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Marissa Maximo, Philadelphia PA

Words by Natalie Shukur

Images by Ryan Collerd

Marissa Maximo has built a career out of her impeccable taste, love of artisanal craft, and an intrepid ability to seek out under-the-radar makers – from a surfboard shaper in Brooklyn to weavers in Bolivia. For many decades, the Rhode Island School of Design painting graduate lent her eye and handiwork to companies including Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, working on everything from textile design to collaborations and pop-up shops. Two years ago, she struck out on her own with fashion label, Anaak. Working directly with female communities in India and beyond, Anaak aims to empower both the women who make and wear it. From embroidery to knitwear to block printing, these indigenous crafts are transformed into sophisticated garments designed by Maximo from her Philadelphia apartment, where we find her on this sunny Autumn day, cooking up a feast with farmer’s market bounty and finishing the sketches for her next collection.

 

Marissa, you transitioned from a long and successful corporate fashion career to start your own label, Anaak. How has this changed your day-to-day life?

My life consolidated, and I am a lot more focused on what I want to do. There are innumerable variables in starting a new business; it forces me to concentrate on the most basic and quintessential ways of living – i.e. there are only so many hours in a day. How do I want to spend it?

Anaak is not only an outlet for your creativity and craft, but a philanthropic endeavor. Can you tell us a little about the artisans and communities you work with and how this has influenced you?

Artisans are the roots of Anaak. We work with small village communities throughout India and Bolivia, focusing on the development of women who are underserved in rural regions. Women are unable to work and obtain an independent, living wage outside the home. The work we provide allows them to work at home or bring their children to facilities where there is childcare. Artisans living in simple, village environments, with no electricity, television, smartphone or computers, create such exquisite beauty and detail. I grew up drawing and painting, expressing myself and documenting life through [non-digital] media, so I can relate to these artisans and I admire their purity. They are a constant source of inspiration, reminding me of what truly matters in life – love, health and happiness.

 
Above: 100% Linen Duvet Cover and Pillowslip Set in White.

What’s most exciting to you at the moment?

I’m most excited (and scared!) of the growth of Anaak. This new season is the start of delivering to international stores in Japan, Dubai, the UK, and Australia. Providing more work for our artisans is most exciting, but also challenging in terms of making sure we maintain limited editions, high quality and proper production time.

It appears you like to cook! What are your favorite meals to make at home?

Yes, I love to cook! It is the most therapeutic activity for me, besides yoga. My speciality is rustic Italian, making pasta with in-season produce from local farmers. I love walking the neighborhood farmers market on Sunday mornings and getting inspired by what I find. Keep it simple with few ingredients and appreciating the flavour of each.

What’s the soundtrack to your life right now?

Jesse Marchant’s new “Brightest of Feathers” EP has been playing nonstop in my studio. His soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics resonate with me. It’s soothing and calming music to work to. I get pulled in many directions running a new business, and time to design and think is sacred. Jesse’s music is the perfect accompaniment.

Outside of Anaak, what are the things that bring you joy?

I would like to say yoga and starting to rock climb but these days it is really the simple things like sleep, time off, friends and loved ones that I have grown to cherish. I have two young nephews. Holding the boys in my arms and loving them brings immeasurable joy to my life.

You have collected some beautiful pieces on your extensive global travels. Which materials, textures and colours do you like to surround yourself with?

My home is my sanctuary. All my life, I have worked in colour and pattern, so when it comes to my home, I like a blank canvas — streamlined to clear my mind and reboot. My loft and studio is predominately white and neutral, with earthy textures of plants, stones and shells from outings and small antiques and textiles found while travelling. I also have a secret love of hot pink. I can’t explain it, but I’m always drawn to it, and you will find unexpected elements of hot pink in my place.

My home is my sanctuary. All my life, I have worked in colour and pattern, so when it comes to my home, I like a blank canvas — streamlined to clear my mind and reboot. My loft and studio is predominately white and neutral, with earthy textures of plants, stones and shells from outings and small antiques and textiles found while travelling. I also have a secret love of hot pink. I can’t explain it, but I’m always drawn to it, and you will find unexpected elements of hot pink in my place.

Was has been a travel highlight recently?

I have been travelling around the world for most of my career. Running off to Europe every other month, Asia twice a year and NYC every month, so my most recent highlight is traveling locally. I have been going to a small town in Vermont to a cabin along Lake Champlain. It is remote and quiet, a destination for me to break away from everyday distractions, slow down and clear my mind so I can design (and try new things like wind-surfing!).

What’s your morning routine like?

My mornings consist of tea first. During the workweek, I read emails and WhatsApp messages first thing since there is 9-12 hour time difference with the artisans and vendors. On the weekends, Saturday mornings start with an intense yoga practice and Sunday mornings a sleep in, then the farmers market.

Do you have a bedtime routine or ritual? 

No, my only bedtime routine is arranging pillows for sleep. I put one beneath my knees to help with my back, one on my left side, and one underneath my head. I feel nestled in, cozy like a hug.

 

What could you not live without?

Food! Always comforting and pleasurable. Food is nourishing, stimulating and nostalgic for me. It was the centre of my upbringing and Filipino heritage. I miss having a yard to grow my own vegetables and herbs, having my hands in the dirt and taking satisfaction of cooking the fruits of my labor.

Food! Always comforting and pleasurable. Food is nourishing, stimulating and nostalgic for me. It was the centre of my upbringing and Filipino heritage. I miss having a yard to grow my own vegetables and herbs, having my hands in the dirt and taking satisfaction of cooking the fruits of my labor.

What do you love about your home and the neighborhood you live in? 

I love the light in my loft. It is open and the whole side is wall-to-wall windows. I wake up to open skies and enjoy sunsets at the end of the day. My neighborhood is bit odd, in between two well-known neighborhoods, and somewhat of a no man’s land but I love how quiet yet central it is.

What are you most looking forward to coming up? 

Every day is a roller coaster ride with starting a new company, so I look forward to figuring out a rhythm. Getting back to basics, stabilizing the business and seeing how it evolves and unfolds. I also look forward to spending more time in nature, getting back to painting and seeing my nephews grow up and the individuals they will become.

See more from Marissa here.


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