Founded in 2008, Aje – the sartorial idea of best friends Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris – has never wavered on the brink of the boom and bust cycle that plagues so many new designers. Season after season, the brand’s frothy, voluminous and instantly recognizable silhouettes have remained in high demand; the balloon sleeves, the A-line silhouettes, the cascading ruffles, the bursts of sparkle, the color, the dress, the list goes on.
“Aje established his own visual code,” Norris told GRAZIA. “To survive in this landscape of industry and fashion, it’s essential to have a point of difference.”
Nominated for Designer of the Year at this year’s Australian Fashion Laureate Awards – the highest fashion recognition in the country – the powerhouse duo tested international waters this year with a presentation during New Fashion Week. York and a pop-up store in London. Aje’s next steps will be to expand the brand overseas.
“Now is a logical and opportune time to continue exploring our next global steps,” Norris said.
Read on for our little catch-up with Forest and Norris.
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GRAZIA: Congratulations on your nomination as the winner of the Designer of the Year award! How do you feel about being nominated?
Forest: Extraordinary feelings of gratitude. We’re always looking to the future as designers, thinking and imagining seasons to come, so it’s especially monumental for Adrian and I to be considered, as we mull over Aje’s upcoming 15-year anniversary. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our industry peers and friends in the same light.
GRAZIA: What brings you the most joy when you see a girl dressed as Aje? (Maybe the way she 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 clients, we really enjoy seeing how they enigmatically embrace their looks in their own unique, confident and playful way.”
GRAZIA: You’ve been best friends for so many years. How has your partnership at Aje changed 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. Aje’s evolution is so deeply tied to our own evolution as designers and individuals. As we have grown and matured so has Aje, but our collaborative essence remains constant.
GRAZIA: Femininity and interesting, wild volume are at the heart of the Aje brand. When you sit down at the drawing board to start a new collection, what do those initial conversations look like? How can the Aje woman evolve while remaining faithful to the brand’s DNA?
Forest: As storytellers, we cultivate a unified creative vision and concept for each collection, ensuring that the brand ethos and core design codes of tough femininity, raw beauty and effortless cool are taken into account, with a fresh and seasonal lentil. We always ensure the incorporation of handcrafted and iconic design details and the signature use of volume and proportion, tailoring and construction – honoring the brand’s heritage, while continuously evolving it.
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GRAZIA: What’s one hard lesson you’ve learned over the past 14 years?
Norris: We take inspiration from Australia, our home country, but always create products and ideas of an international standard that women want to wear.
“Aje has established his own visual code. To survive in this landscape of industry and fashion, it is essential to have a point of difference.
GRAZIA: How does the Australian consumer of Aje differ from the international consumer?
Norris: For many international customers, we remain a brand of discovery, which we are very happy about; there is 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 second hand parts and selected essentials. Australian and international customers share a love for unique detailing, quality craftsmanship, voluminous form and are ultimately drawn to pieces that are inherently Aje.
GRAZIA: What’s next for the brand?
Norris: Our views and movements are directed towards expansion in a global sense. With our first global presentation in New York in September this year and pop-up stores in London with leading department store institutions, now is a logical and opportune time to continue exploring our next global steps.