Danelle Woo, the designer behind Aijek
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It can be quite a challenge at times when you need to dress for an event but are trying to steer clear of mass market brands like Zara — and your pay cheque doesn’t afford you to waltz into Prada to pick out something.
Danelle Woo, the Singaporean fashion designer, hopes to be able to address this market with her new label, Aijek.
We caught up with the designer for a tete-a-tete where she introduced us to her new collection and why she thinks Shanghai would fall in love with it.
Shanghaiist: Tell us more about Danelle Woo.
D: I loved fashion since a young age when I would cut up my mum’s jeans, reverse it and make it into a jacket. I spent most of my school vacations part-timing at POIS, being in touch with brands like Isabel Marant, Herve Leger and Giambattista Valli This really had a huge influence on me. Combined with my stint in ZARA, Aijek is kind of an in between POIS and ZARA. I wanted to offer easy-to-wear effortless designer pieces, using high quality fabrics, and make them accessible. About a year ago I took a big risk, gave up my job in PR, followed my heart and started Aijek.
Why the brand name “Aijek”?
D: It’s my Chinese name spelled backwards. It doesn’t mean anything literally yet it is really special to me. The other reason was because I wanted to mark the fact that I started Aijek in China, the land where my roots are. My grandfather came from Fujian to Singapore and was also in the textile and apparel business, making men’s suits. I’d like to think it’s in my blood.
How would you describe the collection in 3 words?
D: Sustainable, Effortless, Modern Feminine
Pretty in lace!
Describe the lady you had in mind when you were designing the S/S’12 collection
D: She would be my model Anna. Carefree, comfortable in her own skin, naturally beautiful. The collection is titled “All About Love”. It is about falling in love, the simplicity and complexity of love is depicted in the collection’s simplistic silhouettes with knots as a key feature to the clothes.
Sexy ruffled back jumpsuit
The collection is very contemporary, and streamlined in terms of its cuts and design but yet there’s a certain girly-ness to it. How do you it will appeal to the Chinese market?
D: Chinese women are getting more sophisticated and their expectations are higher than before. They understand quality and are looking for simpler designs that are modern but not over the top. I think about the occasions that customers will wear my clothes when designing the collection. Many of the pieces are versatile enough to be worn with flats in the day, but can also transit into something glamorous for the night. This is an important factor as connecting and socializing is a big part for the modern women here in China.
White collars are constantly on a look out for styles that are conservative enough for office wear, but also have an element of surprise that can carry them to after work functions. Thus you will realise quite a number of my styles have subtle details that offers a peek of skin at the side, or ruffles are the back or a low plunge back to serve this need.
I feel the Chinese women today are so much more experimental. They are willing to try different looks, buy brands they have never heard, as long as it serves to express their individuality. As a Singaporean, it’s natural to play it safe and minimal and get it right. But for the Chinese, they are happy to get it wrong 5 times but the 1 time they get it right gets them better each time.
How will Danelle Woo be taking the Chinese fashion market by storm?
D: There is a huge gap in the market between luxury and mass brands right now. Women hoping to move away from mass brands but are not willing to spent on a Dior dress have very limited brands they can turn to and go back to.
Ivory knotted silk dress, one of Aijek’s key pieces in this collection
Aijek’s Spring/Summer ’12 collection is available at selected stockists in Shanghai. For more information, visit www.aijek.com
Chiew Ling Tan is Shanghaiist’s resident fashion columnist and purveyor of all things beautiful. The creative services director at advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty by day, she’s also the co-owner of a multi-label fashion boutique nana & bird and an accomplished jewellery designer. Reach her at [email protected] with your story ideas.