Earlier this year, as the sun set behind the Sydney Opera House, casting a golden glow on the city's waterfront, Australian fashion label Aje staged the prestigious opening show of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.
It was a momentous achievement for the brand, helmed by Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris, and one that confirmed its status as one of the country’s biggest fashion drawcards.
“We felt extremely privileged,” says Edwina, “and obviously there’s a sense of responsibility that comes with being the opening show, so I think we’d be lying if we said we didn’t feel an extra sense of pressure.” By the same token, however, as a brand they felt ready.
The collection they showed was inspired by Australia so far, so business as usual. But this time, for their Resort 2020 titled 'Bloomscape', they wanted to pay homage to the very ground and plants around them.
“We haven’t really taken inspiration [before] as we did this time, literally from the landscape and from iconic emblems of Australia, like gumnuts and banksia and wattle,” says Edwina.
Australia’s unique rock formations informed the exaggerated volume and drama of the collection.
“It was a nice time to actually put it to the forefront I think in the past it’s always been there as an inspiration for us, but this year we went ‘this is what we’ll focus on’,” says Adrian.
“I think there are a lot of eyes on Australia at the moment, watching what Australian designers are doing we have a really unique fresh take on things I think,” adds Edwina.
“Our isolation has almost become our biggest strength, so we feel really proud to be an Australian brand and to celebrate that heritage.
Founded in 2008 by the duo, both originally hailing from the Gold Coast, Aje aims to bridge the divide between urban and coastal fashion. Its signature aesthetic consists of voluminous silhouettes, natural fabrics and bespoke prints, and Aje encompasses both elevated everyday wear and occasion pieces.
Since the beginning, Aje's founders have prioritised conscious design and business practices - diversity and sustainability being two key pillars.
"For us, these have always been things we've whole-heartedly believed in," says Edwina. Technological advancements have made it easier to be more sustainable, say the pair, and exploring those is where the future of eco-friendly fashion lies.
"It's a really big thing, and something we need to constantly talk about and figure out each season how we're going to better our processes."
Now, Edwina and Adrian are bringing their Australian design sensibilities to our shores, with their very first stand-alone store opening in Westfield Newmarket today.
“I think it will be a really beautiful extension of our business here,” says Adrian. “We find that our staff comment that so many New Zealanders come and shop in all our stores, so everyone stocks up.”
From today, Aucklanders won’t have to travel abroad to get the full Aje experience although selected pieces from the brand’s range are stocked in stores like Superette and Mt Maunganui’s Sisters & Co, Aje’s flagship store is something special.
“It’s one of the most beautiful stores we have,” says Edwina, talking about the physical design of the space. “We’re really excited about it – obviously it’s our first international store and we’ve always had a huge love for New Zealand.”
No doubt New Zealand will return the love to this exciting and stylish new import.
• Aje is now open at Westfield Newmarket, 277/309 Broadway, Newmarket, Auckland 1023.