Interesting Fact: Gish’s quilted charmeuse linens were used to decorate Charlotte York’s elegant Park Avenue bedroom in Sex and the City. (Source)
Designer Ann Gish may be best known for her coveted silk bedding collections, but her talents extend far beyond her brand’s signature fine fabrics. Gish previously worked as a television and radio producer as well as a chef before conquering the world of home interiors. Her name is now synonymous with luxurious silk designs, and she’s known for her consistent use of exquisite materials, detailed textures and superior construction – principles which have made her popular among celebrities and style aficionados alike. From cotton sheets and taffeta shams to plush velvet coverlets, Gish’s indulgent creations combine everyday comfort and practicality with impressive craftsmanship and impeccable good taste.
We sat down with the acclaimed designer to gain insight on her design principles and current styling endeavors.
An Interview with Ann Gish
Q- Ann, thank you for taking the time to speak with us about your storied career. We have to ask: What is it you’re working on now – aside from anything top secret, of course? Also, what makes you excited for the rest of 2017?
A- I’m working on a lot of different projects! And I never tell a secret. A new collection for Global Views is in the works. It’s very different from the first groups – D’Oro and Argento. Sophisticated! Our bridge line, The Art of Home, is a pleasure to develop, and that’s – along with the AG groups – exciting to me. I’m enjoying the search for just the right things. A big thrill for me will be spending some time in the warm summer air! That makes me so happy.
Q- Let’s talk formative years. When you were getting started, what was your first “eureka” moment on the road to success?
A- My big, life-changing realization was that wishing does not make it happen. If you want it, you have to go get it!
Q- On your website, a wonderful poem by your daughter, Jane, details your experience pitching Mottura. Please expand and tell us more about this career-changing moment.
A- For some context, I have two sons, 46 and 43 and Jane, who was the baby. She is 33 and works with us and is a complete genius. I could not do this business without her. She was little when I began Ann Gish.
On Mottura, this definitely was a career changing moment. I knew that I didn’t want to do interior design work any longer. As a parent putting two young men through college, I had taken jobs that weren’t satisfying, and it was finally time to move on. I knew that Mottura was the best LA Mart showroom and wanted to be part of that world. Gary McNatton and I agreed on the collection, and I made the silk Dupione placemats and napkins for the market presentation. I’m a lousy sewer, and just getting the samples done took a week! I delivered them… two hours all the way down the Santa Monica Freeway. The next day, I drove back to Mottura to look. In my mind, the placemats were crooked! (They were not!) The second day, I drove back in case the napkins were crooked! (They were not!) And then I drove down again – who knows why! What I learned by looking at my thoughts and actions was that I really wanted this to be a big success. I realized that operating out of “content” wasn’t so smart – it was time and soul consuming, in fact – and that I really needed to look at the “process.” I had been doing content-driven actions, but looking at my process was what I needed. (Eureka!)
Q- You are known for your “practical elegance.” What drew you to raw silk – Dupione, to be exact? Would you say silk or any other fabrics have been integral in your journey?
A- By nature, I’m a very practical woman. Washability, strength and good design are imperative for products that really last. I love textiles – especially silk – and when I started, no manufacturer was doing any type of bed or table linens out of silk for the retailer and consumer. I had no patterns at all, which made what I produced very useable in many more situations. Now, I use lots and lots of different fabrics and blends. Textiles have come a long way since the 1990s.
Q- With your depth of knowledge and experience, you must have many career options. What compelled you to take on your current role at Global Views?
A- As long as I can remember, I’ve been thinking of things the way I’d like them to be. So many ideas, so little time, if you know what I mean. Global Views happened by magic. The owner and the sales manager of Global Views came into my Atlanta showroom to see what I did. Since I had a store in Manhattan and didn’t think I could order GV products, I mentioned that to them. Wrong! The sales manager and the New York salesperson visited me in my store, and I showed them my drawings of what became my first group for GV. They loved it and said that the owners needed to see. That happened – we had a great visit – and now here we are! Global Views is a truly amazing entity. It’s more than a company… I’ve learned so much. I see some of what it takes to bring furniture to market. Total admiration.
