Published May 14, 2009

Anna Hovet domestic violence fashion photo

Inspired by the struggles of domestic violence victims, Anna Hovet began looking for ways to use fashion to raise awareness of the issue.  During her senior year studying fashion design at The School of the Art Institute, Anna created a boldly colored five-piece collection of garments meant to be restrictive and symbolize the victim's entrapment.  This domestic violence awareness collection garnered a good response, and Anna continued exploring fashions around this topic.

After graduating, Anna began a full-time career in fashion, continuing to live and work in Chicago.  She was selected to participate in The Chicago Fashion Incubator, sponsored by Macy's, and spends her free time immersed in underground and hip-hop cultures.

Anna's current ready-to-wear offering is a domestic violence fashion hoodie – twenty percent of the proceeds are directed to the domestic violence advocacy program of the purchaser's choice.  Her fashions are available at the Picky Girls boutique in Anna's hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota, on her Web site at, and are anticipated to be coming soon to local and regional boutiques.

We sat down with Anna in March 2009 to discuss fashion and her experiences as a designer in Chicago.

– Betsy Bevelacque and Doo Kim

Anna Hovet domestic violence fashion photo

Anna Hovet domestic violence fashion photo

Anna Hovet domestic violence fashion photo

D&B: How did you get started in fashion, and what drew you to Chicago?

Anna: I'm from Grand Forks, North Dakota. When I was about 11, I started watching music videos and became obsessed with fashion, fashion history and fashion trends. I was debating [where to study fashion], between SAIC and Parsons in NYC, and I decided on Chicago because it was closer to home.

D&B: Can you describe your inspiration for the domestic violence awareness collection?

Anna: This collection was inspired by the stories of victims and artwork addressing domestic violence. It was created as art on the body rather than commercial garments and was designed to have the viewer recognize the importance of speaking out against domestic violence.

D&B: How has this project evolved?

Anna: For a long time I was concerned about the materialism and superficialities of fashion, so I needed a way to do art that spoke to people. Domestic violence is [the topic] I’m most passionate about.

People admired my collection and were interested in wearing pieces that sent the message, so I decided to make more wearable and inexpensive pieces, including my domestic violence awareness hoodie.

I realize that some people may see this as using a cause in order to sell my garments, but that is simply not the case. I'm very dedicated to raising awareness and education about domestic violence, whether it's through my clothing, my blogs, my conversations, or my actions. Everyone wears clothing, and I think it's an ideal platform for me to use to get my message across.

D&B: How many pieces are there currently, and are you intending on expanding the collection?

Anna: My original couture collection is five pieces. My ready-to-wear is just the hoodie for now, but I plan to expand in the future, maybe with different sweatshirts, shirts, and dresses.

D&B: Describe your choice of colors in this collection. They are obviously carefully picked out and matched together ...

Anna: When most people think about domestic violence, they see it as a dark, depressing issue. I did not want my collection to just be a mirror of domestic violence victims and their struggles. Rather than having it look dreary, I wanted it to hit viewers in the face! I wanted it to speak loud and clear. I need bright colors to really catch the viewers’ eye. I needed people to see that this wasn't an issue to be swept under the rug, that we need to put it in the light and speak out.

D&B: How would these pieces ideally be presented?

Anna: I would like them in a gallery setting rather than a runway, but I would want them moving to show the restraining associated with the garments.  For example, the men's piece is very constraining to symbolize many male victims' entrapment. They often do not report domestic violence because they are too embarrassed or worried the woman will turn it around on them, and they will go to jail or lose their children.

D&B: What are the common influences throughout all of your work?

Anna:  I love color and mixing different colors to make a bright, visually pleasing palette. I am always directly influenced by what people are doing and wearing around me.  As for my ready-to-wear garments, I use a lot of convertibility: removable hoods, reversibility and removable layers.

Some may describe my style as "urban," but I see it more influenced by my urban surroundings and also inspired by vintage silhouettes and couture design details. Also, I'm obsessed with the female form and draping fabrics around it. Nothing makes me happier than making women feel beautiful.

D&B: Speaking of urban, how has Chicago influenced your work?

Anna: I spend most of my time in the underground art and hip-hop scenes.  This is exactly where the trends begin.  I love surrounding myself with young, inspired, cultured artists and musicians. I think Chicago is a great city for beginner fashion designers; there are a lot of resources here, and Mayor Daley has done a lot to help small fashion businesses.

Anna Hovet domestic violence fashions photo

D&B: How has your work changed since you graduated?

Anna: At [The School of the Art Institute of Chicago], all our collections were very conceptual. This gave me a great view on the foundations of fashion and really pushed my creativity.  After graduating, I designed for a large corporation where I learned more about sellable clothing, price points and target markets.  This helped refine my ideas into more wearable clothing available for direct purchase.

I'm using all of these skills and outlooks in my designs now.  With my new business, I'm doing custom orders which are more couture, and also ready-to-wear.

D&B: How would you describe your personal fashion style?

Anna: My personal style is such a mix of so many different things! Almost everything I wear is from the thrift store, or I made it.  It's always colorful, and I love earrings and heels.  Overall, it would be a mix of urban-wear and vintage, primarily the 1930s at the moment.

D&B: How would you describe your philosophies about fashion?

Anna: Everyone wears fashion whether they like it or not. Even if it's a T-shirt from Wal-Mart, that says something about you.  I love fashion because it is an art form chosen everyday by everyone. I love how fashion gives the wearer a silent announcement on a daily basis.

I think there is a real lack of rebellion and innovation in today's fashion, and I’m committed to making great clothing by using cutting-edge concepts, unique design details, and sophisticated style.

Anna Hovet domestic violence fashions photo 

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