Anna Gilkerson's basic instinct | The Coast Halifax

Anna Gilkerson's basic instinct

Her locally made AKG line hones in on simple comfort.

Anna Gilkerson's basic instinct
Classic, uncomplicated AKG

There's something really satisfying about stepping into Anna Gilkerson's north end boutique, Makenew, kind of like that short-lived feeling you get just after meticulously making your bed. Framed by uncluttered racks of clothing—hung according to colour palette—shelves of expertly folded garments, arrow-straight rows of espadrilles and tidily arranged tables of jewellery, every inch of the small, bright space is clearly carefully considered. And every item—whether rescued from a Guy's Frenchy's, sold on behalf of a local artist or Gilkerson's own design—is a necessary piece to the puzzle.

Gilkerson's name is a household one when it comes to Halifax fashion. She studied her craft at both the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and Polimoda Fashion School in Florence, before refining it locally with her well-known eco-conscious line DeuxFM and her curated thrift store, Makenew. Last year she added another notch to her belt, debuting her first foray into design since opening Makenew in 2012, AKG—a line of locally, ethically made basics, separates and intimates.

"When I would be thrifting and finding awesome pieces, I'd bring them in and their shelf life would be so short because people would buy them right away," she says of the collection's beginnings. "It inspired me to go back to designing, filling that hole in the store that we couldn't keep filled."

The first run of AKG breezed into Makenew in spring 2015 with lightweight fabrics, clean silhouettes and neutral colours. And its minimalist style left a lasting impression on Gilkerson's shoppers.

"I've always had a story of a sort of simplistic view of design, so it worked for a lot of different people. It wasn't fussy or messy or a lot of colour—which is great," she says. "What I was seeing was that my customers wanted really easy, wearable clothing that still made them feel good, look good, and affordability was a big part of it. In the past year, it's been a learning curve, but when I started, I really knew what I wanted to do and who I was designing for—it just took a few seasons to get into the groove and see what was working."

That person she had in mind is a pretty magical one. They're ageless, stylish, comfort-focused and keen to support both local business and sustainable, fairly made fashion. A top-notch t-shirt is likely a staple in their wardrobe. "We're talking all sorts of people—professionals, young people, artists. All different walks of life," says Gilkerson.

That timeless agelessness shines through in AKG's recently released spring and summer 2016 collection, which brings both brand-new looks and reinvigorated customer favourites from previous seasons to the table, maintaining a focus on quality Canadian fabrics. Gilkerson gives subtle nods to 1950s Italian Riviera, early '90s grunge and hip-hop, but above all it's uncomplicated, classic and totally wearable. Flowing oversized t-shirts, flared play shorts, wire-free bralettes, drop-crotch jersey pants and soft-washed cotton smocks provide the backbone of the mix-and-matchable set.

"Being an artist and designer, you want to do a million different things and I think the hardest thing is to edit and hone in," says Gilkerson, who's already planning some woven works for AKG's fall collection. "And Makenew really taught me a lot how to edit properly and really look at stuff. It's all about making it work all together cohesively."

Makenew Curated Thrift
2468 Agricola Street