Fashion and Design


Aje’s latest collection celebrates the beauty in imperfection.

23 July 2020

Inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, Aje’s latest collection celebrates the beauty in imperfection.

Fashion and Design


Aje’s latest collection celebrates the beauty in imperfection.

23 July 2020

Inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, Aje’s latest collection celebrates the beauty in imperfection.

The Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi-sabi’ is the acceptance of a perfectly imperfect life – one that embraces the transient beauty of the unpredictable. 

As we navigate this ever-changing year that is 2020, it seems incredibly timely for Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest, the duo behind Australian fashion house Aje, to draw on the essence of wabi-sabi to inspire their latest collection, Impermanence.

Aje Impermanence
Aje Impermanence
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Norris says their interpretation of wabi-sabi, as designers and creatives, is that beauty can be found in the imperfect, impermanent or incomplete. Image: Billy Zammit / Hardie Grant Media.

“Wabi-sabi is a mindset focused on the acceptance of transience and imperfection,” explains Norris. “Our interpretation of this aesthetic, as designers and creatives, is that beauty can be found in the imperfect, impermanent or incomplete.

“The idea of appreciating and respecting that which grows more beautiful with time really resonated with us, and spoke to us as a strong reference point for our Spring/Summer 20 collection,” he says.

A man looking at clothes

Norris says their interpretation of wabi-sabi, as designers and creatives, is that beauty can be found in the imperfect, impermanent or incomplete. Image: Billy Zammit / Hardie Grant Media.

For Norris, who trained at the acclaimed Venetian Art School Liceo Artistico Venezia and hand-paints many of Aje’s print designs, the freedom to play in this ‘imperfect’ space gave him an opportunity to drill down into the design process and experiment with different techniques.

The Impermanence designs were crafted through diverse mediums, from intricate sketches to acrylic and watercolour paintings. One digi-print design, which comes to life in dresses and blouses in the new collection, was organically created by blending a mix of pigment powder, sawdust and glue to form a raised ‘blotted ink’ form on canvas, before being photographed and digitally transferred onto fabric.

Painting on canvas

Norris blended a mix of pigment powder, sawdust and glue to form a raised ‘blotted ink’ form on canvas which was then photographed and digitally transferred onto fabric. Image: Billy Zammit / Hardie Grant Media.

Norris and Forest also saw their interpretation of wabi-sabi as a chance to play with unexpected and deconstructed forms. “An interpretation of this is where we used a tarnished finish from one of our original art prints, which we then digitally transposed and brought to life on a luxurious, silk linen fabric,” says Norris.

Their designs also incorporate details handmade from materials such as resin, metal and wood that have been moulded, oxidised and warped before being set against contrasting fabrics or hand-painted prints.

“These types of experiments honour our design DNA of always incorporating and representing unique design details for our customer, who loves to be surprised,” says Norris.

Since Aje was founded by Norris and Forest in 2008, the friends have built a reputation for creating pieces dedicated to raw beauty, tough femininity and effortless cool. It’s why they were invited to be the ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ designer at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in 2019, and have enjoyed a partnership with the automotive brand since.

A man and a car

Aje and Mercedes-Benz have enjoyed a partnership since the former was invited to be the ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ designer at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in 2019. Image: Billy Zammit / Hardie Grant Media.

“There’s a shared inherent sophistication and reinvention between Mercedes-Benz and Aje,” says Norris of the partnership. “From a design perspective, we do not seek trends but offer timeless style and leading design that sits outside the passing of time.

“Together there’s an intelligence in the process of creation, and I truly believe Mercedes-Benz and Aje both speak to the desires of our customers to produce products that are functional and beautiful, but will stand the test of time. I see a shared duality in our customers, who are curious about the world, and who share an interest in art, travel, design and in being themselves.”

By Anna Webster