Though Annie Fink is a self-proclaimed “queen of reinvention,” she maintains a few important constants in her life: her energetic passion, regular morning journaling and, always, a denim jacket on her back. Once an actress, a filmmaker, an au pair who lived and slept on the trains of Paris, and a yoga teacher, Annie now finds inspiration and expression through her unique fashion sense.
While running her own yoga studio in Minneapolis four years ago, the tenant above her controlled the winter heat and left Annie’s studio feeling frosty. Annie stayed warm her usual way—by punching thumbholes through sweatshirt sleeves to keep her hands free but her wrists covered. It wasn’t long before she got creative with the idea.
“I don’t want to lose that fashion edge,” says Annie, 55. “I want to stay young and fresh. Women have a voice—we’re empowered with our voice. Fashion gives you another form of expression.”
So she ditched the beat-up sweatshirts and designed her own “Annie Sleeves” to slip over the forearms and palms, covering the wrist’s pulse points (which she says control your body’s heat). Think leg warmers for your arms. Each sleeve also bears a red heart sewn over the pulse point area on the wrist to denote the heart “chakra” (or energy center) and what it represents: passion.
Yoga students and strangers literally bought the sleeves off Annie’s arms. She kept sewing, meanwhile selling the sleeves online (at Anniefink.com) and to boutiques throughout the Midwest and in Los Angeles.
Financing the endeavor on credit, Annie says she was “flying on fumes and faith,” but received boosts when celebrity moms like Salma Hayek, Halle Berry and Cate Blanchett wore the sleeves and dressed their kids in matching baby versions.
Annie now has business partners and someone else does the sewing, but she’s still full of ideas and ambition to market her sleeves in new ways. Whether made from bright, striped cottons, smooth velvets, natural bamboo fabric, or cashmere for her couture line, Annie puts a piece of herself into each pair of sleeves. A tag on the left sleeve represents her father, who was left-handed, and, says Annie, her “soul mate.” Each design is named after a different woman in her family or a dear friend. The sleeves have proven so popular, Annie has added leggings and neck warmers to her line.
Annie uses her success to do good in other ways, too. “It’s essential that I pay it forward,” she says. A portion of her profits goes toward her favorite causes: animals, seniors and students. Her brand’s motto, “Wear your heart on your sleeve,” is how Annie lives her life, too. “You can live by your heart or by your head,” she says. “I want to follow my heart.”