Founded in 2008, Aje – the sartorial brainchild of best friends Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris – never once teetered on the edge of the boom-and-bust cycle that plagues so many new designers. Season-after-season, the brand’s frothy, voluminous and instantly recognisable silhouettes remained in high demand; the balloon sleeves, the A-line silhouettes, the cascading ruffles, the smatterings of sparkles, the colour, the frockery, the list goes on.
“Aje has established its own visual code,” Norris tells GRAZIA. “To survive in this industry and fashion landscape, it’s integral to have a point of difference.”
Nominated for Designer Of The Year at this year’s Australian Fashion Laureate Awards – the highest fashion acknowledgment in the country – the power duo tested the international waters this year with a presentation during New York Fashion Week and a pop-up boutique in London. Aje’s next steps will involve expanding the brand overseas.
“It’s the logical and opportune moment to continue exploring our next global steps forward,” explains Norris.
Read on for our little catch-up with Forest and Norris.
GRAZIA: Congratulations on your Designer of The Year Laureate nomination! How are you feeling about being nominated?
Forest: Feelings of extraordinary gratitude. We are always looking ahead as designers, thinking and ideating seasons forward so it is particularly monumental for Adrian and I to be considered, as we ruminate on the upcoming 15-year anniversary of Aje. It is also a wonderful occasion to celebrate our industry peers and friends in the same light.
GRAZIA: What brings you the greatest joy when you see a girl out and about dressed in Aje? (Maybe the way she’s styled it, maybe the way she moves?)
Forest: Empowering women through beautiful and compelling design is at the heart of what we do.
“Adrian and I share a mutual respect and admiration for our customers, we truly love to see how our they enigmatically embrace their looks in their own unique, confident, and playful way.”
GRAZIA: You two have been best friends for so many years. How has your partnership in Aje evolved your friendship in life?
Norris: From the very beginning of our humble roots in Brisbane, Edwina and I instantly forged a creative partnership and connection. The evolution of Aje is so deeply intertwined with our own evolution as designers and individuals. As we’ve grown and matured, Aje too has but our collaborative essence remains constant.
GRAZIA: Femininity and interesting, untamed volume are at the core of the Aje brand. When you sit down at the drawing board to start on a new collection, what do those initial conversations look like? How do you evolve the Aje woman while keeping true to the brand’s DNA?
Forest: As storytellers, we cultivate a unified creative vision and concept for each collection, ensuring the brand ethos and core design codes of tough femininity, raw beauty and effortless cool are considered, with a fresh, seasonal lens. We always ensure the incorporation of artisanal, signature design details and signature use of volume and proportion, tailoring and fabrication – honour the brand’s heritage, whilst forever evolving it forward.
GRAZIA: What’s a hard lesson you have learnt in the past 14 years?
Norris: We draw on Australia, our home country for inspiration, but still create products and ideas of an international standard that women want to wear.
“Aje has established its own visual code. To survive in this industry and fashion landscape, it’s integral to have a point of difference.”
GRAZIA: How does the Australian Aje consumer differ to the international consumer?
Norris: For many international customers, we’re still a discovery brand, which we are very happy about; there’s so much room for growth. We have had such a positive response from our international customers through our esteemed wholesale network like Harrods or Selfridges and Intermix, as they discover their desire for statement occasion pieces and curated essentials. The Australian and international customer share a love for unique detail, quality fabrication, voluminous shape and are ultimately drawn to pieces that are inherently Aje.
GRAZIA: What’s next for the brand?
Norris: Our sights and movements are set toward expanding in the global sense. With our first global presentation in New York in September this year and boutique pop-ups in London with leading department-store institutions, it’s the logical and opportune moment to continue exploring our next global steps forward.