Women With GRITT: Aje’s Edwina Forest On Post-Pandemic Fashion, Celebrating Individuality And Tough Femininity

“Aje has naturally grown into a platform for women to celebrate their own contrasts and complexities. Inherent in the ethos of Aje is raw beauty, effortless coolness and tough femininity.”

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

If you’re a seasoned Australian fashion label lover then you’ll be familiar with Aje. Renowned for its daring silhouettes, girly textures, expert craftsmanship and stunning colours, Aje is iconic for a reason. Started in 2008 by design duo Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris, the brand has since captured the hearts of fashion-lovers everywhere. Yes, even supermodel Gigi Hadid!

But, on top of its incredible pieces, what is even more striking about the brand is the philosophy behind its creation. Grown out of an appreciation for female complexity and dynamism, co-founder Forest has always had the Aje woman front of mind–and it shows. Even down to the brand’s partners (Aje worked with Sunday Riley on a skin-focussed beauty look for the resort 2023 runway), the thoughtfulness and consideration behind everything it does is, at large, the reason why the brand has found success for almost 15 years.

In this interview, Forest speaks to Gritty Pretty about what it means to be a woman in the fashion industry, the evolution of post-pandemic design, why individuality should be celebrated and the significance and beauty of tough femininity.

Before we jump into all things Aje, we’d love to know a little more about you. Where did you grow up and how did it influence your life now?

I grew up on a farm in Queensland and was lucky to enjoy a balanced upbringing influenced by the rural, coastal and city life of North Eastern Australia.  As humans, we are all intrinsically and unconsciously linked to our early influences. 

 

You launched your brand alongside your co-founder Adrian Norris in 2008 and have always been known from your incredibly unique silhouettes and striking colours and prints. Where did you find the inspiration to start your brand initially?

Aje has naturally grown into a platform for women to celebrate their own contrasts and complexities. From its inception, Aje has pioneered coastal to urban style; a unique approach to dressing in Australia that has evolved into our recognisable design code, grounded in an innate sense of dichotomy.

Both Adrian and I are bound by a mutual appreciation of design and the arts. When we first met, we saw an opportunity to create a brand that bridged the gap between contrasting coastal and urban style that paired traditional artisanal craftsmanship with timeless, luxurious design, rooted in an inherent understanding of this duality. 

 

What inspires you most?

We are forever inspired by our surroundings and believe that there is so much to be gained through experience and immersing oneself in culture and the arts. Our love of our surroundings extends from the natural landscape to interiors, to the creative and fine arts–all influencing our choice of colour, fabrication and silhouette. 

 

What has been your greatest career highlight to date?

Showcasing Aje’s Resort 22 ‘Scent of Summer’ show at the Calyx last year was a significant moment for the brand. One of the first in-person shows post-pandemic worldwide, we designed what we imagined would be the ultimate dreamscape, an ode to long summers, which resonated with customers across both hemispheres.

And on the flip side of that, what has been the most challenging aspect of your business journey to date? And how did overcoming this challenge impact on the growth and direction of Aje?

It has always been a wild ride. Every season brings its own unique challenges. It’s these challenging experiences and the knowledge that is gained that drives us to keep evolving, pushing us to be even more creative through design and storytelling.

 

You debuted a brand new collection at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week this year. Tell us more about how you created the stunning new pieces?

Encapsulating a place where art, the body and nature entwine, this collection is an exploration of the inherent interplay between form and space. Expect to see a cacophony of vibrant colours and sculpturesque silhouettes enhanced by statement fringing and bold, hand-pleated florals set with tonal cave-like space.

 

Speaking of Fashion Week, you also partnered with Sunday Riley for the runway beauty look. Why did you decide to go for a more pared-back and skin-focused beauty look?

Inherent in the ethos of Aje is raw beauty, effortless coolness and tough femininity–a healthy, natural and radiant complexion complements this both aesthetically and in spirit.

Before we jump into all things Aje, we’d love to know a little more about you. Where did you grow up and how did it influence your life now?

I grew up on a farm in Queensland and was lucky to enjoy a balanced upbringing influenced by the rural, coastal and city life of North Eastern Australia.  As humans, we are all intrinsically and unconsciously linked to our early influences. 

 

You launched your brand alongside your co-founder Adrian Norris in 2008 and have always been known from your incredibly unique silhouettes and striking colours and prints. Where did you find the inspiration to start your brand initially?

Aje has naturally grown into a platform for women to celebrate their own contrasts and complexities. From its inception, Aje has pioneered coastal to urban style; a unique approach to dressing in Australia that has evolved into our recognisable design code, grounded in an innate sense of dichotomy.

Both Adrian and I are bound by a mutual appreciation of design and the arts. When we first met, we saw an opportunity to create a brand that bridged the gap between contrasting coastal and urban style that paired traditional artisanal craftsmanship with timeless, luxurious design, rooted in an inherent understanding of this duality. 

 

What inspires you most?

We are forever inspired by our surroundings and believe that there is so much to be gained through experience and immersing oneself in culture and the arts. Our love of our surroundings extends from the natural landscape to interiors, to the creative and fine arts–all influencing our choice of colour, fabrication and silhouette. 

 

What has been your greatest career highlight to date?

Showcasing Aje’s Resort 22 ‘Scent of Summer’ show at the Calyx last year was a significant moment for the brand. One of the first in-person shows post-pandemic worldwide, we designed what we imagined would be the ultimate dreamscape, an ode to long summers, which resonated with customers across both hemispheres.

And on the flip side of that, what has been the most challenging aspect of your business journey to date? And how did overcoming this challenge impact on the growth and direction of Aje?

It has always been a wild ride. Every season brings its own unique challenges. It’s these challenging experiences and the knowledge that is gained that drives us to keep evolving, pushing us to be even more creative through design and storytelling.

 

You debuted a brand new collection at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week this year. Tell us more about how you created the stunning new pieces?

Encapsulating a place where art, the body and nature entwine, this collection is an exploration of the inherent interplay between form and space. Expect to see a cacophony of vibrant colours and sculpturesque silhouettes enhanced by statement fringing and bold, hand-pleated florals set with tonal cave-like space.

 

Speaking of Fashion Week, you also partnered with Sunday Riley for the runway beauty look. Why did you decide to go for a more pared-back and skin-focused beauty look?

Inherent in the ethos of Aje is raw beauty, effortless coolness and tough femininity–a healthy, natural and radiant complexion complements this both aesthetically and in spirit.

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