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Bright Young Things: Tanya Steven of AHNDE

Malaysia Tatler, April 18, 2016

By Karmun Ng

Unlike most designers who go into fashion driven mainly by their love of beautiful clothes, Tanya Steven’s passion stems from somewhere deeper.

Don’t get us wrong – crafting great designs that are also comfortable is still first and foremost to the founder and designer behind London-based fashion brand AHNDE. Her love for it simply comes with an extra appreciation for the mechanics of it, something she describes as “the perfect balance of art and science”.

“I love it that fashion lets me combine business and creativity,” says the Malaysian-born designer who also has a Master’s degree in biochemical engineering. “It’s a science how you work with the materials and put pieces together to create something more beautiful than it already was.”

As unconventional is that view of fashion, it takes an equally unconventional mind to birth it. And it is that very unconventionality translated into her designs that make them stand out in all right ways.

Functional Fashion
At the recent Starhill Gallery Fashion Week where Steven was among the Malaysian Designers Showcase lineup, she wowed with a collection that perfectly balanced provocative sensuality and bold fearlessness. Her layered interpretation of beauty achieved through multi-dimensional pieces in rich, earthy tones is a reflection of her own personal style.

“I like clothes that I can live and move in,” she tells. “We live in modern times – we’re working women so we move around a lot. I’m all about clothes which support that lifestyle.”

The practicality also applies to how she runs her label. She doesn’t follow the typical fashion calendar, churning out collections for Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter just because it’s what’s expected.

“We’re not about fast fashion,” she shares. “We take it at our pace and build up a strong and loyal client base instead. That way, we can focus on creating pieces that mean something.”

Fashion From Scratch
That meticulousness she applies to each of her clothing is drawn from the fact that her brand was built on the same basis.

She started the label with a lump sum of her own savings and, with the aid of a friend in the print design department and another in production, AHNDE was birthed in the tails of 2013.

It launched at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, with a show that Steven saw to from the selection of models to the props of mossy trees that were part of the installation.

“When we first started, I was very green,” she divulges. “This is my first business venture, so it was tough initially but we grew along the way. Fashion is such a layered business but the key thing is to keep moving forward and take it as it comes. No one can really project what can go right or wrong; all you can do is constantly adjust and recalibrate.”

Personable Fashion
Today, she designs and manufactures from a studio in London with clients from all over Europe and Asia. For now, she is sticking to only ready-to-wear pieces and taking orders only via enquiries. The idea of e-commerce isn’t one she is feeling too keen about because she’d rather have a personal relationship with her buyers.

“We have a lot of private customers who come over to the studio and do their fitting, which I prefer, because it’s more personal,” she says.

We’re not surprised to hear that because here is a designer who described her brand as an ongoing conversation, and who sees her designs in the same light.

“Fashion has allowed me the opportunity to work with great craftsmen, great artisans. I love getting to share my vision and learn from them in return. It’s this great process of exchange,” she tells. “It’s always been about putting beauty across and sharing that with people.”

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