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When it comes to superyacht uniforms, there are many parties to please, with owners, management companies and crew themselves all wanting a say in design, fit and practicality. For image-conscious crew, fashion rarely gets a look in.
Quietly entering the market this year from Australia, Anchors & Dove promises to add a “fresh take” on uniforms, so Yachting Pages caught up former chief stewardess and founder Prudence Ellis about fitting fashion into yacht crew uniforms, and life after yachting.
Tell us about Anchors & Dove. How was it created?
“My experience as a ‘uniform girl’ at sea was the light bulb moment. I saw a void in the market as a large percentage of yacht crew are young people; fashion and image is very important to them and many uniforms just don’t measure up.
“Yachts themselves are styled by world-renowned interior and exterior designers, it therefore seems only natural that the crew’s attire should compliment and reflect this same level of style and quality. A&D was created with this in mind.”
What made you move ashore to start your own business? Was this always the aim, and how has the transition been?
“Moving ashore was always the ‘end goal’ for me, however my first pregnancy really forced my hand and required an earlier exit than first planned. I intended to come ashore to a shore-based role within yachting, given it’s an industry I know so well. This worked out, as I worked shore-side for my last yacht before starting the business, but the transition was not without its challenges.
“I miss the travel and freedom of my former yacht life, however, my strong belief that there was room for A&D in the market fed my motivation and drive to pursue this business idea and find my own little slice of the yachting industry. In short, I created my own shore-based yachting role.”
What knowledge or inspiration did you take from life on board to create your uniform first collection?
“A decade at sea gave me a practical understanding of how uniform should wear and perform; it gave me the chance to hear and learn from the many complaints and gripes crew had regarding the matter. This criticism and feedback continues to be vital to all my design decisions.
“I now have a checklist of criteria and questions that I ask myself before approving any uniform for the collection: Will this crease? Does this allow functional movement? Can crew perform their respective roles in this? Is this functional?”
How would you describe your first collection? How do you think it differs from other brands and collections currently out there?
“A&D’s mantra is to focus less on what others are doing, and concentrate specifically on what we are doing. In designing our range, I’m committed to avoid comparison with other labels. This is personal for me: It’s about my ideas, my concepts, and bringing new and fresh concepts and styles to the market. We wish to be seen as a contributor, not a competitor. I find this approach aids my creative process as well.”
Anchors & Dove’s first collection offers a fresh approach to fashion in yacht crew uniforms. How did you manage to create something new and exciting that would still be accepted in the industry?
“As I said before, A&D is simply a reflection of my personal style. This is about what I would like to wear, or be seen wearing at work.
“The visual aspect of the designs is largely my concept, but for functionality we have actual yacht crew wear and test each one of our items and give construction criticism. This feedback in an open forum led to multiple back-and-forths with our manufacturers, often leading us to abandon one fabric or cut in order to achieve a functional and fashionable end product. We are a young company at present, but if we are still operating in 20 years from now, we would still be evolving based on this invaluable input from inside the industry.”
What does the range currently include? How has the reception been so far?
“We’ve tried to stay as close to the traditional in yacht uniform as my tastes would allow, with shorts, skorts and polos, etc… however, we also added a few new pieces like the Tie Front Short and Scoop Neck/Pocket Front Shirts. I was also keen to add stripes to the colour palate, bringing to mind the classic 'yacht living' style from another era.
“We’ve got a wonderful four-way stretch technical fabric that we’ve used across the bottom range for both men and women, and it’s fantastic! The skort and Tie Front Short fall so nicely in this fabric; it’s super lightweight and sweat wicking so I’m really excited about this.
“So far, the reception has been really enthusiastic and promising. We already have a few orders and numerous enquiries, but we aren’t comfortable naming the clients or their vessels without their consent – sorry!”
Are there plans to expand or diversify the range in the future?
“In the future, we will definitely expand on the range. As it takes an enormous amount time and substantial funds to develop a collection, I went small to start with in order to see how the market responded before biting off too much. In the future we’ll be looking at extending our ‘on-charter range’ as well as adding ‘off-charter’ gear constructed with technical, moisture-wicking fabrics well suited for day-to-day tasks, ‘guest gift bags’, as well as swim/beach BBQ tote bags and a towel range.
“I also have a recycle concept that I’d love to introduce to the market. Anchors and Dove is dedicated in playing a sustainable role in business, with a strong conscience for humanitarian and environmental issues, but my ultimate goal for A&D is to remove stress and pain points where possible for the chief stew or purser when dealing with uniform. I’m incredibly excited to share my ideas with the market and receive feedback from a wider audience in order to continually evolve our products.
“Moving forward now, I intend to continually develop new pieces, and adding to our previously released items. I have many new details I’d like to implement in future designs, all intended to make the interior staff’s life easier. I’m passionate about coming up with custom pieces for crew, and believe I can only achieve this with continued interaction and feedback. Ultimately, I’d love to eventually expand into industries beyond yachting.”
Finally, what’s your favourite piece in the collection so far and why?
“Oh, that’s a hard one! I really do love the range. If I had to choose I’d say my favourite piece would either be the Tie Front Short or the men’s Crew Knit Stripe Sweater, which is so lovely on!
“If I were to be more practical, I think the Baby Doll Dress will be our biggest winner: I’ve had friends try it on from a US size 0 to 12 and it looks amazing on all of them. Not only is it a classic and timeless look, it is flattering on every body shape. Comfort means confidence!”
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