Hello, I’m Anke Herrmann – dressmaker, teacher, coach, dog lover, with an addiction to learning.
I am from Germany and have lived in Australia and the UK before, in 2004, I decided to leave the corporate world behind, move to Spain and turn a dream into reality: to combine two passions of mine – sewing and flamenco – as a dressmaker for flamenco artists, creating made to measure costumes for professional flamenco dancers, singers and flamenco enthusiasts from Andalusia and all over the world.
If you are now wondering
How on Earth a German girl Ends up in Andalusia Creating Flamenco Dance Costumes
read on .. (this first appeared as a guest post the lovely ladies from Flamenco de Nuevo Mexico asked me to write and I thought you might be curious too)
“If there were no limitations, if you didn’t have to worry about money, paperwork, licenses, regulations or anything else, what would you do?”, I asked myself one evening in my London flat while listening to a Camaron de la Isla CD and cutting fabric for my new summer dress.
The answer came quickly and easily: I’d have my own sewing studio. No large scale, factory type operation. I’d prefer a small sewing studio working one on one with individual clients offering made to measure outfits that flatter their figure, emphasize their style and make them feel like a million dollars. Just like I had dreamed when I was growing up and “graduated” from making dresses for my dolls to making outfits for myself and the occasional friend and family member.
It was 2003 and there it was – Plan A: Quit the corporate job, move to Andalusia, Spain, and start a new life as a self-employed dressmaker specializing in flamenco dresses.
It really all started a couple of years earlier when I was planning a holiday to Peru. It was the trip of a lifetime and I wanted to get the most out of it so I started searching for a Spanish course. After all I’d have much more fun if I could communicate with the locals in their language. I had studied languages at university back in Germany and knew that learning a language takes time but was in for a surprise when I discovered Bilingual America. They have a uniquely effective approach and quickly had me speaking enough Spanish to enjoy Peru and hooked to continue studying once I got back to Europe.
When I finished the Spanish course I was determined not to forget what I’d learnt and went on short trips to Spain as often as I could. And I saw Paco Peña in London, the performance that left me fascinated with flamenco.
One of these trips to Spain took me to Granada in Andalusia. Two weeks there was all it took for me to fall in love with the place.
“What would it be like to live here, in Granada, in the Albaicin, the old part of town where time seems to have got lost in the maze of tiny cobble stoned lanes?” There was only one way to find out.
Contemplating a move to Spain naturally included the question what I would do for a living. And why not start with plan A?
At the time I was living in London and working as a programmer at a large bank. I had loved my IT jobs until then but things had started to change. All interesting projects got outsourced to India and project management was the only way forward. Project management is not for me so it was time for a change in any case.
I had moved countries before, I had changed careers before, and I wasn’t afraid to do it again.
- I had sewn all my life but only ever as a hobby. I had never formally studied fashion design or anything related to sewing.
- I knew nothing about flamenco dresses. I just loved the figure hugging fit and all the ruffles.
- I knew nothing about running a small business.
I looked for people who could teach me:
I found Imtaz Khaliq‘s website. I loved her work and she had the type of business I had in mind. She offered private classes and I am still grateful to her. She is not only an amazing tailor and dressmaker but also a kind and encouraging teacher. She gave me the confidence I needed to give plan A a go.
Anita la Maltesa, London based flamenco dancer and singer, was kind enough to accept the deal: “I make you a flamenco dress and you explain to me what you need.” Shortly after, I took this photo of my very first flamenco dress on stage:
I loved the experience and decided to go for it. I didn’t know whether Spanish flamenco dancers would order their flamenco dress from a German dressmaker, whether there was a lot of competition or how to make this business work in Spain. The answer to all these questions was in Spain so in 2004 I packed up and moved to Granada.
Thanks to my understanding bosses at the bank, who offered me a contract that allowed me to continue working for them remotely from Spain, I had almost a year to get to know Granada and see if the dream of my own sewing studio had a chance of coming true.
Soon I sold my first flamenco practice skirt to a local shop. Not exactly what I’d had in mind but a start. Things started to go in the right direction when a friend invited me to come and see her flamenco class and the school ordered 12 outfits for a group of dancers for their end of year performance.
I had no idea how long it would take me to sew the outfits, whether my domestic sewing machines would be up to the task or how much to charge. All I knew was that I had to finish them on time. I didn’t sleep for the last 48 hours and finished the last dress about 90 minutes before the start of the performance. When the curtains went up and the lights out I fell asleep in my seat. I never even saw the dancers step onto the stage. I saw the performance and the dresses later in this video:
That was over 10 years ago. Since then I’ve been pushed to my limits in every possible way and at the same time experienced the most satisfying moments.
I regularly make custom flamenco outfits for clients in all parts of the world. But maybe you are sewing yourself or know someone who does and prefer having your flamenco dance costume made locally.
I remember well how I started here in Spain. I had been sewing since I was a little girl but I didn’t know what an authentic flamenco dance costume was made of, what fabrics to use, what types of ruffles, how to cut sleeves so that they allow the freedom of movement required for dancing, how to make a bata de cola etc.
I have learnt a lot since then and this website is here to give you the resources you need to sew authentic flamenco dance costumes yourself:
- digital sewing patterns
- general tips about flamenco outfits
- sewing instructions and tutorials
- online video courses walking you through step by step
- reviews of books and tools I recommend