Queensland design team Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris, of the label Aje, opened Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia with a beautiful show that celebrated the country’s beauty.
We spoke to Forest before the show and talked about the show’s inspiration, how she and Norris combine friendship with business, and why she won’t leave home without a crystal.
Congratulations on being named ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ designers for MBFWA 2019! How did you celebrate?
Thank you! We’re very proud and very humbled. It’s a big responsibility and I hope we do everyone proud!
I can’t remember how we celebrated, to be honest, I think we were a bit panicked! It’s nine months ago now, and we were working on the show before we knew it was Mercedes-Benz Presents. I’m sure we would have had a glass of wine at least but we were still very much in a busy time.
What do you hope to achieve with the support of Mercedes-Benz in 2019?
I think to be associated with a brand like Mercedes-Benz that has such a premium position in the global market, there are a lot of elements that are synonymous with both brands like quality of design and innovation. Both of us concentrate on unique design rather than following trends — Mercedes-Benz certainly has a unique offering in terms of cars.
The support of Mercedes-Benz is paramount to us being able to show at MBFWA this year, its obviously a very expensive exercise for all designers and it’s great to have that financial support, and their support in general throughout the year. We’re working together on other events. Its a beautiful harmony to both our brands. There’s a lot of power in that.
What was the biggest influence behind ‘Bloomscape’, your ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ 2020 resort collection?
It was really important to Adrian and me to celebrate being an Australian brand. We feel really proud of our heritage and literally, Australia, as a source of inspiration and this collection celebrates that wholeheartedly, we celebrate the iconic emblems and pay homage to our national treasures.
Who is the Aje woman?
The Aje woman is many people. When we first started the brand it was important that we could touch both mother and daughter and we still very much see that every day in our boutiques. As co-founders and co-directors, it’s always been important to Adrian and I that we have this sense of duality, and I think there’s a duality in all women — all humans in general. This is something we want to celebrate; the fact that you can be strong and soft, you can be wild and at the same time you can be tame. I think this is in all of us and is something we try to capture — more of an attitude rather than a person.
How important is sustainability to you in today’s eco-conscious climate?
Sustainability is a huge thing that is happening globally and it’s about time the awareness has been brought forward. Internally, we’re really focused on less waste. As a brand, we’ve taken a strong decision to not print collateral where we can and to take a digital approach to get our message across.
We’ve always used organic fabrics like cotton and linen and a lot of things that have been made by hand, so to us, one element of sustainability is to keep craftwork alive. We always try to have hand sewn elements and hand beaded elements to create and keep families in areas like Asia still in business. It’s something that’s been important to us from the beginning.
We were lucky enough that we first started out of Bali and there, handcraft is a big thing. It’s always been close to our hearts. Obviously, it’s not always easy but we try to support as much as we can.
We want to put the focus on creating clothing that has intricate beautiful details and is really well made and able to stand the test of time and not pieces that last one season or one year and then have to be thrown away.
How do you and Adrian balance friendship and business?
It’s an interesting question that we get asked a lot! It’s like a marriage; when you find your soul mate, be it in a platonic sense or a romantic sense, it seems like a meeting of minds, intangible, a feeling. That’s what happened with Adrian and I when we met. We had an instant, very close connection and we are able to collaborate creatively together.
Like any good marriage, it’s important to not get complacent, always be respectful and honest. Without those things, any relationship will go awry. We appreciate each others point of view. Our team often tell us that we say the same thing in very different ways!
What don’t you leave the house without?
I know everyone says their phone, but I also take a crystal of some form, a different one each day or sometimes the same one, depending on how I feel! There’s a lot going on in the world and I think any way we can shield ourselves from the adversity out there and create a happier space for ourselves and everyone around us then we should use those tools. For me, crystals and meditation are those tools.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia runs until May 18.