An Ren

An Ren

Photo: An Ren

Neighborhood: East Village
Type of Place: Designers Women's Clothing


Once in a while, you find a shop and a designer that serve as reminders of just how artistic fashion can be. Coco Channel: visionary. Yves St. Laurent: artist. Norma Kamali and Betsey Johnson: cultural forces both. Designer An Ren's work speaks of creativity and detail, of commitment and perspective. To visit her shop in the East Village is to see wearable works of art.

Born in China, the designer is now a New Yorker and does her pre-production work here. Her garment construction, however, is done in Shanghai, at a factory she had built (and which features, among other things, a private chef for her employees). Each piece is made in limited numbers, and you certainly won't see "your" item all over town. Jackets and coats are her primary creations; and though words and photos can try to capture them, they're best seen in person to be fully appreciated. (This is true for their insides and outs; look at the linings and seams to see real craft.)

Some of what I loved: a black-and-turquoise-checked jacket with red-and-black-checked detail (also in white and black instead of turquoise)—the right weight to be a spring or fall jacket or, in winter, a gorgeous blazer ($295); an orange vest with a white geometric pattern ($175); a red-and-black-checked jacket (again, heavy enough to be a primary jacket in spring or fall but graceful enough to be an all-day, indoor outfit staple), with a beautifully constructed flower on the collar and decorative buttons (well-chosen button detail is big in these designs; I was apparently examining them too closely to record the price on this one); and a jacket featuring blue, pink, and brown fabric at the top, brown in the middle, and a navy, brown, and orange pattern at the bottom, with red buttons and a red collar (whew!; $495, the highest current price for anything here). Some of the designs have snap-out long sleeves; all mix patterns, colors, and details in ways that are truly fresh, lots of fun, and often flat-out beautiful. Lightweight scarves (from $20) are available in various colors to accompany the designs.

Trend-following, these clothes are not; but timeless, meticulously crafted, and steeped in an artist's spirit, they are. I'll be saving my pennies in the hopes of bringing one of these art works home—and enjoying it for life.

  - Pamela Grossman; Nov 8, 2009

An Ren
315 E 9th Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 388-9486