becoming a designer: Anja Verdugo of ANN-YA

I’m very excited to introduce you all to the next guest designer in our Becoming a Designer series! I’ve been following Anja’s blog Clever Nettle for years, (actually it’s one of the first blogs i ever read!) – so obviously i was very excited when i saw her launch her brand ANN-YA last year. She has a fantastic aesthetic – and i feel a truly wonderful eye for good details. Though she began in apparel, recently she’s been doing more leather goods and accessories, and they are honestly just to die for! 

Anja is our current Featured Indie designer, and you’ll see a banner for her displayed on our sidebar for the next few months if you’d like to visit her store at any point!

I really hope you enjoy reading about Anja’s road to Becoming a Designer – and once you’re done, please visit her gorgeous store, her vintage on Etsy, and her blog

{Thank you so much Anja for taking the time to be a part of our series!}

Hi! My name is Anja and I have a small line called ANN-YA (hint: that’s how you pronounce my name!). I’m currently focusing on leather goods, but have tried my hand at clothing as well. My line just had its first anniversary this fall so this post is a perfect opportunity to reflect and talk about my experiences up until this point. Thanks to Megan for this awesome series and for giving me a chance to share!



It started with a desire to make clothing- after countless years of having “sew a dress” on my to-do list, I finally took some sewing classes at an independent school and also learned the basics of patternmaking. My mom is awesome at sewing and would have happily taught me when I was younger, but I was a total brat about doing anything that required an ounce of patience (obviously crucial for sewing!). In 2011 I made and sold several simple pieces, but when I started work on a second mini collection the realities of having a clothing line hit me and caused me to change my focus. I had several issues- I didn’t know how to grade my patterns into other sizes, all the fabrics that I liked were too expensive and the textiles I designed were even more expensive to print, and overall my sewing skills weren’t strong enough yet to realize my design ideas. I didn’t want to wait for years of sewing experience in order to continue working on my line, but I couldn’t afford to outsource any of these tasks either. It became obvious that a clothing line wasn’t going to happen for me at this time. I have to say, I have tremendous amounts of respect for anyone who can start a clothing line all by themselves, it’s a pretty amazing feat!



Shortly after releasing my clothing, I also began making and selling some leather goods, and I was feeling really inspired by this. My experience with leather was also fairly minimal when I started out, I took one class that taught the basics of hand-stitching, different machine-sewn seams, dyeing, finishing, etc. I upgraded my sewing machine to a tough 1950’s Singer and bought some basic leather tools. I experimented with marbled paint treatments, dyes, tooling stamps, and felt a real sense of creative freedom from the beginning, something I wasn’t able to feel with clothing. Sometimes the leather does the work for you- a natural, raw edge can be the best looking thing. Aside from my own paint and dye finishes, I still get fabric shopping-style satisfaction of finding cool prints because there are lots of unique leathers out there. I love that my work is quite varied, I really need that to stay motivated since I do everything by myself.



I’ve been self-employed since 2007 when I started selling vintage on Etsy. My ultimate goal since high school has always been to work for myself, it pushes me to do my best work and to actually care about the success of the company (aka my life). I never felt like I fit in or belonged at any other job, which made my “career” (always sort of a joke word to me) path to be self-employed quite clear. Things like pricing, wholesale, linesheets, and purchase orders were all new to me but luckily the internet is full of information and my friends have been so awesome about giving me advice and answering my questions. There’s this complicated vibe online when it comes to asking for help from creative people who run their own businesses. You obviously shouldn’t write to a jewelry designer and say, “Hi! I like this necklace, can you tell me how to make one?”, which unfortunately happens all the time. People can be really protective over knowledge that they worked hard to obtain, for good reason, and you don’t want to cross that line. It can make asking for business-related help seem intimidating, and I’m eternally thankful to every person who has shared their wisdom with me and been totally kind about it.

Aside from working hard and honing your skills, I think the best thing you can do for your business is to be an active part of your community, both online and in your city. If you get to know other designers, creative people, supporters of independent fashion, bloggers, shopkeepers, etc, you will be part of a really powerful and inspiring network. As a bonus you will probably get to know people that you have a lot in common with and you’ll find new friends, too! These connections are invaluable to me and I am so grateful to everyone who has ever helped me out in any way. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in several local trunk shows, pop-up shops, even a fashion show, and my list of stockists has expanded from local boutiques to other awesome stores around the country and online. I’m really excited to be making things and can’t wait to see where this project will lead.

Becoming a Designer series by Megan Nielsen

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  1. says

    Great interview, thanks Megan and Anja. Anja’s blog was one of the first I followed too! Very inspiring to see how she has dived head first into doing what she enjoys.

  2. says

    I love reading the “Becoming a Designer” series! It’s so very very inspiring and I love learning about all of these new indie designers! Thank you both for sharing your stories. And those leather clutches are beautiful! :-)

  3. says

    I love the “Becoming a Designer” series, Megan – thank you so much for keeping it going! And thank you to Anja for such a great interview! I also started following Clever Nettle waaaaaay back when and I’ve loved watching Anja’s focus, aesthetic and career grow and change. Her leather goods are just gorgeous!!