American Design Hot List

Anna Karlin

New York,
The prolific New York designer and art director had a sprawling breakout collection this year — she’s basically a one-woman department store.

What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
American design to me means two things. First, no rules. As much as the lack of history in this country sometimes frustrates me, it’s also liberating. Second, the myth of the ‘American Dream’ that can sometimes be used to promote a very individualistic and selfish outlook also makes it a country where it’s ok to work for what you want and be openly ambitious, where risk isn’t dirty word. As a result there’s a community of people around you wishing you well and willing to graft alongside you to make it happen. Which means it’s also a place where things are still made, and there’s an amazing network of craftspeople and fabricators still making a healthy living.

What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
This year we launched our second collection and that has been huge for us — it’s opened so many doors to new clients, projects, and collaborations. Very dull, but until they’re announced I can’t say anything! A big highlight is going to be launch of my capsule collection of fine jewelry — just three rings in this incredible packaging we’ve recently finished working on. Working on something so tiny when I’m used to working so big has been brilliant — it somehow feels a lot more manageable. The logistics are certainly easier! It’s been a real pleasure and somehow cathartic.

What inspires your work in general?
The mistakes, the experiments, and the art direction side of my business, where we do everything from set design and graphics to installations and events. We’re always tinkering in every medium, and as a result my studio is full of inspiring odd and ends — blobs of paint we were were trying to float in resin, bits of rubber tied up from trying to make a chair cushion for a concept interior we’re working on, sheets of vintage letterhead paper we found in an antique store that’s serving as inspiration for a branding project we’re currently working on. We’ve just hung up a giant mobile we made for a set design job for Fendi — it sits alongside my new fig tree and it makes quite a vision! My team are driven crazy by the fact that I always add the the studio and move things around not to make more space, which we desperately need, but to make new ‘scenes.’ We’re currently working on what we do with 50 oyster shells entirely covered in real gold leaf that held white chocolate truffles, all of which we designed and made as part of a fashion week event. It’s a very wide spectrum of play and that gives me plenty of inspiration. Lastly, perfect proportions — get those right and you have a thing of beauty.