up whether its from purchasing products from them or featuring them.
A - We have built such a strong online community whether it's with our customers or with other sustainable brands. Sometimes all it takes is a simple gesture like a kind message that can create a long and trusted relationship. Brands like ours, small and independently owned, are special and we go through a lot of the same shared experiences. It is helpful to have people to lean on and learn from. The content creators we collaborate with are kind. It takes a special type of person to support what we do.
You have quite literally picked one of the hardest industries to be successful in. A small business, rural home base, ethical process, slow fashion, and committed to the environment. What keeps you motivated and committed on the hard days?
Z - The truth is we literally just keep making it, despite all the hardships and how difficult it is out there, we are slowly growing and that's proof that people do appreciate what we are doing and its enough for them to keep coming back and telling their loved ones.
A - There have been times when we have wanted to quit, usually those days are the days we have to decide between paying ourselves and the bills. Owning our own business means we never have to cut corners when it comes to our values. Some days we work 14 hours straight and some days we sleep in, go for a long walk and then cook a big meal. Balance is really important.
What is one of the biggest highlights for you/the A+Z brand so far where you felt real sense of success/achievement?
Z - The big but hard business decisions we have made lately, it feels good, like we made smart choices.
A - I agree with Zac wholeheartedly on that one.
Also, we just completed our impact report, which will be released in January. It is our first one. It took us a while and there are a few gaps in our supply chain knowledge but it doesn't feel like it is a hinderance. It's an opportunity to learn more and improve our practices. We have also made a few retail relationships this past year. We don't rely on wholesale at all but it's been validating to have re-orders, it's not always easy to establish a long term and trusted relationship with a retailer.
If you didn’t own/operate A+Z, what could you see yourself doing for work instead?
Z - Something creative working on a small team or for myself. I really enjoyed designing the spaces we have had for our different locations, I like planning and building things.
A - That's a funny question! We have a game we play at dinner parties called dream job/ back-up job which is always highly entertaining, always switching it up. But realistically I don't know, there aren't a lot of creative jobs in Nova Scotia, probably a plethora of hobbies, like photography.
Where are you both from?
Z - Eastern Shore Nova Scotia but I lived in the North End of Halifax for my adult life.
A- I was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts and then moved to South Shore Nova Scotia when I was 6.
How did you two meet?
A - I had just met him at a party and then needed a men's dress shirt for a project, so I went to the shop he worked at and he leant me a white shirt, which is kind of crazy because there was no way they could have sold that after I returned it. He then offered to help me at an event I was holding and we hung out the entire time, he was really sweet and helpful. We were friends for at least a year before we got together.
Z - We actually met at a party at my apartment and she forgot her phone. Classic. I got it back to her and have been helping her find her stuff ever since.
What's it like working with your love?
Z - It can be annoying sometimes but it's great to be with someone who understands what you are going through.
A - We have to remind ourselves to not always talk about work. It's important to go on dates and do nice things for each other.
Your favourite sport?
A - We play tennis. I snowboard and Zac skis. Zac also plays hockey. I like yoga and pilates. We like to sail in the summer. I love swimming, I could swim in the warm waves forever.
You’ve had a super busy week. What’s your go to Friday food and activity to kick off the weekend?
Z - It's pretty lazy. Pizza and a movie at home.
What is the most memorable place you’ve ever visited and why?
Z - Probably Morocco, the Sahara is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Morocco in general, it is just so ancient and feels a different time in history.
A - I miss Italy, I've only spent a small portion of my life there but it is always calling to me. I really connect with the Italians on a heart level. It's just so beautiful too, no matter where you turn there is something breathtaking.
What does a ‘balanced life’ look like to you? What’s important for you to prioritize at this stage in your life?
Z - Lot's of family time.
A - Working less but smarter. Lot's of walks with the dog and cooking new dishes.
Who are your top three listened to artists/bands right now?
A - Right now? I guess the albums I am currently playing the most... Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Neil Frances, Doja Cat.
Z - Bill Evans. The Beatles. The Band.
Character traits you really value and appreciate in each other? And yourselves?
Z - She's very passionate about her work, family, everything. I think I am good at willing to work through the hard stuff and never give up. I'm tenacious.
A - He's so thoughtful, he's always thinking ahead and making sure our family is taken care of (and he gives great foot massages). My work ethic and my sensitive heart.