Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Feature photo: Modeling one of her own hats paired with a printed scarf of one of her paintings.
There are many ways to tell a story. From words exchanged over a cup of coffee to text messages to the girlfriends to even a Shakespearian sonnet, we’ve always used words to express something about ourselves to the world around us and to anyone who will listen. But clothing can often speak a world of stories and experiences without uttering a word. A little black dress dress can tell of a dreamy first-date, a pair of dingy sneakers can tell of a cross-country adventure, and a blazer can bookmark the first day of a new career. We entered the closet’s of some of Fargo’s most stylish and let them give their clothes a platform to share their own unique stories.
Creative Director & Designer at Workerby
Milliner at Ruby3 by Anna Lee
“With my pieces, I like everything to have a story.”
For starters, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m Anna Lee and I am a designer, artist, milliner and an event producer at times, as well. Right now I have been doing more with accessory design and paintings, where I’m turning my paintings into textiles – that’s a part of my business I’ve been really working on developing. The foundation of my experience is product development and design in the fashion industry, though. Right now I’m in this space where I’m using my industry foundation to explore more of the artistry side. My company is called Workerby and the two sides of it are industry plus artistry and always trying to find a balance between the two.
My creative project is called the Grey Matter Series. It also is about trying to find the happy medium between black and white, and polarized thinking. So much of my work is finding a happy medium between extremes.
Tell me a bit about your experiences with Target?
I’ve worked there twice over a span of about 13 years. In the middle, I left to start a non-profit, called MN Fashion and we started fashion week and a design incubator and were producing a rock’n’roll fashion show. But before and after that, I worked in Target in technical design. I was also on a team that developed standards for fit and process, which, I geeked out about that so much. I did that for a couple of years and I loved it, until I needed to leave and do the more community-based independent designer stuff. I was trying to do everything and I just needed to focus on that. But when I went back to Target later, I worked on accessories, which was amazing. I worked on the technical side for that as well, because I’m a nerd! I love to know how and why and when things work.
For me, shopping at Target is like supporting regional designers and supporting local design, because I know the designers. When I lived in Minneapolis, I was supporting local design, it’s supporting the work of people I know. Sometimes I’ll see things in store and be like “oh that print is so like so-and-so, I have to get it!” ’cause I know these people and their styles. It’s been a few years since I worked at Target, so I might not know as many people anymore, but there’s still this emotional connection to Target. When I shop at Target it is like I’m connecting with old friends.
What is a piece you cannot live without?
The dress I’m wearing right now. Not necessarily this specific dress, but just the concept of a basic black sheath. You’ll notice a majority of my closet is black. I think it’s not too much a cliche that designers wear black, it’s just easy. For pretty much my whole life, ever since I was in junior high and interested in fashion, I always had my black staples.
How would you describe your personal style philosophy?
A capsule wardrobe and then just accessorizing. With my pieces, I like everything to have a story. I’ve also been working on phasing in and having my pieces be made by independent designers. I’ve been doing that for a long time, but as I have pared down my wardrobe lately, I’ve been replacing pieces with ones made by independent designers that I know. A lot of my wardrobe is from Minneapolis.
Do you have any pieces that have a special story behind them?
So many. There are a number of pieces. For one, I ran a micro marathon, about 0.5k, from a brewery to a bar, but I ran it in a sequin dress. There as a group of us who all wore sequins in it, it was basically like, “let’s all get dressed up and run a 0.5k!”
Do you have a fashion icon or style you love to emulate?
I would say, Morticia Addams, without the extremes. I feel like she is so unapologetic about wearing black, and with the red lipstick. Yeah, I’d say an approachable Morticia Addams. *Laughs*
What are some new pieces you have that you’re excited about?
One of the pieces I’m most excited about that I just got is this skirt. It is a company called Alice Riot, based in Minneapolis, and they just started a line of women’s wear, but everything is printed from art. How they started was with a painter friend of mine, Kate Iverson. This woman bought a painting of hers and said, “I love it, I wish I had a skirt of this!” So Kate said, “Huh, let me see what I can do.” So she had a skirt made and sent it to the woman who bought the painting, and this woman was like “hey wait a minute, we should do something with this.” So for the last few years they have been putting together this clothing line with the foundation of it being nice basics with really fun prints based on prints from great artists. Their hashtag is #wearthegallery. I actually did some development work with them for fit after their first round of samples, so I’ve got this emotional connection and I believe in what they’re doing.