In the past 12 months, it has also opened the doors to three new boutiques, including a glamorous flagship at upmarket Bondi Junction Westfield, increasing its footprint to 20 stores.
Now Aje is planning to finally enter the Perth market, with the launch of a permanent store at Karrinyup Shopping Centre.
Here, Aje co-founder and CEO Adrian Norris discusses Aje’s new collection, its international growth and striking the balance between the creative and commercial demands of the business.
Inside Retail: How would you describe the resort wear collection?
Adrian Norris: The idea of Resort 22 collection ‘Scent of Summer’ centres around the feeling and mood of summer. On the runway you’ll see an explosion of colour from the
ready-to-wear [clothing] to shoe and accessories elements, as well as really beautiful original hand-painted prints and textile treatments, and new silhouettes, which still feel heritage Aje.
IR: What are some of the interesting business insights and lessons you learnt from 2020 and what were some of the long-term impacts of it on Aje?
AN: Last year was a pivotal learning moment in business, as well as personally. Amid the waves we pushed to deliver a consistent visual identity and unique product offering for our customers. It is astounding how much transpired but reflecting back the experience made us nimbler as business owners, taking intuitive and analytical measures to elevate and satisfy all of our service propositions.
IR: Tell me about the Perth store opening. Are there any unique aspects of the WA market that you’ve had to consider?
AN: Aje has been at Karrinyup Shopping Centre before, through a summer pop up which Perth customers loved. We always have a healthy eye on locations we feel are significant, so we very much look forward to reintroducing Aje at Karrinyup with a permanent site. With Resort 22, I can see us curating the offering of urban and the coastal essentials that live at the core of our brand and which reflect the Perth lifestyle in this location.
IR: Omnichannel is a hot topic right now for physical retailers. Where is Aje in that journey right now?
AN: Over the 13 years in which [co-founder and creative director] Edwina Forest and I have had the business, we’ve built a steady and strong direct-to-consumer business in the physical retail space. One year ago, when we amalgamated the Aje digital, in-store and social experiences, we’ve seen an active and engaged response, plus continued potential, not only in Australia and New Zealand but, the rest of the world too. We are always honing and meticulously analysing how we can improve
the flawless connection between all shopping touchpoints and have landmark milestones in place, which we intend to meet.
IR: Aje now has 20 stores in Australia and New Zealand, which is quite considerable for a high-end fashion design brand. What’s it like trying to balance the commercial and creative sides of the business?
AN: While Edwina and I are always unified, having clear roles allows us the autonomy and certainty to specialise in each realm. Where I play more in the commercial space, Edwina is responsible for creative direction – however we both make those high-stake business decisions and we both creatively influence design and brand. It’s a true creative partnership between us.
IR: I know Aje has talked about entering the international market in the past. How is that tracking at the moment?
AN: Aje are growing healthily in the international market, through our global dot com as well as 25 premium international stockists in all parts of the world, from Korea to Doha. The brand is seeing rapid, organic growth through ajeworld.com, with the US in particular showing keen strength.
IR: Aje underwent a major website revamp late last year. What kind of impact has that now had on the brand’s online sales and your presence on an international stage?
AN: With the brand being available in 221 countries and offering multiple currencies via our directly operated e-commerce, we’ve seen immense organic growth and consistent interest from particular parts of the world. It only gives us the tenacity to continue scaling internationally, and with this brings a lot of excitement for us and our team – understanding our customers and designing compelling products for them is very rewarding.