UT alumni upcycles clothing in creative startup

Hannah Shih

University of Texas alumna Anne Marie Beard began sewing at the age of five and started her first creative business at 14 selling polymer dolls at craft shows. Crafting reinforces the strong sense of individuality that lies at the core of her upcycled clothing and accessories brand, annemarie. 

An admirer of unique textiles, Beard creates one-of-a-kind pieces with repurposed fabric from pieces as diverse as vintage draperies to hand woven textiles sourced from antique fairs. Beyond the eco-friendly aspect of upcycling, her small batch method of producing products guarantees excellent craftsmanship and a unique history behind each product. 

“My tagline for annemarie has always been ‘style for the individual,’” Beard said. “It’s in my blood to be an artist. My mother and grandmother were both amazing seamstresses and makers — it never occurred to me that I couldn’t make anything I ever wanted to because these women were my role models.” 

Although Beard credits her corporate jobs as learning experiences, sexual harassment and the ‘editing’ she felt was necessary in traditional work environments made owning her own business critical.

“There is nothing glamorous about being your own boss — don’t let anyone tell you that fairy tale,” Beard said. “It is hard work 24/7/365, but if it is a passion that burns within you, you will do whatever it takes to make it fly.” 

As the boss, Beard currently employs two part-time stitchers and a graphic designer, though managing her own creative business means surmounting obstacles such as financing and growth. Her original annemarie brand has since branched into a second line called AMBforMen, a collection of upcycled clothing for men. 

“Austin loves to invest in sexy, sleek tech startups — what about us creative types?” Beard said. “My goals are to grow store by store, state by state until you know annemarie and AMBforMen as well as you know Martha Stewart.”

Shifting from a face-to-face interaction sales model at craft markets and brick-and-mortar stores to a robust e-commerce website has been a major initiative in the last two years. Her website is a key element in her current rebranding process as she focuses on rolling out a new do-it-yourself aspect of her business: home sewing patterns for bags and quilts. 

“Growth has always been organic for me, and I have gone about it slowly — at my own pace,” Beard said. “My website has always been my albatross. I don’t like to be on a computer much at all, but the reality of growth is that my website has to finally be redone.”

While marketing her creative brand is of the utmost importance, Beard’s over-arching goal remains offering job training for manufacturing in prison, with eventual job placement for newly released prisoners in her own factories. These factories will remain within the country, with the hope of staying local to Austin, which Beard believes has been the perfect home for her business. 

“I was extremely fortunate to launch my brand in 2002,” Beard said. “The economy was rockin’ and the major movement of do-it-yourself craft and makerism that is now so prevalent was just forming, and Austin was absolutely key in the growth of this international phenomenon.”  

Annemarie has always been an Austin-brand since Beard’s senior year spring break when she visited the county clerk and tax office to register her brand. She recalls walking on campus between classes when she received a call regarding her first sale, a moment that instilled her with the confidence to tackle the launch of her official brand. 

“Listen to your heart and your dreams — don’t immediately talk yourself out of some creative pursuit because of a list of obstacles rattling you,” Beard said. “That’s fear and resistance, and they don’t want you to succeed, so don’t listen to them.”