Sister, sister. Combining their creative vision, as well as their first and middle names, is how Annette and Phoebe Stephens became Anndra Neen. “Even our parents now call us ‘The Neens,’” confesses Phoebe. With their roots stemming from Mexico City and inspiration from their grandmother who was all things grand in style, it was on a trip to Japan that spawned the idea for Anndra Neen – wearable handmade architecture varying in size, shape and materials like brass, gold, shell and bone. Playing Fashion sat down with the siblings to talk about business, feminine inspirations, while discovering just how they have customers by the wrist (literally).
Anndra Neen was met with positive responses from critics and sales after their initial debut in 2009, a time when the industry was yearning for individuality. “Our first collection was very visceral. The market was saturated with many similar things, and we really wanted something different,” says Phoebe. Their jewelry has evolved and become more experimental, ranging with motifs of Egyptian, Japanese, even Medieval influence and an immense attention to handmade technique.
The sisters grew up with a strong feminine influence siting Diana Vreeland, Frida Khalo and Peggy Guggenheim as some of their influences. Growing up with three brothers, the sisters stuck together and embraced femininity: an integral role in their designs. “There’s a strength in the pieces that pays homage to the femininity,” explained Annette. “It says that femininity doesn’t have to be a delicate thing, but one of great strength.” The two also overcome any complications of running a “family business.” “We always get asked if we run into obstacles because of our close relationship, but we’ve always been best friends,” revealed Annette. “We understand each other now better than ever, making the business side easy,” adds Phoebe.
Now with staples like the “Cage” motif found on either a clutch, a wearable cuff or iPhone case, Anndra Neen is pushing the handmade technique with more finely crafted compositions and materials. With an ecommerce shop coming soon, as well as finally adding color to their designs, the duo envisions becoming a lifestyle brand. “We have fantasies about a home collection, fine jewelry, experimenting with eyewear and leather goods,” Annette admitted. “It’s just the beginning,” declared Phoebe. With street style stars, fashion insiders and now celebrities from First Lady Michelle Obama to Solange Knowles donning the fine crafted jewelry, growth is imminent and much anticipated.
Photography by Jens Ingvarsson; styling by Robert Mishchenko; hair by Alexandra Nesterchuk using Kerastase; makeup by Stephanie Peterson; model: Anniek / New York Models. Portrait: makeup by Colleen Runne.