President & CEO, Fashion Group International, Inc

Founder, AKNVAS

BIO: AKNVAS was founded in 2019 by Danish designer Christian Juul Nielsen. This advanced contemporary brand focuses on thoughtful, well-designed and innovative clothing for discerning and dynamic women and men. Clients can expect luxury level products designed to move seamlessly from day to evening, with a focus on drape, flattering silhouettes, innovative knits and an elevated palette. Drawing from Nielsen’s previous roles at Dior and Oscar de la Renta, the brand incorporates design techniques from his time designing couture gowns with each garment crafted with a similar attention to detail. Since launching the brand, it has quickly become a favorite of celebrities including Issa Rae, Nick Jonas, Mary J Blige, Kerry Washington, Kate Bosworth, Sabrina Carpenter, and Emilia Clarke.

The collection is currently sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom,, other specialty stores and on the brand’s e-commerce site. AKNVAS was also named the 2020 Fashion Group International best new womenswear designer and 2021 best new menswear designer as well as a 2023 US Fashion Trust finalist.



Q and A with FGI President and CEO, Maryanne Grisz

What city were you born in? Copenhagen

What is your star sign? Taurus

What were you obsessed with when you were a child? My imaginary pets. I had a horse, a dragon, a hamster and a white dog.

What do you value most in a friendship? Late night phone calls.

 What’s your proudest moment? Starting AKNVAS.

What’s the best part of your job? That it doesn’t feel like work.

What’s your biggest fear? Losing a loved one.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten? A dirty martini – 2 olives.

What’s next for you in your career? Building up AKNVAS.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud? Late night studio jokes.

Who or what in your life brings you the most joy? My husband, Casper.

How do you spend your day, or what does an ordinary day look like for you? Arrive to the office at 9am, sort out a million things and design as much as I can, leave the office at 9pm –  eat – sleep – repeat.

What approach would you take differently if you had to build a business from scratch today? Budgeting more for the tech components necessary for starting a brand from scratch.

What is your favorite quote of all time, and why? “it needs to be like WOW, unexpected, like what the f… is that? ” because that’s how creative work should feel.

What book/s will you recommend that everyone should read once in their lives? The ugly duckling.

How do you maintain a work-life balance? I don’t, but I should.

What are the biggest challenges you faced in your career and how did you handle them? Buyers not paying bills, not replying and refusing to return product. The only way you can handle these kinds of things are through being sure of yourself, but unfortunately, often designers are forced to take money from their personal savings to cover the necessary costs.

What is the best advice someone ever gave you? Be nice.

Who inspires you the most and why? This season; a trip to The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.

What’s the next thing you’re going to do in life? I want to build AKNVAS into the dream I have for it.

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