A fruitful endeavor
Kindness is rare these days, but Ana Manzano is building her small, creative business to promote that quality to others and to the environment. Manzano sources eco-friendly materials to handcraft sweet duds for adults, children and babies for her Ana Apple clothing line. Think cotton T-shirts with spunky, felt turntables; little onesies with pockets and ties cut from vintage curtains and bibs sporting the recycle symbol and phrases such as “nom nom.” Manzano was also recently accepted into Sacramento’s Flywheel Incubator, a program of the Arts & Business Council of Sacramento designed to take artists to the next level in their business endeavors. Manzano sat down with SN&R to talk about making environmentally friendly art, cultivating a smart business and just how her grandma influenced her vision.
How did Ana Apple come about?
I got a sewing machine for Christmas [in] 2007, enrolled in a sewing class in January 2008, and by the end of that month, I was like, “OK, so I’m thinking that I really want to do this.” I wish I could have some grandiose, touching moment, but I was like, “Baby clothes are really cute. Let’s play with that.” So my main goal is creating something that you can’t find at Babies“R”Us or Target. You might find something similar, but with this stuff, we touch each piece by hand, and with the kind of materials we use and the amount of care that we put in. [I like that] no two pieces are going to look exactly the same.
And you use recycled materials?
[The felt] is made from recycled plastic bottles. We source it from a company in, I think it’s North Carolina. They wash, clean, dry the bottles; chop them up into flakes [that] are melted down; and then it’s woven into fiber. The fiber is then spun into big sheets, and those are dyed with eco-friendly dye, and then we [buy] the sheets of it. It’s easy to work with, there are so many colors and [it’s] soft for babies’ skin. We source [the onesies and shirts] from American Apparel in [Los Angeles]. I try to keep stuff as close to California as possible, or, like with the felt, at least within the U.S.
What got you into the environmental-awareness part of Ana Apple?
Honestly, that is all my grandma. In life, and especially with my business, she has been one of my greatest influences. She has always taught me, whatever you do, don’t always think about yourself. She has just used her life to help others in every way that she can, and that is something I have been raised around, and it just comes very naturally to me. And so, I just thought about what’s very important to me.
What is one of the best reactions you have had to your clothes?
I was at a holiday show in San Francisco, and this … woman—big pregnant belly—she came over and picked up [a turntable onesie] and was like, “People keep buying us onesies and clothing and blankets, but this is the one article of clothing I am purchasing for our boy, and he is going to come home from the hospital in this.” I literally started tearing up. That’s the kind of stuff that really keeps me going.
Why did you want to do the Flywheel program?
This is its sophomore year, and I have networked and gotten to know people that were in the first-year program. A few of them encouraged me to apply, they were like, “I think this program would be really good for you,” based on what kind of issues I’m facing with my business. And it’s all growing pains, but they are issues that need to be ironed out. I’m in the creative side of it every single day, and I think this goes for a lot of creative business owners [who say,] “I just want to paint or make clothes or make music,” but you kind of push the business side of it to the back burner, and it’s so important to not only support yourself, but that is how you’re going to reach more people exponentially, you know, by figuring out your marketing plan and making sure your [accounting] books line up.
What do you hope to get out of the program?
It’s really just resources to help me look at my business critically and figure out like, this process here, whether it’s operational or production, saying this is taking five steps, this is how we can knock it down to two or three.
Where do you see this in five years?
I really see myself working with kids long term, and [Ana Apple] is a really good first step. This establishes us as a brand, and from there we can branch off. I would like to be teaching workshops or mentoring kids, getting creative people together to work with kids. Kind of like a creative version of Big Brothers Big Sisters is my big vision, whether it is under the Ana Apple umbrella or a whole other entity, I would like to be making great strides toward making that happen, and just using this as a facility or a platform to build the, what my old coach used to say, was the “know, like and trust factor.” Using this as like, “She’s all about working with kids; she’s all about community,” and this is just the natural progression of it.
What do you like the most about being a part of Sacramento’s creative community?
We are still kind of defining ourselves as a city. I think because we are so much smaller than obviously L.A. and San Francisco, and we are still developing our identity, I think it’s a really exciting time to be an artist or designer in this area, because we get to be a part of helping it thrive and helping it bloom.