When the pandemic reached America in March of 2020 and whole cities sheltered in place people played chess, made puzzles, baked bread, and found ways to occupy their time that they’d either never done before or maybe hadn’t done in a long time. Anna Paulsen fell into the latter group.
Anna learned how to crochet at the Cincinnati Waldorf School, a place that states in their mission that their goal is to “educate the unfolding capacities of students by engaging the creative imagination of the mind, the spirit of the heart, and the skillful use of the hands. The community actively participates in creating an environment that supports raising children who become self-reliant, creative, and responsible adults.” Nothing in the Waldorf mission statement was lost on Anna.
Fast forward 12 years to the 2020 pandemic, and Anna is in her final year at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and her roommate asked her if she could crochet her a top. She agreed, the muscle memory kicked in and she was off and running. Soon she began getting requests and commissions from other friends and acquaintances. Motivated by the joy in their faces when they wore her garments, she decided that as an artist this is the path she would pursue.
Like most young entrepreneurs she relies heavily on social media and word of mouth to expand her audience. Her social brand is influenced by established crocheted garment brands like Akoia Swim in Bali, but her garment design influence springs from streetwear. Anna’s studio is based in the Over the Rhine district in Cincinnati’s downtown and the inhabitants and pulse of this neighborhood inform her design decisions. Says the artist, “That’s where my brand differs from other crochet brands. People think of crochet as this intricate, expensive high fashion thing. But I like streetwear. I make tank tops that you could wear to a house party, wear to the park or lounge around in. These pieces are not precious. The feeling of comfort and confidence while wearing my brand is the best part of it.”
In the first 10 months she has made and sold over 100 handmade garments as well as many accessories like head bands, necklaces and even braided dog bandanas. Right now, acquiring a custom braided top is as easy as reaching out to Anna on Instagram, but her goal for the future is to get her garments into existing OTR shops and eventually opening her own shop in the neighborhood one day. “I want to collaborate with more people in the fashion world, too and diversify my audience.”
Referencing Ohio winters, she did mention her long term goal was to “see her brand take off in warmer places.” But until that happens, the people of Cincinnati still have the opportunity to get all their braided and crocheted looks without paying for shipping. Keep up with Anna’s newest creations on Instagram at @braided.2020.