I recently had the pleasure of speaking with designer and entrepreneur, Anya Cole. Anya is the founder of the New York-based knitwear brand, Hania. Born in Poland, Anya grew up knitting and would create garments for herself when she needed them. After leaving Poland, and living in West Germany for several years, Anya and her daughter decided to come to New York, which is where the brand still resides. Anya also grew up dancing ballet, which is something that still sparks inspiration for her designs to this day.

When asked about the creation of Hania, Anya explained that she did not take the typical steps that many do when they hope to build a brand. While sewing hats, scarves and other accessories for a fundraising event for children with Down Syndrome, Cole was approached by a representative from Bergdorf Goodman, which is when the dream became a reality. Hania was brought on as a Bergdorf brand and gained traction quickly. When asked about the source of her inspiration, Cole said” my inspiration comes from everywhere.” Anya does not follow the typical color trends associated with certain seasons or years. Instead, she prefers to use the yarn that she has in stock to create something unique and sustainable. She will “play” with different yarns to create unorthodox color combinations and unexpected beauty.

The brand encompasses the lifestyle and morals of Anya Cole, and the name Hania is a reminder of that. While speaking with her, I asked about the origin of the brand name. She explained that growing up in Poland, she spelled her name Hania (the H is silent), then while she was living in West Germany, it was spelled Anja. Finally, the American spelling, Anya, took its turn. Keeping the Hania name is a good reminder of where the brand came from and what it represents.

One of the most important things about the Hania brand is creating pieces to last a lifetime. Anya and her local community of knitters use Italian and Scottish cashmeres to create unique, handmade pieces that will exceed your expectations of individuality, craftsmanship, and comfort. All garments are hand crafted in New York by a network of women across the five boroughs of the city. The garments receive exceptional attention to detail and are made to order, meaning that each piece is different from the last. The goal of each garment is to create with the mind of a dancer - focusing on fluid movement and elegant drape. Additionally, Hania is committed to repairing damaged garments in an attempt to keep them out of the landfill.

Despite the operational shrinkages caused by COVID, Anya says that she likes the simplicity of running a smaller version of Hania. She wears many hats and works with her small team to ensure that garments are created on time, the workshop is prepared for buyers, and the brand does not lose its touch. Anya says that she “never says never”. She doesn’t give up on ideas. Instead, her determination increases and finding a solution becomes non-negotiable. She explains that if a sweater is knit incorrectly, she does not scrap the sweater. She will asses the mistake and find a way to get it back on track. This mindset of optimism is one of the biggest factors behind Hania’s success.

When asked about the brand’s muse, Julie Kent, Anya described her as a friend who is confident, beautiful, and does not care for big labels. She told me that Kent is elegant and as a former ballerina, she is the human embodiment of the brand’s image. If you are someone who shares a love for elegant, sustainable, and comfortable clothing that supports a community of women, Hania is the brand for you!

Anya working with knitters