Talking Bottoms with Anak-Anak

We go in Pants and All with Anak-Anak – the Comfiest Bottoms Around

Lisa Quinney is a Geelong-based babies’ and children’s wear designer…and mummy.

When you see someone putting on her [sic] Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is about to happen. – Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A. Milne

My Surf Coast Life talks to Lisa Quinney, owner and operator of Anak-Anak – one of our best-loved Geelong-based babies’ and children’s wear designers. We go on a bear hunt, of sorts – a big adventure – with Lisa, as she gives us the lowdown on ‘the comfiest kids’ clothes around’.

MSCL – Hi Lisa! As you know, we just love everything Anak-Anak. So we just have to ask it – What’s in a name? How does Anak-Anak translate? And why did you choose the name as your brand label? 

LISA – Anak-Anak means ‘children’ in Indonesian. Georgia – a dear friend of mine – spent a lot of time there when she was growing up, and when we first started our Anak-Anak venture, we went to Bali for a holiday together with our families. We loved how the Balinese people focussed on children, and always put them in the spotlight. The happy and positive attitude of the Balinese people – their colourful and bright culture – was behind the decision to name our business Anak-Anak.

About six months ago, Georgia decided to concentrate on her teaching career – as Anak-Anak became a very time-consuming project. So I have taken on our Anak-Anak business singlehanded now.

MSCL – How – and why – did you start your children’s clothing business? Do you have a background in fashion design?

LISA – I started making ‘those comfy little pants’ in Germany about six years ago, when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I have always loved sewing, and working with colour and fabric. I used to be a radio host, and studied as a radio journalist in Germany. However, when I moved to Australia – I have two children now – I decided I needed a career change.

I have always loved making funky pants. I had a little side business back home. But when I moved here, my friend Georgia and I decided to transform Anak-Anak into a proper business. We are busy now with markets. We also run our own online store.

MSCL – What’s the story behind the Anak-Anak fabric choice? The designs every bit live up to the credo of ‘the comfiest kids’ clothes around’. 

LISA – You know that feeling – when your clothes are – well, just uncomfortable? Your pants are too tight and cut into your flesh, and you just can’t wait to get home to undo the buttons and to put on your trackies or PJs? Now imagine that your little one is feeling just the same way, but can’t tell you – “Hey mum, the elastic of my leggings is too tight, and hurts my tummy!” That’s why I love the pants I make. They’ll never cut in, or feel too tight. In fact, once you’re in them, you just don’t want to take them off – ever!

I make sure my fabrics have a minimum cotton content of about 95% and about 5% elastane, which makes the clothes breathable, soft and stretchy. I also avoid buying in Australia, as so many fabrics here – unfortunately – are now manufactured in Asia, where the quality control is questionable.

As a mum myself, I know how often kids’ clothes need washing – especially the favourite pieces – so they need to last. It is vitally important to us that the Anak-Anak range is valued for its excellent quality. The only place I know for sure to source quality fabrics is from ‘home’. So I import most of my fabrics from Europe – Germany, Turkey, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

The pants are so comfortable because I use the highest quality ribbing for the waistbands and cuffs. I never use elastic. This method of manufacture ensures that all garments stretch over 50% across the grain, which ensures comfort and practicality.

MSCL – The prints are just beautiful. It’s hard to pick a favourite. We adore the Mamma & Me range. The Urban Soul Mamma and the Mini Me geometric designs are big hits with a certain pair belonging to our Surf Coast crew.

And one of our tiny gypsy tribe, and favourite fashionistas – an Anak-Anak convert to the core, after discovering you at the Torquay Cowrie Market – apparently created quite a storm at sea this summer cruising the Pacific Ocean in her Free Artist Harem Pants. Everyone on board, we are told, commented on her impeccable tase and unique Down Under style. So prepare to go viral!

Do you have a favourite? The shorts are too gorgeous. We don’t wear the dresses, as we are all boys here – for the time being, anyway.

LISA – Oh wow! That’s such great feedback. It’s so nice to hear you genuinely love my stuff. I love the feeling that I in some way play a part in the adventures of our little ones. First birthdays, holidays, first day of kinder – Anak-Anak gets to be a part of so many memorable occasions. It really is so special. Every snapshot I receive from my customers makes me smile; I cherish them all very much. I’ve started a gallery on my website, so everyone gets to enjoy those cute photos now.

I don’t have an all-time favourite. I fall in and out of love with my designs. It’s a very creative and emotional process – the selection and design of my ranges. I’m just ecstatic when the latest fabrics arrive on my doorstep from overseas. I jump up and down in my lounge room! I find it hard to contain myself; I’m just so excited. My girls love it whenever a new delivery arrives. They think its super fun when I dance about the house singing – ha ha – “Mama is gonna be happy today!”

MSCL – How do you find the time – and energy – to do what you do, with a young family in tow? What gets you up and cracking every day? And how do you stay motivated, and keep the inspiration flowing? You look so fit, fabulous and healthy. Any tips? Or secrets?

LISA – Oh gosh – thanks for the compliment. That makes me laugh, as I don’t feel like that very often! Ha ha. Anyone who has small children who are not the best sleepers will be able to relate!

I’m doing this full-time now, so there’s no ‘other work’ I need to concentrate on. I love being home with my girls, and not having to put them into care. It does make it hard some days, though – don’t get me wrong. A lot depends on them, and if they let me work or not. Sometimes I just have to surrender, and change my plans for the day.

If the girls need attention, they are my priority. If they have a good day – and they play nicely! – I’ll get lots done. It is especially difficult not having my immediate family close by to help out when things become stressful. But the Anak-Anak process, I know, is making me mentally much stronger, and a lot more patient. I just have to be super organised, while at the same time making an allowance for flexibility.

