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Photography by Ana Cuba

The Sculptor-Turned-Fashion Designer Creating a Uniform for Artists

We visit Anna Blessmann in her London studio to explore her radical reinterpretation of luxury

Lead ImagePhotography by Ana Cuba

“Basic is the wrong word,” Anna Blessmann says, reaching for the right one as she thumbs through the pieces that make up her first collection. We’re in the calm, open space of the London home-and-studio she shares with her partner Peter Saville, to discuss A_PLAN_APPLICATION, the fashion brand she launched (at Virgil Abloh’s insistence) in Paris this February, and which, in its rational reinterpretation of luxury, could not feel further from “basic”. “I wanted to make everyday clothes, but in a beautiful way, in high-quality materials that wear well,” she clarifies. “The idea is that you can continue wearing them for years to come.”

Her debut collection comprises a focused series of key pieces for both men and women, inspired by those Blessmann herself has been adapting from standard-issue variations for years – from carefully tailored hoodies in a thick, soft jersey (“the hoodie and tracksuit is the contemporary uniform,” she says) to an indigo denim boiler-suit, created in the image of those worn by her father, a painter by trade. Crucially, these are items of clothing which form a kind of system, she says; everything is blue, white, or black; trans-seasonal; designed to endure passing trends. It is a uniform for artists, for the simple reasoning that Blessmann herself is an artist, and this is her uniform.

It’s all the more compelling a concept for the fact that Blessmann’s familiar territory has been the art world for as long as she remembers. “I come from a very particular background,” she says. “I knew who Piero della Francesca was before I knew who the Rolling Stones were.” As a five-year-old, she believed “that everybody was an artist. Because I only knew people who would write, or paint, or photograph, or make sculptures, and I thought that’s just what humans did.”

“I come from a very particular background. I knew who Piero della Francesca was before I knew who the Rolling Stones were” – Anna Blessmann

Her unique worldview thus cultivated, Blessmann began creating her own clothes while studying fine art and sculpture in West Berlin in the 1990s. “I thought about leaving, but then the wall came down,” she continues. “The 1990s were an amazing time for Berlin.” Not having much money, Blessmann, along with many of her peers, bought most of her clothes by the kilo in army surplus stores, altering key items to accommodate her small frame – which utilitarian influence is still visible in her pieces today. But it was more than simply a puritanical aesthetic that informed Blessmann’s wardrobe: as a working artist, she couldn’t reconcile herself with the idea of wearing somebody else’s creative vision. “How are you yourself?” she asks. “If you are highly aware of shapes and visual language and visual communication you do, of course, think about what you wear and what it says. Having a strong image of yourself, you can’t just put somebody else’s print on your body.”

This way of thinking has persisted in the years since, she says; she worked for a brief time as a model and a photographer, and cultivated a rich career as a sculptor. “This thinking has been with me for a long, long time,” she says, “and in the last few years I’ve been altering things more and more, or taking things from a boy’s wardrobe and changing them.” Nonetheless, it wasn’t until she met Abloh that the idea of creating these pieces in earnest even crossed her mind. “He said to me, ‘Why don’t you make your own line?’” she says, “and I just laughed because these things don’t happen. I said, ‘Yeah, sure! I would love to!’ And he said, ‘No, I’m serious. You should meet my people in Milan.’ I still didn’t take it entirely seriously, because I didn’t have the background in fashion. I thought, things don’t happen like this.” But two years on, here she and A_PLAN_APPLICATION are.

“In some ways it’s almost more like product design... These are pieces from my wardrobe that I’ve made myself... I’m asking, why do I like them? Why do they work?” – Anna Blessmann

The pieces are rigorously designed; sensual rather than sexy; elevated without becoming ornamental. “What I’m doing is much more based on experience than inspiration, or ideas,” she says. “In some ways it’s almost more like product design, in that sense – these are pieces from my wardrobe that I’ve made myself, or even that have been passed down from my mother or grandmother that I tweaked or dyed. I’m asking, why do I like them? Why do they work?”

Many were forged as solutions to Blessmann’s own personal frustrations. “I knew that I wanted to do a feminine hoodie, because for the past six or seven years I’ve worn Champion sweaters and cut them short, and tailored them at the waist. I love the hoodie as a contemporary item, but I disappear in them; I want something that is good for my shape, and is feminine. I also like combining that with a skirt, for example, so it’s not as casual. And I wanted to do high boots with it, so you don’t need to wear tights. I hate tights.” How we put on and take off clothes was a key question too, she says – these pieces had to be functional. “If I am wearing a warm sweater and I go inside a restaurant or a club, can I take it off without ruining my make-up? So,” she gestures towards the rail, “you have a sailing sweater with a really open neck.”

Moreover, these are clothes that are constructed for comfort – both in terms of textile and cut, but also in ethos, to make the wearer feel innately at home. “Practical, contemporary, easy to travel in. They are garments that combine in a fluid way.” They may be strong aesthetically, but they won’t try to define you, she says. “They are not made for Instagram – they’re made for your body, and how you feel.” And in our current age, what could be more luxurious than that?