Q- Your work has been seen in film and TV, including Sex and the City. As a current resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, what did this mean to you?
A- I was living in Southern California then. Oh well. I’m pretty thrilled each time I see some of my products on TV or film.
Q- Celebrities have also utilized your products. Now’s your chance to name drop! Any you would like to share?
A- Oh, I would love to share… but I don’t think it would be so fair to do that. It’s been interesting in a good way! I do have some favorites.
Q- Let’s talk practicality for a minute. Did your bridge line, Ready-to-Bed, represent a break from the past for you? Has it helped you tap into the trade markets?
A- Ready-to-Bed was a direct knockoff of my own products. I was sick of others being “inspired,” and so I decided to do it myself. It’s been a success; another example of easy care and simplicity. Now, we have The Art of Home, which is a value-priced collection that’s stocked and sold in sets. My name is on it, and I’m proud of it. It’s not exactly a knockoff, but it has the same gestalt, quality and design as the Ann Gish range.
Q- You grew up in both California and New York. Has your time on both U.S. coasts influenced your design aesthetic and, if so, in what ways?
A- I was very lucky in my relatives: a businessman grandfather who painted, an aunt who made creative modern puppets and bed linens, an uncle who was a book jacket designer as well as a businessman – all of these people were East Coast. The relaxed, sunny style of California was a good mix for the East Coast, but my time in France and my travels in Europe and Asia gave me more depth in my taste. There’s a classicality in Europe and a different attitude toward what’s good and what’s not than we have here in the U.S. Traveling to other countries is always eye opening. For example, the jewelry in Saint Petersburg stays in my memory still. I pay attention to what I think about over and over. It’s all inside.
Q- What’s the sharpest turn your career ever took – for better or worse – and what was the outcome?
A- How I found out how much work I had in me is the outcome. The event was when I started this business. I bought $5,000 worth of silk Dupione and drove it to South Central L.A. to a commercial laundry to have it washed and dried so that it would shrink and become washable once used. I had no idea that the laundry would run the fabric through a mangle to re-stretch it.
Once everything was cut and sewn, I washed and dried the mats and napkins… and voila! The product was the size of a Kleenex. Heartbreaking, but I did it again the right way. I learned that no matter how you plan, there’s always a tidal wave you didn’t expect. My motto became “NEVER ASSUME.” As an aside, I dragged those hundreds of mats and napkins around with me for eight years – I couldn’t give them up. They were finally donated!
Q- Between your work with bedding, fabric, furniture, table linens and pillows, what stands ahead of the rest?
A- I’d say that all the people I’ve met and enjoyed for the last 26 years have been the real standout.
Q- Things can change quickly in the design world. How do you know when something is a fad or a trend for the long haul?
A- Not sure how to explain how I know, but I seem to. I don’t keep fads in my head – I’m easily bored, but I do find myself thinking over and over about products, shapes, colors and scales that end up being trends. Sometimes, I’m too early.
Q- Is there a trend you hope will hit the scene in the coming years? If you were the sole person deciding, what would it be?
Q- For our aspiring designers out there, what’s one thing you learned in a classroom that shaped your career? And inversely, what’s something they absolutely never teach you in school that is critical to success?
A- Well, I didn’t go to college for anything I’ve done as an adult, so I’ve never known what rules there are to follow or to break. I’ve run my company the way I’ve wanted to. I understand numbers – that’s important.
I think it’s important to do it your own way; at least your mistakes and successes will be your own! I love stepping off the cliff. Challenges, learning curves – all that makes for a great experience. I ask sometimes, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Usually, it’s not so bad. You can always get more money, even if you have to work at something you don’t like.
Q- Before we go, is there anything else you would like to add or share?
A- It’s been a great ride.
We agree, it most certainly has. And we can’t wait to see where the road takes her next.
Follow more of our in-depth interviews with popular design influencers in our Pro Spotlights series.