Opening Fashion Week is a big honour for any brand and this year, Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris saw their label Aje kick off the big event that is Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Ahead of their show I caught up with the Edwina and Adrian to talk about their latest collection, how asking for directions led to the start of their brand and why they ultimately just want to make women feel great in their clothes.
Thanks guys for joining me today. So exciting! Congratulations on opening Fashion Week.
Edwina: Thank you.
It’s a truly an exciting thing. How does it feel to open?
Edwina: It feels very exciting, but definitely a bit of pressure comes with that.
Adrian: Yes, I think at the moment, we’re just a bit tired. I’m kind of dead … but no, it’s a huge honour, it’s exciting.
Why is it so important, why is it such an accomplishment to open Fashion Week?
Edwina: I think obviously to be synonymous with a brand like Mercedes Benz, which is so globally respected and held in such high prestige is obviously one element, for our brands to sit beside each other, is wonderful. But obviously Fashion Week Australia in terms of Australian fashion it’s where all eyes are on Australia, so it’s hugely important.
Yes, but to open it is even more exciting?
Adrian: Definitely, I think in the past we’ve always sort of, “Oh, no, I’ve never really considered opening.” So, it’s definitely a huge honour.
Why didn’t you consider it?
Adrian: I don’t know, I think when you’re work is in Europe, you think it’s something that’s going to happen one day, but it is, it’s crazy. To think we’re the one that does all of it and yeah, it’s a bit stressful.
And there is a lot of hype around the first show as well.
Adrian: Definitely more than every other one. Almost with the pressures being internalised, the other… within the business and we’re sort of being aware of Fashion Week, but this year it seems like everyone is paying more attention.
Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind the collection and what can we expect to see?
Edwina: I think for us, we feel really proud to be Australian designers and to be an Australian brand. I think some brands kind of shy away from the Australian heritage. We’re fiercely proud of it. So, we felt it was the perfect moment this year to celebrate Australia and the beautiful landscape in which we live and all the inspiration it’s given us. So, we really have taken a lot of inspiration from the iconic emblems of Australia and all the diversity of the natural landscape, and also the diversity of all the cultures we have within the land.
How were you inspired by this collection?
Adrian: I think that we’re always looking toward nature and art as our two main references and I think this year, we just specifically focused on the natural forms and a lot of the natural flora. It’s definitely an ode to Australia… in a non-kitsch, weird way.
Do you have a favourite piece that I should be looking out for on the runway?
Adrian: It sounds strange, but we were really inspired by the shape of gumnuts. I know it sounds really weird and kitsch, but there’s a few dresses that are really beautiful.
Do you guys always agree on everything? How does the whole relationship work…
Adrian: I would say they’re two different forms of agreement. I think we’re always wanting to get to the same end point, but we have really different ways of getting there.
Edwina: People laugh a lot about that internally. We say the same thing, but in totally different ways-
Adrian: Totally different ways.
Edwina: We think we’re arguing but actually…
Adrian: They said that, “Do you know that both of you are saying the same thing?”
Who wins in a fight?
Do you have quite separate style aesthetics or would you say that you’re quite like minded?
Edwina: I think it’s always been the differences that made the magic within the brand. And as the brand has evolved, its become something we really believe in, there’s this concept of duality. Because there’s duality inside in all of us. You know, like one day you can kind of feel strong, but at the same time you want to be gentle, and you’re kind of a bit wild, but at the same time you need to be a bit tame and I think it’s that kind of play on duality that’s always worked between us as humans.
Adrian: Yeah. There’s always differences. But I think our difference, we know what we want to look like. It’s probably more in the details and it’s not about someone disagreeing with someone, it’s about having two sets of eyes on something and knowing that somebody else’s point of view always has merit and you can see it that way. So, you do see things differently from another person’s perspective.
Could you describe each other’s style aesthetic?
Adrian: Edwina’s got the best style in the world, I think.
Edwina: That’s not true, but thank you.
Adrian: But no, I think we’ve actually got very similar aesthetics. We love all the natural fabrics, we love the same colours.
Edwina: We love the same techniques.
