Every now and then, a brand comes along and captures the hearts of the global fashion set. It's not always in the flashy, "must buy every piece and wear it immediately" sense when the hype around a new creative director at a big fashion house reaches its zenith. Sometimes, it happens with a softly-softly approach, where an unyielding urge to just own something—anything—grows over time. Stylists, editors and influencers have plenty of beautiful clothes to enjoy, but there's always room for a new, special addition, and one such example in recent times is most definitely Aje, specifically Aje's dresses. Almost everyone on our team agrees that to lay claim to an Aje midi would be a truly wonderful thing. It's an investment piece that transcends seasonal trends to simply look pretty for evermore.
It would appear that the feeling extends beyond industry insiders and our Slack channels. Recently, the Australian brand has experienced an uptick in searches via the global fashion shopping platform Lyst. Demand for the brand overall has grown by 17% since the beginning of March, with a 65% spike in people searching specifically for its beautiful dresses.
Ellie from Slip Into Style wearing an Aje dress.
With the collective mood feeling more hopeful than it has in some time, an era of ultra-charming, soul-lifting dresses is coming, and I couldn't think of another label I'd rather picnic, walk or staycation in.
So who or what is Aje, you ask? Why do people love the brand so, and who are the women wearing it? Where can you buy it, and what should you zone in on first? We spoke to the creative director and co-founder of the brand, Edwina Forest, to learn more…
What's Aje all about?
Photo:Courtesy of Aje/Daphne Nguyen
Edwina Forest, Aje's co-founder and creative director.
Aje may be a new name for those of us in the UK or Europe, but over in Australia, fashion lovers have been keen on the Sydney-based brand since its launch back in 2008. Established by two best friends, Forest and Adrian Norris, Aje has a very recognisable, dreamlike signature. Exaggerated puff sleeves, detailed waists and full, swishy skirts are vital parts of the DNA. "Voluminous sleeves have such a romantic sensibility, instantly elevating any ensemble. You can definitely spot an Aje piece through our billowing sleeves or proportion," Forest tells me, adding that the key to a successful piece of Aje effortlessness is the "contrast and balance" the pair strive so hard to create—soft with hard, volume with structure, dressed-up with casual. "As a brand that is fiercely proud to be Australian, we constantly look to our incredible surrounds and people, which underlines Aje's unique aesthetic and essence," says Forest. Yet there's something uncannily British about the brand's creations, a little quirkiness that you may not find from designers in other parts of the world.
Why are Aje dresses so special?
Bettina Looney wearing Aje's Mimosa dress.
First off, just look at them! From the artisanal prints to the no-expense-spared volume of fabric used for each style, these intricately designed dresses are dramatic yet totally easy to throw on. Although they often come in at the waist, the cuts are roomy to move in, and thanks to well-chosen fabrics that even look good creased up, you don't have to feel too precious about how, where or why you're putting your favourite frock on. "Aje has a distinct signature style. The dresses are great, versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down. They have that effortless feel but at the same time make you feel standout and special without looking like you have tried too hard," explains Suzanne Pendlebury, head of womenswear at MatchesFashion. "We have seen such great growth season-on-season, with strong sales in signature styles such as the Mimosa dress and the Concept dress. The brand offers the perfect dresses for a summer garden party, wedding or summer in the city." Lyst confirms it, stating that these two styles are garnering the most searches from users over the past fortnight.
"The ethos of tough femininity and effortless cool has remained consistent throughout our brand's evolution, but it did take (co-founder) Adrian Norris and I some time to define and understand what our take on a statement dress was," says Forest. "As we experimented with shape and tone, we learnt that the Aje woman wants to feel confident, empowered but still playful, so we paired our signature of structured volume with colour or distinctive details like an interesting cut, so the piece stands the test of time and is not indicative of a trend."
Who wears Aje?
Lydia of Femme Blk in Aje's Concept dress.
From influencers across all continents to Hollywood and British A-listers, Aje has no shortage of superfans. In terms of celebrity, we've seen the brand on red carpets via Tracee Ellis Ross, on the streets thanks to Gigi Hadid and on nights out, with names such as Olivia Culpo and Katy Perry choosing the brand's dresses to party in.
As for the Instagram crowd, the variety of women with totally disparate personal styles who are into Aje speaks volumes: There are minimalists such as Lydia of @femmeblk (above in the green Concept dress) and maximialists such as Blanca Miró (below in white). You can play up to the occasion and add jewellery, heels, a lovely handbag and so on, or you can quite simply let one of the fantastic creations do all the talking.
Leigh in an Aje dress.
Where can I get one?
Ellie from Slip Into Style wearing Aje's Chateau dress.
Aje's latest collection dropped just a few days ago on MatchesFashion.com. Forest describes the brand's aesthetic for the year as "curious, effortless and refined," which translates to relaxed linen midi dresses with gathered waists, asymmetric necklines and muted tones as well as cool, loose-fitting cropped shirting to be worn with matching cotton skirts. They are the kinds of styles you could happily take on holiday, but they'll also function very nicely whether you're working from home or venturing into a place of work where you need to look smart and professional but still feel comfortable.
The open back of Bettina's Mimosa dress.
For me? It's all about the Mimosa dress—a pink, open-backed linen style that Aje has developed in a few different iterations over the years, including the printed version above that Bettina Looney was photographed wearing back in September 2019.