I love being present for my girls. If I’m sewing, and they want me to read a book – I can easily do that for five minutes. Or, if they want to show me a picture they just drew, I have time to listen and to look. It’s a privilege to spend so much time with my little ones while they are still so small, while at the same time being able to give time to such a challenging and creative role from home, doing my own thing. It sounds so good, I know, but don’t get me wrong – there are many extremely challenging days, too.

I also love talking to other designers and creatives. Checking in with what others are doing inspires and motivates me. I just love seeing what others are doing – and learning – and how others organise their lives. I feel like we are all more like colleagues rather than competitors. And I just love that about the Geelong small-micro business scene.

MSCL – Do you have a favourite healthy eating place? Or recipe? For big people, or small?  

LISA – I have a recipe from ‘home’ for a really simple but delicious salad – perfect for a BBQ: Tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh chopped basil, balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Easy, and delicious! I love it. Sometimes I make that for lunch, as a treat.

MSCL – OK, onto the nitty gritty now –

We’ve changed our fair share of nappies. And we’re currently doing time on that merry toilet training train. And so we think what’s to come may make you giggle. 

We’re thinking of putting a gold coin in a jar for each time we’ve commented under our breath while wrestling a wriggly, giggly – and sometimes grizzly – small thing – “HOW EASY are THESE THINGS to change?” Referring, of course, to the too-easy, pull-down, yank-up Anak-Anak waist band.

We’ve paid our dues in the laundry, too – as we’re sure you have also. Our Anak-Anak collection has been doused in every conceivable concoction of baby mush, an immeasurable number of liquid cocktails of varying colours, textures and flavours, scribbled on and dribbled upon. We’ve even rolled –  and sat – in an array of unpleasant substances too many times to audit. We’re bewildered. Every conceivable ‘horrible thing’ comes out in the Anak-Anak wash.

What’s with that? Anak-Anak appear to be indestructible. And believe us, we’ve given it a good shot!

LISA – Ha ha! That’s so great. You make me laugh. Yes, they are great pants! Sooo good to hear that you appreciate them as much as I do.

Lots of the pants are handed down, because they still look great after many, many washes. Some parents have their bubs wear the pants at three-quarter length when they grow out of them, which is a great idea. The pants are especially popular with lots of dads, because they are so easy to put on and pull off. My husband refuses to put leggings – or anything like that – on our girls. He loves the pants, because they are so quick and easy to change.

Toilet training is such a busy time and a bit of a giggle – when your toddler wants to do EVERYTHING himself?! These pants are life-savers, for sure.

MSCL – Time to clean up our act. So to our favourite question. We ask everybody this! 

What are you listening to right now? As you’ve come to know, we’re hard-hitting truth seekers at My Surf Coast Life, so feel free to shoot from the hip with this one. To put you at ease – just so you know – we have The Wiggles Papadum, Papadum Pap-a-Pap-a-Papadum on loop right now. So anything goes.

And reading? And watching?

LISA – I’m listening to The Lumineers a lot at the moment, and The Band of Horses. My kids know all the songs by heart now. I’m NOT a fan of kids’ music, and never play it in the car or at home – #badmum ha ha!

And reading? And watching?

LISA – Last book I read was Our Common Bond when I was studying for the Australian Citizenship Test. I’m watching the new episodes of Grace & Frankie on Netflix. Ha ha, that one IS embarrassing!

MSCL – What’s your favourite place to visit with children on board? In Geelong? The Surf Coast? The Bellarine? Melbourne? You may bypass this question if you don’t have time to go anywhere!

LISA – The beach, definitely. That’s the best place for the little ones. The girls love getting messy, and having all that space to run wild. Every child loves water. And I get a chance to sit down and watch them being kids. It’s our favourite spot for sure.

MSCL – How do you spend your down time? I’m not even sure why we ask anyone this, as everyone we talk to about the place who runs their own shebang says they don’t have much of it. So feel free to tell us we’re dreaming…

LISA – I like to meditate and to practise yoga. I like to read; and I like to draw. But, you guessed it already – there’s not much time for myself .

The reality looks like this – and I’m sure every mum, if she’s honest, can relate: Once the kids are in bed, there seems to be not a lot of energy left. Often it’s a case of collapsing on the couch like a zombie, and eventually dragging myself to bed to pass out till morning –  when the craziness begins all over again.

MSCL –  Do you have any helpers on your team? Or are you IT? The market scene alone is a pretty big venture – long hours, bump-outs and bump-ins to boot. There appears to be a heck of a lot involved. 

LISA – It’s just me – no team; no helpers. Setting up at markets – and packing up – is physical work, and it’s not that easy doing it all on my own. But I love getting to know all the other local designers – jewellery makers, artists, musicians, food vendors. Most of them are beautiful, open-minded people, and they’re often more than happy to lend me a hand.

MSCL – What’s the Anak-Anak vision for the future? We’re thinking it won’t be too long – in the words of Paul Kelly – that from little things, big things grow…

LISA – I’ve decided to stick to bottoms. I’m not going to make tops or dresses any more. I’m going to concentrate on pants, shorts, joggers and harems. The super comfy waistbands make the pants vey special.

I’m working on a new winter range. And this will excite you: Just last week, a LOT of ‘boy styles’ arrived on my doorstep. I can hardly wait to cut into this amazing fabric. I’ll be doing some new Mama Harems, and maybe long skirts to match the little harem pants. Very exciting!

MSCL – Thanks so much for sharing the ins and outs of Anak-Anak with My Surf Coast Life, Lisa. We think you’re amazing. And look forward to every new little – and big – thing to come out of your beautiful studio. Just the cutest Surf Coast things we’ve ever seen…

To find out more about Lisa Quinney’s unique and beautiful Anak-Anak range, or to shop online Anak-Anak

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