Anna Skodbo is the creative driving force behind cross-genre clothing brand phannatiq, a part-time harpist, and occasional surfer. Educated in Edinburgh, she developed a curiosity and respect for social and stylistic individualism that is prominent in all her activities.
From sharing her home with adults with severe learning disabilities, schooling that encouraged self-expression and creativity, years spent childminding and getting by in Oslo, to having set off for a new life in Norway at the age of 18, Anna has been shaped by slightly unconventional experiences and carries great flexibility and determination as a result.
Returning to the UK in 2007 to obtain her BA in Fashion at the University of Hertfordshire, she sought out practical roles facilitating London Fashion Week while honing her business and creative skills that would soon lead to establishing her own brand.
Anna holds a deep respect for natural and human resources and places this commitment at the centre of her brand phannatiq by maintaining supply chains of high sustainability and ethical credibility.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I couldn’t find any paid work after graduating, so decided if I was going to be completely skint anyway, it may as well be on my own terms. I don’t regret that decision, but it did mean a very steep learning curve.
Tell us about your business.
Cross-genre clothing brand phannatiq has been throwing a sideways look at sartorial provisions for the world’s pavement populations since 2010, and their irreverent adherence to social stereotypes have amassed them a following unbounded by traditional attitudes.
Brand Director and Textile Designer Anna Skodbo, a passionate fan and observer of style and self-expression, celebrates that phannatiq has grown to reflect her own “clothes for people” attitude to dressing, successfully rethinking gender and sizing indications across the range and encouraging experiments with body-fit.
Renowned for their signature urban disruption patterns applied through traditional screen-printing techniques, phannatiq has long drawn on London’s domestic and industrial landscapes in the creation of their textiles—introducing a visual texture that sits comfortably within any occasion while offering some surprising discoveries amongst the striking collages.
phannatiq’s garments reflect a core commitment to responsible employment and sustainable manufacture, while eschewing seasonal collections for a reliable offering of timeless pieces that transcend the call for a wardrobe refresh.
Where is your business based?
Walthamstow. We love it there. It’s so well-connected to everywhere in London while at the same time being a wonderful close-knit community of entrepreneurs and creatives.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
It’s hard to remember. It was almost 8 years ago! I set up the limited company in 2010. Then we created a collection which we launched during fashion week at Fashion Scout in February 2011.
The first thing we outsourced was our PR, which is when we joined Felicities. We’ve been with them ever since.
I think it’s important to identify one’s weaknesses and outsource those things as soon as viable, as it is totally worth investing in someone who is better than you at something.
We did all the manufacturing in house for the first year or two before outsourcing that too. It’s good to have a working knowledge of things. It is useful even if you are not doing it yourself.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Word of mouth, to be honest. We have some very loyal customers who are very vocal about us: they bring in more people, and then they attract even more people. It’s a slow growth business model, but the investment versus return is a lot more reliable.
Doing week-long, pop-up shops has also really helped engage new customers, and it’s been invaluable as a means to test areas for suitability without risking a year long lease in an area with no customers.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Finding the confidence to go against the grain in how we run things and portray ourselves. It’s been a slow process, but bit-by-bit we have been eliminating the parts of the industry that don’t sit well with us from our processes.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Just brazening it out in most cases. It’s really intimidating though because the industry is a beast.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
It’s hard. Sometimes it’s just sheer stubbornness.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We don’t Photoshop our models, we shoot our clothes on a wide range of bodies, we don’t do seasons (rather a rolling stock), and now our supply chain is completely transparent.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Go with your gut instinct.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Go with your gut instinct. Everyone has so much advice and some of it is invariably good, but in a lot of cases, even if it did genuinely work elsewhere (and I’d always take that with a massive pinch of salt), it may not work for you. Businesses are like children in some ways, they are all completely individual and have completely unique needs.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Shopify for a selling platform. It has the best interface and allows so much front-end design. We could code the whole front end from scratch to do exactly what I wanted it to do. It’s also great for adding apps to do seamless shipping, receipts and marketing research and it pretty much accepts every form of payment.
Zedonk for manufacturing and sourcing. It’s like having a full-time production manager.
Mailchimp for marketing campaigns and emails. It’s the best free email service there is, and it integrates faultlessly with Shopify.
Skype, for meetings with factories elsewhere and Common Objective is fantastic for sourcing.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Stitched Up by Tansey E. Hoskins—fantastic if you’re interested in the impact of the fashion industry on the world.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
SEO and creating an even more accessible transparency on our website.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We are currently working on a couple of really exciting projects that are due to be released in the next couple of months, so watch this space. Our web developer and content writers are working very hard with us at the moment!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.