JULY 2nd 2016
Passion & Integrity
Commerce & Creativity
Equality Not Hierarchy

Elisabeth Gräfin von Kospoth - Germany
The Elizabeth Grant Entrepreneur Award
Elisabeth Gräfin von Kospoth
For a lifelong passion for fabric and embroidery, which she turned into a successful business, creating handmade quality clothes with smocking, the centuries-old form of needlework consisting of surface embroidery stitches worked over gathered fabric, Elisabeth, an independent entrepreneur, is continuing a tradition of preserving clothes handed down generation to generation rather than today's disposable wear. Elisabeth Gräfin von Kospoth is the recipient of The Elizabeth Grant Entrepreneur Award 2016.

Elisabeth Gräfin von Kospoth was born in Germany but travelled across the globe from an early age, spending her preteen years in Ghana and Brazil, before returning to Germany in her early teens.

Her father worked for the German government to develop agricultural projects for third world countries in Africa, and between the ages of four to nine years - her father's work was in Brazil - which she remembers the most "with happiness."

Her family returned to Germany and lived in Frankfurt then outside of Munich, where she went to school and later to university in Hildesheim where she studied German Literature, History of Art and Philosophy.

Elisabeth has always had a deep interest and passion for the art of hand embroidery and the richness and intricate patterns of fabrics especially from previous centuries.

After meeting her husband in London she undertook a 5 month internship at the Victoria and Albert Museum which gave her the opportunity to spend many hours in her favourite museum, exploring her interest and giving her an opportunity to learn more about the intricacy of the art of hand embroidery and fabrics.

It was on a later trip to Paris with her 5 year old daughter Anna Sophie who loved pretty dresses, and they went shopping for pretty dresses that she came across beautiful smocked dresses. This inspired Elisabeth to combine her love of fabrics and hand embroidery into a business she named Annafie, after her daughter.

A novice to the chain of production and manufacturing, but with her passion driving her, Elisabeth set about finding the sources to make her Annafie creations - which Elisabeth found in the country of Madagascar.

Madagascar is the hub for the preservation of hand embroidered smocking, with companies such as Brooks Brothers who also source their smocked collection there. The work is handmade by local women, and each dress can take eight hours or more to make, depending on the intricate nature of the design.

Elisabeth creates her own designs along with tried and true classics designs, sourcing good quality fabrics, from top end companies like Liberty's. At times she comes across an old design from a bygone century which she feels will do well, and creates a limited edition collection in that fabric.

With no mentor to guide her on her path to success, Elisabeth says: "When I thought of the idea in Paris, I said to myself I know friends with children who would love these clothes. I started from scratch, and the beginning was hard work but huge fun. I had coffee morning for my friends, and started with small orders, which got the company going. I attended trade shows and found an agent in Germany who started to reach out to the retailers and small boutiques in Germany." Today Elisabeth and Annafie, the company which she started in 2005 and runs from her home office, take orders of commissions, and custom designs for special occasions such as weddings.

Commenting further, Elisabeth says: "My belief is that tradition and quality is undervalued today and we live in a fast fashion culture that pays little attention to the work behind the clothes. With the dresses of ANNAFIE we are able to provide work for local women in Madagascar who specialize in this technique which was prevalent in Edwardian times until not so long ago but is rare today. My biggest joy and motivation is preserving a tradition that comes from making clothes for children by hand very often by mothers and nannies which were more than often handed down – and the quality and beauty of each piece is still enjoyed today."

There are other companies selling smocked clothes for boys and girls, but Elisabeth says: "Smocking is a beautiful, timeless style – and my pieces have a certain subtle distinction and recognizable fresh look."

Elisabeth Gräfin von Kospoth is descended from an old Silesian aristocratic family, and lives and works in London together with her husband Pieter and two children, Frederick 19 and Anna Sophie 17.


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