Annie Walwyn-Jones never sought to become a clothing designer, but the career serendipitously found her.
“It was through a series of fortunate mistakes,” the Hudson Valley resident says of her journey. “But I just loved it and I had found what I wanted to do.”
Walwyn-Jones grew up in 1960s England, where she attended a traditional boarding school. At a young age, students were deemed good at certain subjects, which dictated their future studies, and, consequentially, their occupations — a process she refers to as “streaming.” But despite taking a few art classes, she didn’t envision herself entering a creative field.
“I wasn’t sure what I was streaming to be at that point, but it certainly wasn’t in the art world,” she says.
At the age of 21, Walwyn-Jones moved to New York, where she lived with relatives. Out of curiosity, she decided to take a dressmaking course, and a family friend recommended the Parsons School of Design. Up until this point, she had explored a number of fields, though nothing quite captured her interest.
“I tried law for a nanosecond and I tried accounting, and then I was send to Florence to get my history of art polished, and then I went to work at a relative’s private hotel as a hostess,” she says. “So I sort of tried everything else that I could think of and I thought, ‘Well, why not?’”
Within a few years, this simple dressmaking course led to a certificate, and Walwyn-Jones entered the Garment District in New York and launched her first clothing company, Naughty Threads, with a school friend.
“It was quite successful and we sold across the country, but like with a lot of small companies, it was difficult.”
Years in the industry led to Walwyn-Jones’ current endeavor, an eponymous clothing line that she describes as “classic with a twist.” The line incorporates elements from her childhood in England, including jackets that are reminiscent of riding coats, and strong silhouettes, as Walwyn-Jones’ favorite style is the Elizabethan men’s doublet with a fitted flare.
“I think that’s the ultimate gorgeous silhouette of all time,” she says.
But all of her creations possess a soft femininity. One of the core features of Walwyn-Jones’ clothing is its versatility. Many of her garments, particularly the dresses, use snap buttons, which can alter the clothing’s architecture. If a client purchases a knee-length dress, the snaps can be adjusted for the dress to be worn shorter in the front, or shorter overall, with a difference in texture, due to the layering of fabric. Even her chiffon scarves are adjustable, as they can be worn as a shawl or with a cardigan-like fit.
This versatility has been especially popular in Walwyn-Jones’ ongoing projects, which include mother-of-the-bride and -groom dresses.
“People are really all different shapes, and I’m enjoying that challenge,” she says. “Most of us have to look ‘OK’ most of the time, but on that day, you really have to feel good. That’s probably the most important.”
But she is also mindful of the garments’ range of wear and creates pieces, such as a jacket, skirt or tunic, that can be worn to formal events or casually paired with jeans or leggings. And most creations, including the dresses, include pockets for comfort.
“I try to make things that are very practical, but not so much basic,” she says, “something that enhances the basics.”
Annie Walwyn-Jones Ltd. is at 1 County Route 8 in Ancramdale, N.Y., with designs available at Gilmor Glass at 2 Main St. in Millerton, N.Y. For more, call 518-329-3210 or visit walwyn-jones.com.