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How SIS Inspired a Former Art History Professor to Start Her Own Textile Design Firm

Anna Novakov

Anna Novakov has worn many hats in the art and design world: model, art historian, professor, designer, and most recently: alumna of our Parsons Summer Intensive Studies (SIS) fashion program and business owner. Anna spoke to us how SIS built her skills and confidence to start her own textile design company, Mala_Igla.

What made the SIS program stand out to you?
I was looking for a course I could take that would expand my knowledge of fashion, particularly textiles. I liked the compact structure of it – this immerse experience in a short period of time. I wanted to have a more direct way to dealing with the creative part of it.

What is your educational and professional background?
My journey was a long and complex one. I taught for 20+ years in Art History with an Art History Ph.D. I’ve always been interested in perfume and scents and textile design.
My mother was a seamstress, I got into modeling at age 5. I was always interested in clothes and fashion. It was part of my identity.

How did your art history background help you in your current career?
Through art history, I was of course able to learn about the historical context of that work.
Part of what art history taught me was organizational structure, deadlines… all that was a big plus for me in shifting from academia to being a business owner.

How did SIS influence your career?
As a historian, I was interested in fashion and clothing and how it relates to women. I wanted to have a practical application to what to do now. I wanted to look at different ways to think about textiles. I could bounce new ideas and learn new techniques.

It was because of that course that I was able to start this business. It turned out to be a big game-changer for me. In a very short period of time, I was able to get all this information. I decided to design the fabric rather than the garments. Within a month of taking the class I had my first client. So it was quick!

Anna Novakov

One of Anna Novakov's textile designs from her Fall 2021 Sample Book.

Describe your design process.
I don’t have this warehousing of stuff. I wanted a very lean business plan and that worked out well with just doing the bespoke fabrics. I take yarn and ribbons, and photograph them and put them into photoshop until I create a pattern. I work off what the client brief is – for example a woman in New York who makes handbags – we went back and forth until we got something she really liked.
It’s a very collaborative process between myself and the client. I never get bored and it’s always a different product at the end.

What was it like taking the course online?
I didn’t get the feeling that I was doing a remote class, it was more of a hybrid. You’d have the computer on and you’d be working in the studio. You’d get immediate feedback: You could show her as you were going through the process. It was an exceptional format.

What were your classmates like?
There were people at different levels. We were getting a sense of comradery in the class. People college aged and people with their own lines – some already had clients. There was a broad range of backgrounds, ages, which I thought was a great way to connect the class. We could have these connections no matter where we were globally.

What was your favorite project?
The capsule collection – three looks that included garments and accessories. We used a new type of 3D software. I was more concerned with the garments. I made purses and shoes and other things. There was a sense of experimentation with it. By the end you had three viable products that went together.
I really learned about cohesion and how things should fit together.

How has living in different parts of the world affected your designs?
I was born in Serbia and moved to California as a child. I finished graduate school in New York. I had always wanted to live in New Mexico and that opportunity opened up and I took it. I wanted to have this alternating geographical existence – Sante Fe and New York City half and half.
But you really feel the energy of New York… being in a place that has so many creative people and ambitious people. I have an affinity to New Yorkers as people, I enjoy their outlook on life. Developing a business is easier in New York. I’ve made more connections in interior design than any place else. It’s a hive for so many businesses that I’m interested in connecting with.

Anna Novakov

The bright and vivid colors of New Mexico inspired many of Anna Novakov's designs.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
Bauhaus, modernist industrial design, home décor. Ethnographical things from Serbia. Colorful, vibrant. I have a tendency to be attracted to bright patterns. I work very hands-on to begin with.

Why do you think SIS is well suited to adults already established in their careers?
The structure is very flexible. You can be at various points of your career and you can find it very valuable. The openness to various background was very good. No one felt like the class was aiming low or aiming high – it was hitting the right notes.

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