February 25, 2014

As an art major at SMU, Annie Griffin ’06 spent hours in the studio, perfecting her painting techniques. At the time she never dreamed she would be taking her creations from the drawing pad to the runway as an up-and-coming fashion star.

Annie Griffin (right) and her sister, Robin Gerber.  Photo courtesy of Southern Lady Magazine/Hoffman Media

Annie Griffin (right) and her sister, Robin Gerber. Photo courtesy of Southern Lady Magazine/Hoffman Media

The artist is the founder and creative force behind the Annie Griffin Collection women’s wear. Her line mingles Southern femininity and modern sensibility in separates and dresses distinguished by soft silhouettes with retro flair. While some neutral colors are offered, vivid hues and fresh prints are her calling card.

“Every print we use is made in-house, which is really exciting for our company,” she says.

“The traditional art training I received at SMU has been really, really helpful,” adds Griffin, who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and now lives in Atlanta. “I was so interested in learning everything — use of color, composition and scale — and that translated well into fashion design.”

Small class sizes and supportive professors helped her become comfortable with critiques of her work, a skill she says is essential to the owner of a creative business.

Griffin did not intend to start her own company after graduating from SMU. Instead, she landed a job with an interior design firm in Atlanta but soon found that she preferred selecting fabric for clothing rather than furniture. She enrolled in the Savannah College of Art and Design to learn the mechanics of clothing construction, including sewing and pattern making.

The Annie Griffin Collection was launched in August 2009. About a year later her sister, Robin Gerber, joined her to handle sales and marketing. The line has been featured in publications such as Southern Living and is sold in roughly 150 stores nationwide, including St. Bernard Sports and Mine Boutique in Dallas.

Griffin is now adding a philanthropic dimension to her company. She is working with Brittany Merrill Underwood ’06, a friend from SMU, on a new venture for the Akola Project. Underwood, recipient of SMU’s 2013 Emerging Leader Award, founded the Akola Project in 2007 to offer sustainable skills that generate reliable incomes for Ugandan women living in poverty. Their handmade jewelry is sold in more than 220 boutiques in the United States.

Plans are to expand the Akola Project’s product line with a sewing facility, and Griffin plans to donate clothing patterns to the cause.

“They’ve done amazing things,” she says. “We really excited about being involved in such a worthwhile project.”

— Sarah Bennett ’11 

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