Hillcrest student becomes entrepreneur with own dancewear clothing line
Jul 25, 2017 10:48AM
By Julie Slama
Draper teenager Annabella Oliver has created her own dancewear clothing line. (Ronda Oliver)
Many teens are hanging out with friends or texting them on their phones this summer. Hillcrest High School sophomore Annabella Oliver may be as well, but she also is spending hours creating patterns and sewing ballet leotards and costumes for her own clothing line.
“I really love ballet and realize it’s hard to afford beautiful dancewear that has personality,” she said, adding that some dancers wear up to 50 leotards.
Knowing she also needed money to pay for extra ballet classes as well as pointe ballet shoes several times per year, Annabella turned that realization into an idea.
“My mom is a seamstress and I love designing dancewear, so together we created a pattern, chose fabric and tried out my design,” she said.
That was last August.
Fast forward through several attempts with different fabrics for the right stretch, feel and look, several kinds of paper to make lasting patterns, sewing lessons from her mother and an abundance of ideas.
One year later, Annabella is sewing alongside her mother and has created several dancewear lines under her own label, Anna May Ballet.
“I love working with my mom and spending more time with her and learning from her. I have become more independent and it’s fun to see my ideas turn into actual dancewear,” she said.
Together, they’ve created leotards, rehearsal skirts, pointe shoe bags, shorts and other items in lines such as “pretty in pink,” “black tie” and “holiday collection,” but insist on making quality items that are affordable, Annabella said.
“Most handmade leotards are $40 to $50 where other companies charge three or four times that. Ours are better quality so they should last longer and they fit a dancer’s body where some from China aren’t the best fitting,” she said.
Annabella has a business and marketing plan, relying on experience from classes she has taken at Hillcrest. She’s also used those classes to compete at the state and national Future Business Leaders of America competitions.
She also has a website, annamayballet.com, which she maintains — again from learning how to create a website at school.
“She is very focused and knows what she’s doing and putting what she’s learned to practice,” said her mother, Ronda, who has been an accountant and has helped with their own family business. “This is a partnership and we speak business terms and work together. It’s also a way she will be able to support herself as she continues to dance. It’s been good to have a more grown-up relationship with her.”
They sew three or four hours per week during the school year, but it comes after Annabella’s schoolwork and rehearsing six days per week at Ballet West. This summer, she also danced several weeks with Oregon Ballet. She also has studied with Ballet Austin.
Her goal: to be a professional ballerina with the Royal Ballet in London.
While Annabella is busy perfecting her dance, her dancewear line is making progress as well. She’s been invited to take part in a fashion show as well as had her dancewear professionally photographed.
“I created it with the idea to feel beautiful and be able to have long-lasting dancewear that is affordable,” she said. “But by doing so, I’m hoping it will help create more opportunities for me in ballet.”