Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest, the creative directors of Sydney label Aje, have a clear affinity with the art world.
Their spring/summer 18 collection, Silhouette of an Artist, is inspired by pioneering American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, while back in May, Aje debuted its 2019 resort collection featuring the artwork of Brett Whiteley, thanks to an unprecedented partnership with the Brett Whiteley Studio at the Art Gallery of NSW.
Five Whiteley paintings were digitally printed onto fabrics and fashioned into voluminous-sleeved silk shirts, tailored suits and flowing evening gowns. Wendy Whiteley, the late artist’s former wife, worked with Aje on the collection and hosted its launch, a lavish affair attended by the who’s who of Sydney’s art scene, in her heritage-listed private garden in Lavender Bay.
The collection celebrated Aje’s 10th anniversary. “For us it’s a very monumental collaboration because it marks 10 years of the Aje brand and a celebration of love, pain, passion and, ultimately, teamwork,” say Norris and Forest in an email interview with Broadsheet.
Norris, who studied fine art, and Forest, a former stylist at Russh magazine, started Aje 10 years ago with a desire to create glamorous clothes for women using luxurious, natural fabrics. They’ve been remarkably successful in this mission, creating collection after collection that reflects an aesthetic that’s very Sydney – cosmopolitan and coastal at the same time – and exporting it to the world.
Aje’s collaboration with the Whiteley estate wasn’t the first time the label incorporated the work of a major artist into its designs. In 2017, Aje worked with the estate of renowned Indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle for its 17/18 resort collection, Awelye. The idea for the collaboration came from Pwerle’s great-granddaughter, Jade Torres, who wanted to expose a new audience to Indigenous art and culture.
To create the collection, photographs of three Pwerle paintings were digitally printed onto silk linen and transformed into ruffled gowns and cocktail dresses. Norris and Forest travelled to Pwerle’s former home at Utopia, 300 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs, to shoot a short film and campaign imagery for the collection.
The launch was held in Sydney at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where models walked a runway in a gallery space hung with Indigenous art. “The Art Gallery of New South Wales is definitely one of our favourite places to visit nearby,” says the pair. “As a brand we draw so much inspiration from the arts when designing a new collection, particularly from painters, sculptors, film producers and photographers.”
In 2015, the pair opened a new flagship store in the Strand Arcade in the CBD. Shopping at the Strand, they write, is a quintessentially Sydney experience: “The vast retail offering, and bustling cafes and restaurants, create such a unique energy. There is always something to see.” Their favourite local spot is Pendolino, an acclaimed eatery in the Strand serving regional Italian dishes. “It is our go-to when doing store visits.”