March’s – ‘The Wellness Issue’ – Download Now
Sustainability has emerged as a key focus for the fashion industry. Contemporary brands are incorporating sustainability at their core, paving the way from the outset.
Australia-based aaizél is one such brand. Since launching in 2016, designer and founder Minnie Jo has ensured sustainability is at the core of the brand’s DNA putting longevity and quality at the forefront over quantity and following trends. However, the designer notes it’s an ongoing process. “I’m still researching and learning but it’s important to be conscious,” she says. This is how she ensures aaizél is continually supporting the wellbeing of the planet through mindful, sustainable and ethical practices. It’s something that’s certainly faired her well, as aaizél is one of the hero brands of NET-A-PORTER’s curated platform NET SUSTAIN dedicated to consciously crafted brands.
Emirates Woman sat down with the designer to discuss how her collaboration with NET-A-PORTER came about, her creative process, the sustainable practices of aaizél and what makes up the aaizél woman.
What is your background?
I was born in South Korea but spent my early years in America and then moved to New Zealand then to Australia. I was lucky enough to have travelled and lived with my diverse family members who had settled in different cities, so I feel like I’ve always been attracted to all aspects of creativity and new environments.
What inspired you to launch aaizél?
Fashion was something I always saw myself in, but that strong desire of wanting to have my own brand wasn’t until after graduating university. Fashion had always been something that’s imaginative, expressive and exciting for me to engage in, whether it be choosing fabrics, designing, sewing, castings or styling.
aaizél is like my life journey, every process involved in putting together a collection is fulfilling and motivating for me not only because of the end result but there’s always something new I learn each season.
Who is the aaizél woman?
The aaizél woman is nomadic in her knowledge while grounded in structure. She is curious with a consciousness for quality. She’s a progressive individual with a poetic spirit.
The brand is focused on sustainability. Has this been the case from the start?
Yes, the idea of being able to self-learn and move towards change for a better future is something I’m committed to as I’ve always had a strong appreciation for quality and longevity over quantity and trends as well as the process of how designs are created. I’m still researching and learning but it’s important to be conscious and informed about labour conditions, wastage and water footprints in the industry you’re in and raising customer awareness of where all products come from, how they’re made and the social and environmental impact of the sourcing and production.
Can you talk us through your creative process?
I usually have so many ideas in my head and start with all types of sketches. They’re on my board for a while until I cull about half of them and I start developing around the rest. I source fabrics around the same time, mostly I have a specific idea of what fabrications/textures I want to be working with for certain styles. Keeping all four seasons in mind for both hemispheres when designing is something that comes naturally from my own experience. Creating pieces that can be worn across all seasons timelessly, that can easily go with your existing wardrobe and carefully sourcing fabrics that will last.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I love recalling the beautiful experiences I had from certain places. Travelling for me is the most valuable way to reward myself and educate myself on other cultures as well as soaking up inspirations and new feelings. The last trip I took was right before the outbreak in Spain, luckily, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the journey and when I returned home, we went into lockdown. During the continuous months of dullness, I could relive good memories through photos and videos of the relaxed atmosphere, people, architecture/art and I was able to create a collection.
In your design process, how do you ensure the process is sustainable to protect the wellbeing of the planet?
There are so many ways to operate sustainably, partnering with businesses that have similar values where their main principles are fair trade, ensuring that ethical practice is embraced within the production process. I work with small family-run manufacturers who are ethically accredited and when you have a strong, caring relationship for one another, it’s easy to see how they operate and their values within their workplace. Things that play major parts in production such as fabrications to packaging should be thoughtfully chosen, I’ve been working closely with a textiles agency where their fabrics are sourced predominantly from finely edited stock used by high-end brands, these fabrics are rescued before being sent to the landfills.
Although aaizél is a micro business and it’s a step-by-step method but if we can all get into the habit of practising sustainability and raising awareness amongst customers into buying smart and supporting ethical brands, this can really make an impact in the long run.
In your opinion, what changes does the fashion industry have to make in order to help the well-being of the planet?
I think it comes down to individuals involved in the fashion industry playing their part to help the well-being of the planet. Sustainable practices have been implemented by many workplaces already but we need to promote more to be able to combat unethical business practices and fast fashion speeding up climate change.
As a designer, my role is to create a cohesive and functional range that has both social and environmental impact in sourcing and production as well as heightening customer awareness of the importance of sustainable development.
You collaborated with NET-A-PORTER for their NET SUSTAIN collection. This is such an incredible milestone. How did the collaboration come about?
I’ve always been a visual person and treated Instagram as my own design aesthetic diary rather than a selling platform. Being a one-woman show with little to no budget for marketing PR, I feel like I have spent so much time on Instagram naturally, creating a brand story through a series of inspirations and details of work I’ve done in the past with friends. I am beyond grateful for my dream retailer to have found aaizél via social media and giving the platform and opportunity to launch because this partnership has supported the brand in so many ways.
What have been the major milestones in your career?
Launching at NET-A-PORTER exclusively for NET SUSTAIN. My dream retailer becoming my first ever stockist is really a dream come true. I felt so rewarded and the whole experience boosted my desire to work even harder.
This is ‘The Wellness Issue’ – how do you implement wellness practices in your life?
I find cleaning and organizing quite therapeutic since it gives me a much clearer mind and limits stress when I have a tidy work and personal space. I try to work on my posture as well since I’m always slouching over-designing or patternmaking. I also take life drawing classes whenever I have spare time to keep my freehand skills and creativity flowing.
March’s – ‘The Wellness Issue’ – Download Now
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Images: Supplied. Photography by Abdulla Elmaz