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Designer Anna McCraney Doesn’t Care What You Think of Reality TV

Anna McCraney was the original winner of The Fashion Show in 2009, Bravo’s Isaac Mizrahi–helmed reality show, nabbing a prize of $125,000 to launch her own business. Though Bravo’s rotating reality-show pantheon achieves notoriety during filming, few contestants have been able to channel their winning streak into lasting professional success. But McCraney claims she never harbored latent fame fantasies. “People take this all sorts of ways, but for me, it really was about the money — being able to invest in my company,” she says.

Last week she launched Annabelle, her own 450-square-foot boutique on the Lower East Side (105 Stanton St., at Ludlow St.; 646-370-3269). The racks showcase her spring collection of silk-crepe dresses and skirts in bright colors and ikat prints, alongside warm-weather basics from LA Made, womenswear by Gar-de, Osborne shoes, and jewelry by K/ller. We caught up with the Williamsburg local to discuss her new store, the challenges of selling wholesale, and the aftermath of reality-show fame. Click ahead to see inside Annabelle.

Why open your own store?
I won $125,000 from The Fashion Show, so I had this big chunk of money. I had been doing wholesale on and off for years, but it’s such a money pit. By the time you’ve paid production costs and finally get paid by the store, you have to put that money back into the business. I wanted to have the ability to control my brand image and keep the price point low.

How important is the price point?
The way I look at it, I want girls like me to be able to afford my clothes. I can’t necessarily spend $300 or $400 on a dress. So to be able to charge $160 or $170 or $200 makes a big difference.

What kind of industry experience did you have before going on the show?
Before I won the show I was working at Dolce Vita for three years — I launched their clothing line. I was also teaching at Wood Tobe-Coburn in midtown.

It’s been two years since you won The Fashion Show. What have you been doing since then?
I was kind of sitting on the money for a while, trying to figure out the best way to use it and working on my business plan. I won $125,000, but it was more like $80,000 after taxes. It seems like a lot of money, but it’s really not, if you’re launching your own business. I found this space on Stanton and signed the lease in February.

What kind of expectations did you have after leaving the show?
I think a lot of people go on that show and expect to be famous and make lots of money. I’ve just been doing this for a long time, so I know how hard it is. In 2009, the economy was so bad. Buyers were really hesitant to pick up new lines in general. People wanted to watch the line and see what happened, but I just didn’t have the money to sit around and wait for the economy to pick up.

Of the slew of reality-show winners, few have gone on to widespread professional success. Did you sense a stigma?
Really, the show was something I did on a whim. Once I got cast, I thought, Wow, I could actually win this. Maybe there is a stigma, but I don’t feel it, and certainly my customers don’t treat it that way. They seem really interested. For me, it was about the experience, being able to get feedback from people like Isaac Mizrahi and Fern Mallis. Whether people look down on that or not, I don’t really care.

Do you think there’s a perception that you’re not serious about fashion because you came from a reality show?
I don’t take it that seriously. It’s fashion; it’s supposed to be fun. I’m not looking to be Alexander McQueen, and I’m not looking to be this high-fashion couture designer. I just want to make clothes that are cute and fun and make people look and feel good. It’s much more about wearable fashion for me.

Photo: Courtesy of Anna McCraney

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