Adrian: Yes, it always comes out … it’s just having two different sets of perspective coming and that kind of forms … I don’t think we’d be able to create what we create singularly.
How did you first meet?
Edwina: So, I was about to move to Sydney to work at Russh Magazine. I was working in a high-end boutique in Brisbane. This poor, lost Norwegian tourist walked in, aka Adrian and asked for directions. And I just remember his style, because it was very different to Brisbane.
Adrian: I was a lot more out there then.
Edwina: Had this long blonde mop of hair, you know, this undone white shirt, really skinny jeans, this big Dolce & Gabanna belt and I just thought, “Oh my, this guy is just not from here.” And it was just funny, because the directions he got given were so bad and-
Edwina: And then it was just a serendipitous moment, that evening we ended up being at the same party together and there was the Norwegian tourist who was Adrian and yeah, we kind of became best friends.
How did you start the brand?
Adrian: So, we started it in Noosa and so I opened a store. Edi and I started working in the store together and Edi actually came down to work for Russh and we sort of had this idea of creating a line for the store. So, I went and created a collection. I came back and it was shocking…. and I was like “Edi, you’ve got to help me style this collection,” and she came back. She said, “I can’t style that.”
Edwina: I wanted to add things and then I said, “These are things I want to add.” So, Adrian quickly, we drew them.
Adrian: We remade it and we came back and so it was more of … that was really where the fusion happened and so we came and we kind of really brought them together and then the first collection, it was amazing, it was so beautiful.
Did you know instantly then that you needed to start the label together?
Adrian: I was magical. It was really beautiful. And we were so young and so inexperienced.
Edwina: So naïve.
Adrian: And we’ve never made clothes before. So, I mean, it’s been an amazing journey to go on. Yeah.
What have been some of the biggest challenges throughout your career as designers?
Edwina: Business, right?
Adrian: Yeah, I think the balance between business and creative is always, it’s a really difficult, and then you start out being … we obviously had the business from the start. So, we had the first store and we had that balance between, I’d say… you’re young and you don’t have any stress on you and then it goes through that period of, “Oh, God, I’ve got [to] actually pay people and I’ve got to actually feed myself.” And then you get staff and you’ve got to think of them. So, you just kind of lose some of the creativity, but then it’s really beautiful I think, in our case, the creativity, it’s waves and I think that now, where we’re sitting, we’ve just opened our 17th store yesterday.
Adrian: Thank you. So, it’s kind of at the stage now, where our business is in such a strong position that it’s allowing us to be completely creative again.
What would you say has been your biggest pinch -me moment within your career?
Edwina: This is about to be one [opening Fashion Week], I think.
Adrian: Oh, yeah, definitely. This is a big one.
You’ve dressed some pretty amazing people. What is the one that stands out in your mind?
Adrian: I think it’s great when people wear your clothes, but I also think it’s just as great like when somebody comes into one of your stores and feels like a million dollars and walks out. When people, like some of the messages you get, they’re pretty amazing. Just as amazing as when a big celebrity wears them.
Adrian: Someone? Oh, we got Kate Moss did.
Edwina: Oh, yeah Kate Moss. Just recently Katy Perry has been big. Linda Toll, I love her.
Is there someone, alive or dead that you wish that you could dress one day?
Adrian: Everyone. Everyone should be wearing Aje once in their life.
Edwina: Everyone. The whole world.
What’s the plan after Fashion Week?
Adrian: There’s a little break. We’ve got a few more stores that we’re rolling out by the end of the year.
Oh, exciting. Where about?
Adrian: Oh, gosh, we’ve got New Zealand opening, that’s our first international store. We kind of feel like it’s one of our states, but it’s definitely international…. So, that will be kind of the first in the international expansion.
Will you expand further internationally?
Adrian: Yeah, definitely. We’re looking into it, we’re just going to do it carefully. You just have to make sure that all your ducks are in a row when you do it.
When you’re not working, you guys hang out together as well?
Adrian: Yeah, we still see each other so much.
Edwina: But we’ve become more anti-social.
Adrian: It takes a lot to get us out these days, but luckily we still all hang out together.