Love List

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Talks With Danelle Woo, designer of Aijek

Danelle-2 I have fell in love with Aijek since I saw its debut collection "All About Love" online a year ago. The collection, with its lightweight silk fabrics gently draped over the body, pleats, ruffles and knots making up its details, conjured up the image of a sophisticated and self-aware lady. Aijek is registered in Singapore - its fabrics are sourced from Hong Kong, Italy, Korea and China and then sent for production in China, in the same factories that produce clothes for those luxury brands, such as DvF, Alexander Wang, Max Mara and more.

The touch of the silk fabrics used in many of Aijek's designs is very smooth and makes it really comfortable in contact with skin. I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Aijek's humble designer, Danelle Woo, who is self-taught.

Naked Glory: How was it like when you first started out designing your own label without any prior experience in fashion design? I imagine it must be quite daunting to leave a stable job and set up your own business, selecting fabrics and manufacturers etc.
Danelle Woo: I was truly excited about doing something I really love. I part-timed in retail since i was 14, and spent most of my school vacations working at POIS, which used to be the only boutique that stocked Isabel Marant 17 years ago in Singapore. It really opened me to European designers; their techniques, construction and fabric choices. A lot of what I design is for real women like myself - easy to wear, modern chic pieces that are timeless. We work with natural fabrics like silk, bamboo, viscose and cotton - most of which I select personally because the feel of the fabric is something that is very important to me

NG: Where did you get your inspiration from for each collection? 
DW: Every collection is different. I get inspired by things around me - movies, nature, music, my loved ones. For my debut collection "All About Love", I was inspired by romantic comedy Amelie, played by French actress Audrey Tautou. Aijek's new collection is inspired by my childhood, my son's childhood and everything I remember loving when i was a child. Blowing bubbles, flying kites, staring at the clouds… I translated them into prints and easy to wear silhouettes.

NG: Describe the Aijek woman.
DW: She is a girl who's not quite a woman yet, and a woman that longs to be that girl again. She is the everyday women we meet on the street looking for something easy, comfortable, a no-fuss dress that's effortless.
NG: A lot of your designs convey a sense of ladylike elegance and lightness. Is this an element that is inherent in the Aijek brand?
DW: Yes and no. I find beauty in simplicity. I'm all about basics with a twist - I love unexpected details that makes you pause and fall in love with an outfit. I don't expect people to take the whole look from how it is styled in my lookbook. I'd rather like them to mix and match it with what they have in their wardrobe and make it truly theirs. When I wear my designs, I match them with my scruffy jeans, or layer them with my flea market finds. I shortened one of my flowy maxi dresses from the last collection to ankle length and dress it down with muted gold sandals for the weekend.

NG: I understand that you are stocked currently in several boutiques in Singapore and is also available in a showroom in New York. How do you intend to further grow the brand?
DW: Asia is where we are focused to grow Aijek. There is huge potential here in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, where we are stocked in. I was lucky to be approached by SPRING Singapore as one of the 10 designers on the trip to New York last year, where I found our New York showroom which is currently representing us in the US market. It is definitely an exciting step forward for us. And it also is an affirmation that there is an Aijek women everywhere in the globe, looking for simple easy to wear pieces that transcends seasons.

Behind the scenes of Aijek's latest collection, Absence of Time, lookbook shoot
NG: If you were to have your own independent fashion show, how do you envision it?
DW: An intimate affair. It will be a small scale show because I like to keep things simple and let the clothes speak for themselves.

NG: What do you think of the fashion scene here in Singapore? Having lived in several other countries, how would Singapore compare to New York or Shanghai etc?
DW: I am really proud to see a lot of up and coming designers doing their own labels, regardless based in Singapore or overseas. When i was growing up in Singapore, fashion designers meant having your own store alongside the deep pockets to do so. But now i see an explosion of fearless individuals who are finding new paths to build their own brands with a unique point of view. It makes me proud to be a Singapore designer.

Singaporeans have a naturally laid back sense of fashion. A no fuss simplicity which is evident in my work. Yet there is a certain sophistication and precision that the market appreciates and demands. This, I feel is getting closer to NY market. I've been away for the last 15 years but each time I am back I feel that the market is getting more experimental and open to new ideas which is very exciting. In contrast, I think Shanghai is a city that is all about experimentation. The market there is unafraid to try new trends or wear a designer they have never heard of. They are becoming more sophesticated in their choice of fabric and designs as big brands from every corner of the world set up flagships in Shanghai. It is truly an exciting time for Aijek to be here!
NG: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
DW: A lazy weekend together my family and my dog. 

NG: What do you dream about?
DW: Growing Aijek into a brand that women everywhere can relate to. And through the journey, give back to the society and help those less fortunate that ourselves.

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