AJE on leather jackets, Spanish flamencos, and their recent collaboration with the work of indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle.
We love it when art and fashion collide. To celebrate the arrival of AJE at David Jones, we sat down with the brains behind the cult Australian label.
Founded by best friends Edwina Robinson and Adrian Norris in 2007, AJE has become known for its chic take on the bohemian aesthetic. Featuring luxurious textures, painterly prints and modern silhouettes, each collection has us coming back for more.
Buts it’s actually the commitment to all things artisanal that truly sets Norris and Robinson’s collections apart. The label champions the sustainability of specialised, small-scale techniques – you’ll notice this in every piece; from hand-loomed and woven fabrications, to hand-sewn embellishments and hand-painted prints. No matter what the garment or the season, the duo’s fastidious attention to detail is in every seam and stitch. It’s no wonder slipping into something designed by AJE feels so good.
We got the low down on why they started, and where they’re headed next.
Why did you and Adrian want to start your own label?
Edwina: We had a store in Noosa on the coast, where we’d grown up, but we were both travelling a lot to Sydney at the time, and overseas. What we found really apparent was the divide between urban and coastal fashion; the two just didn’t mix at all. We wanted to create pieces that could take you from a glamorous beach setting to a more urban environment, without having to change. So a lot of fabrics we use are cottons or linens or things that breathe really easily, and are obviously very good in a tropical environment.
Who is the AJE woman?
She’s many things, but ultimately she’s a lover of quality fabric and design. She’s discerning – not as much into “trends” as she is into style. She likes to be playful with her clothing; to stand out, but not in an overt kind of fashion. She’s elegant and beautiful.
Your Resort 2018 collection features homage to the late Minnie Pwerle, a well-known Australian Indigenous artist. Can you tell us more about that collaboration?
E: Well Adrian came from a fine arts background; he studied painting. He was really really in love with Minnie’s work in particular, so when Pwerle’s great granddaughter Jade Torres launched her online indigenous gallery, she got into touch about doing a collaboration. It was really important to her that indigenous culture reached a new audience, in a modern context. A lot of people think that they know what indigenous art is, but it’s a whole culture unto itself.
Adrian: [The collection] allows a really broad section of the community to be exposed to indigenous art, rather than just the art clique. It was something that we felt very strongly about, which is why we chose to show outside of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, and at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Hand-woven fabrications and hand-sewn embellishments feature prominently in your designs. How important is the use of these artisanal techniques to your process?
A: Yeah, it always has. Ed and I have always been really obsessed with the quality of things – especially hand made things. That’s how we started; everything had a really handmade quality about it, which has remained as we’ve continued.
E: It’s a really nice thing to work with artisans, you know, people who work with their hands – it’s something we feel strongly about.
A: You really can feel the love in our garments…how much work and detail had gone into it. I think that a lot of people have done it in the past, but it’s never been with our aesthetic.
How does each collection begin? Is it consistent, or do different things inspire you at different times?
E: It’s consistently inconsistent [laughs]. With the collection that is landing at David Jones this month, it was actually inspired by a trip that we took last year to the South of France – steeped in this French gypsy culture meets Spanish flamenco. So we were really inspired by that. But this season it’s obviously been an art inspiration, so it can be many things.
What does every woman needs in her wardrobe?
E: The leather jacket is a must. I think also a leather skirt… not necessarily worn together! And then I’m hugely into accessories, so I would always say a great pair of shoes and a great bag.
What’s in store for the future of AJE?
E: It’s a really exciting time for us. We currently have nine of our own stores, and we’ve obviously just partnered with David Jones, which is extremely exciting. We’re also bringing out an accessories line of handbags, hopefully for October, and that’s actually been a big, big project for us, for a couple of years [now]. We didn’t want to bring it out if it wasn’t perfect. And obviously since we work with a lot of leather in our designs, leather will be really prominent [in the range].
So we’re very busy and happy, and keen to see where next year takes us.