‘A natural fit’: Aje co-founder talks NZ launch

Australian fashion label Aje is taking its first step into a global marketplace, with its first international store set to open in Auckland in early September. 

Co-founded 11 years ago by business partners and best friends Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest (the brand name stands for “Adrian joins Edwina”), Aje currently has 18 standalone stores across Australia, plus an online offering. 

The 110sqm Auckland store will be opened in the fashion precinct of the Westfield Newmarket redevelopment. New Zealand is the brand’s second-largest market, after Australia. 

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“My concept with the business was always that we should try to do every single aspect perfectly before we go into a different territory, or a new category, or anything like that,” Norris told IRW.

“For me, New Zealand is the next step, because we’re really solid in Australia and the next close-to-home market is New Zealand. We’ve been getting a lot of traction there, and they’re very much in-sync with what Australians buy. It was kind of a natural fit for us.”

Aje will employ up to eight personal stylists to work in-store, beginning recruitment soon in anticipation of the September launch, which will coincide with the launch of its spring-summer 2019 collection “Vice”. 

“We’re all about creating seasonal collections that can actually go across territories. Even internationally, we show basically the same collections that we are selling in Australia,” Norris said.

“New Zealand will be no different.”

The brand describes itself as “quintessentially Australian fashion house dedicated to raw beauty, tough femininity, and effortless cool, designed to bridge the gap between urban and coastal style”.

“We saw a gap in the market to take our fashion aesthetic and put it into more coastal-style fabrics, so we replaced a lot of synthetics with cottons and linens,” Norris saud. 

“It was more about taking that resort mentality and putting it into more fashion-forward pieces, and the consumers really resonated with it.”

Making clothes people ‘need to wear’

It isn’t just New Zealand that is next for the brand. Norris revealed there is an upcoming launch into two new categories: accessories and jewellery. While the brand is excited about the opportunity, shifting from mainly apparel into new categories hasn’t been without its challenges.

“I think we’re very lucky at the moment that we can get a lot of great people, who have a lot of great experience, but accessories has taken us about two-and-a-half years [to get off the ground],” Norris said. 

“We had a soft launch last year, and it did well, but it wasn’t exactly what we wanted. So, it’s all about refining what we actually stand for as a brand in these new categories. That’s what we’re working hard on now.”

According to Norris, unlike many other brands, Aje uses data insights from customers, gathered from buying behaviours and informal staff feedback, to drive the styles and products it creates. 

“It’s a full spectrum of information we’re trying to gather, but what they’re buying, how fast it’s selling, what they’re not buying – that’s probably what drives the majority of our range planning,” Norris said.

“We use that to create what the customers want, and I think that’s the biggest thing that people in Australian retail fall flat on. You have to make clothes that people need to wear, and that’s our biggest thing.”

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