Visionary #1: Marissa Maximo, Anaak founder on slowing the mind down

 

“The Anaak woman is intellectually curious. She lives her life with integrity and makes conscious decisions about every aspect of her life” says Marissa, so it’s no wonder that her ethereal and bohéme-influenced designs reference the rich cultural history of cherished destinations “I look at life – the environment, landscape, art, film, travels, souvenirs, sounds, tastes and everything around me” she explains.

Hailing from a background in painting and textiles, Marissa refers these subjects as her first love ever since she was 5 years old; “Nothing could compare to the feeling of having a pencil or paintbrush in my hand and creating something out of a blank piece of paper. Textiles eventually grew to become a means of expression for my paintings.” For the past 20 years, Marissa worked for large apparel retailer and gained a first hand experience with the increasing demand for ‘fast fashion’, which was growing at an unsustainable speed without serious consequence or compromise. “The treadmill was doomed to break” she says, “I wanted Anaak to be a part of the movement that would create change and preserve creating something beautiful within a community.”

In a world of fast fashion, Anaak has created meaningful partnerships with non-profit organizations that share Marissa’s mission of supporting local craftspeople and disadvantaged women “Discovering these partnerships became a natural evolution of the relationship.” Marissa also wanted to go to direct to the source of raw materials and textile techniques; “Alpaca and sheep wool are herded in South America and traditionally used by Andean communities, so it made sense to partner with artisan groups in the Bolivian Highlands to hand-knit our sweaters. Likewise with India- cotton is widely grown throughout the country, and the country is rich with traditional textile techniques, from hand-weaving, natural dyes, embroidery and cutwork. Working directly with the artisans has been entirely grounding and humbling. To see, know and understand all that is involved in creating our fabrics and garments, is like growing your own food: you plant the seed, tend daily to the garden and nurture it to bear beautiful fruits and vegetables. The artisans are my inspiration and light. Through their example, I have learned that you need very little in life to be happy. They are incredibly resourceful with far less than what a typical person has in the Western world.”

Since launching the business, the big lesson that Marissa has learned is the value of time; “In running my own business, I have learned to slow down, act deliberately and observe. Also, that I may not have what I want to manage my business, but I have what I need.” In terms of other trials, Marissa also shares that funding and production were a real setback to developing the brand “I started Anaak with my own savings from over 20 years of work. Like any business, it takes money to make money, and fashion is one of the most expensive industries to operate. We are also having one of our most successful years of sales, which means more orders, but it is difficult to fit production with the artisans who make most everything by hand, and face obstacles like brown-outs and monsoons, which severely impact their ability to work into fashion’s framework of more seasons and faster deliveries.”
 
Over the past year, Anaak have grown internationally and are now sold in the UK, Europe, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. So what seeds are being sown for Anaak in 2018? “We have plans to stabilise the brand in tandem with the company growth, and eventually launch an e-commerce site.” As for personal manifestations, Marissa tells me “If you asked me last week, I would have no problem rattling off my list of this year’s intentions. But something just came up for me that has caused a personal pause and could potentially change my life, as I know it. So, I would say embracing whatever life brings me, accepting what is and being the best form of myself possible.”
Marissa tells me that her version of self care means proper sleep, eating whole foods, exercising and having moments to herself to think and reflect: “I found sticking to a regularly scheduled routine helps me take of myself. I prepare or plan meals for the week, maintain the same work schedule throughout the week (since I work at home), including yoga five times a week and taking evenings of downtime.” Marissa cooks at home, maintains a yoga routine, takes long baths, sleeps for at least 8 hours at night, and limits prolonged use of digital devices. As for additional practices “I wish for more acupuncture, massages and retreats (yoga/meditating) in my life.” Marissa explains. Drinking herbal tea, yoga, resting, sleeping, breathing and slowing the mind down are all part of Marissa’s routine for when she feels unbalanced.

Marissa also keeps a minimal-fuss beauty routine: “I don’t use many beauty products, but Brooklyn Herborium and sans [ceuticals], which are natural or low on chemical use, are my favourite. As for diet, Marissa enjoys high nutrient-value foods and starts the day off with a simple green tea (“which I drink throughout the day until after lunch. At one of my yoga retreats in India, I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol, and I naturally kept that up after returning”), but she also knows how the odd endorphin boost is also a treat “I also love to enjoy the occasional French fries, ice cream and pizza.”. Marissa also shares her relationship with the mirror, which can often be difficult: “Self-image is a very funny thing- how you see yourself vs. how others see you. I have been struggling to embrace getting older. I just turned 44 years old, and my body is not the same as it was when younger, yet admittedly I expect and wish it to be because that is the idea we are exposed to. I look in the mirror and see all that I want to change, instead of fully accepting that this is what I look like and who I am.”

Running a busy independent clothing company, Marissa shares the mantra she lives by “Put one foot in front of the other. Work and life can be very chaotic, overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, that I often just tell myself this mantra to ground me and, to rather, focus on thinking and solving the problem instead of getting absorbed in the feelings.” Being a female entrepreneur, Marissa also shares my line of thought that the world that has opened up, especially when it comes to being a woman in 2018: “The glass ceiling broken, and we are in a world hyper aware of the inequalities women have faced in the past and face today. Compared to growing up in the ‘70s, it is a more accepting world and endorsing, especially speaking as a woman of colour and immigrant parents. That said, we still have far to go for equal rights.”

I also love the story of Marissa’s grandmother Jesusa Generoso, which translates into “generous Jesus”, who certainly lived up to her name: “She was a devout Catholic; woke up at the crack of dawn to pray for 2 hours and did the same at night” Marissa explains “She was virtuous and donated what little money she had to those who were less privileged. I do not practice one denominational religion, but I like to think that I carry on her sense of commitment and faith into the way I live my life.”

Visit the Anaak clothing website and Instagram, and follow Marissa on Instagram here.

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