Dynamic design duo - Adrian Norris & Edwina Forest of Aje
Ten years of friendship, design and painting
Iconic Australian womanwear label known for their impeccable craftmanship and their knack of interpreting elements of urban Australian coastal style speaks to TPFF about their ten year anniversary and their recent collaboration with Brett Whiteley and his wife Wendy Whiteley on their new Resort 18/19 collection, WOMAN
“The difference between us both as individuals, is what makes the equilibrium creatively. Being both friends and business partners, we have learned not to take business decisions personally and to nurture each other’s different strengths. Our ten-year anniversary collection in its purist form is a celebration of this teamwork, explored through our collaboration with Brett Whiteley Studio and his muse Wendy Whiteley.”
- What made you decide to have a vertically integrated company and have hand work be such a key component of your clothes?
Our devotion to artisan techniques and hand-craftsmanship was born out of our adoration for the arts. We are both extremely tactile people and make strong use of the hand as a tool to create. We draw much inspiration from the arts when designing a new collection; particularly from painters, sculptors, film producers and photographers. Each of our collections play with the unique quality and texture of hand-loomed and hand-woven fabrics, delicate hand-sewn embellishments and hand- painted prints.
We are extremely happy to have grown so rapidly within our home soil, having opened fourteen boutiques across Australia, along with a successful e-commerce platform. We are very proud of where we come from, and celebrate and embrace our Australian heritage with each collection. So it made sense to build a solid domestic business first before turning our sights for overseas expansion.
- What does the process of hand painting entail and what types of fabric does it work best on?
There is quite a process involved! First the paints need to be mixed, and the colours tested. Then the painting is all done in layers until the desired look and feel is achieved. We find that silks and cottons have the best colour payout when printed on. It can be quite laborious but we think that it is well worth it to create something truly special and unique to Aje.
- You started Aje together, what are the benefits to having a design partner?
The difference between us both as individuals, is what makes the equilibrium creatively. Being both friends and business partners, we have learned not to take business decisions personally and to nurture each other’s different strengths. Our ten-year anniversary collection in its purist form is a celebration of this teamwork, explored through our collaboration with Brett Whiteley Studio and his muse Wendy Whiteley.
- Your label is so unique and has a clear vision, what advice would you give to designers looking to start their own collection with a clear idea and point of view?
A clear vision and point of view is integral to success. For us not losing sight of who the Aje girl is, has helped us stay true to our original create vision and maintain a strong sense of brand identity as we have continued to grow and expand. A large portion of our success can also be attributed to our unrelenting passion for clothing and fabrication. The industry is competitive and challenging so you have to be determined and put your heart and soul into it – when you do that it can be overwhelmingly rewarding.
- What drew you to Brett Whiteley’s work and what do you have to keep in mind when using artwork in your collection?
As a brand dedicated to artisan techniques - hand beading, hand embroidery and artistic hand loomed fabrications being integral to each collection - it seemed fitting to mark our ten-year anniversary milestone moment through an artist collaboration with our favourite artist. A collaboration with Brett Whiteley Studio was a long-held dream come true!
We feel that like Aje, Whiteley has a very unique handwriting and unconventional voice. He used his art to articulate many things, but it was Wendy who was his constant source of inspiration, being his figurative muse, his lover and his curator. As a duo ourselves it was this connection and unique sense of teamwork that really resonated with us and that underpins our Resort collection 'WOMAN'.
We worked tirelessly throughout the creative process with Wendy Whiteley and Brett Whiteley Studio, the custodians of Brett's archives to ensure that the integrity of Brett’s artworks would be preserved during the transformation into wearable form. The scale of the artworks remains true and the intricacy of the colour palette has been matched as accurately as possible through numerous visits to cross check the prints against the original works. Careful consideration has been given to seam crossings and silhouette concept so as not to interfere with the original form.
- What was it like working with Brett Whiteley’s widow and muse, Wendy Whiteley in creating your collection?
Working with Wendy was extraordinary and such a rewarding experience. Wendy herself was a huge source of inspiration for us when creating the collection - her unique personal style informed many of the silhouettes within the collection and served to strengthen the correlation between the art and fashion.
- What about your WA premiere are you most excited for?
We feel very privileged to be taking our collection to WA presenting for the first time! The
show will feature a selection of limited-edition runway pieces as well as signature Aje looks. It will be a very exciting fusion of art and fashion.