Melbourne-manufactured label Aaizél is like a museum of art-like garments, made for the Australian woman through a lens of European design. Director Minnie Jo draws her own lived experience and dressing extinct, while nodding to faraway gallery halls and ancient masterpieces when conjuring up Aaizél’s uniform.
“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.”
With this clever, conscious and fashionable woman in front of mind, Minnie works exclusively with fabrics that are seasonless. These items seamlessly mesh with pre-existing workday-to-weekend wardrobes, to elevate your collection (as opposed to cluttering it up).
Here, we sit down with Minnie to rehash her recent victory in Australian Afterpay Fashion Week’s Next Gen Program and retrace the rise of her intrepid and darkly-feminine designs. Next Gen exists to identify, support and amplify the best in emerging Australian design, marking an exhilarating new phase of growth for Aaizél.
The aaizél woman is nomadic in her knowledge while grounded in structure
What was the journey like to winning the AAFW’s Next Gen program?
It was such a pleasant surprise. With all fashion weeks being cancelled and postponed indefinitely due to COVID last year, all the hype around that had disappeared. During lockdown, I was using my time wisely by catching up on things that I wasn’t able to do in the past (because of a lack of time). I felt like I was doing my best to keep productive, but I had trouble trying to stay creative because everything was so dull. When I found out I’ll be showing at Next Gen, I felt so relieved and energised. Plus, this is my first Resort collection, so the whole experience feels like a new chapter of my journey.
And what does this victory mean for Aaizél?
Next Gen has been around for decades and has helped a lot of emerging designers in the past by connecting them with a diverse range of opportunities in the industry. It means so much for Aaizél, bringing light to the brand (especially in the Australian market).
Where did it all begin for you in fashion?
Fashion has always been something that’s imaginative, expressive and exciting for me to engage in, whether it be choosing fabrics, designing, sewing, castings or styling. The desire of actually wanting to have my own brand wasn’t until after graduating university. I wanted to gain experience and knowledge through working in the industry first, but to be honest, I learnt the most through launching the brand.
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 for the lessons learned.
What are your days like now in Melbourne running a heavily-admired brand?
My days usually start at 6am with a strong coffee and catching up on emails. Usually off to the makers in the AM and running errands through to afternoon with more great Melbourne coffees to keep me going. Because I’m a really hands-on person, I like to get involved. That may put more pressure on me, but I enjoy the whole process. At the end of the day, if I’m “stressing”, it’s all for the brand and for the better. I’m also currently taking abstract art classes weekly, so that’s my creative/therapeutic evening time!
Does the pressure to ‘create’ ever get too much? How do you sustain originality and avoid stagnation?
I genuinely enjoy every step of the design process, from sourcing fabrics to drafting patterns. Because I’m constantly creating designs, the pressure is somewhat lifted when a deadline looms for a collection. I just put together the designs that had already been initiated. I also do really tight and curated collections with minimal looks. I feel that if you produce too many designs per season for the sake of creating, it loses its identity and becomes repetitive.
Explain your fixation with European art, and how it’s influenced the label you’ve forged.
I was always going to study art history if it hadn’t been fashion design. It’s something I’ve forever had interest in. I find design (or any form of art) to be the most liberating way of expressing myself, but I connect with European art the most. If I need an inspo boost, I’ll look at art, whether it be modern art, contemporary art or renaissance. Each artwork or artist has their style and story behind and that’s so fascinating for me. I curate and take reference from a lot of imagery I took during travelling and visiting art galleries and museums.
Your inspiration comes from around the globe. But manufacturing takes place in Australia. Why was it important to make the garments here?
I think one of the most crucial parts in running a slow fashion brand is understanding how your makers operate, valuing their skills, knowledge and having a trusting relationship. The goal is to make every piece long-lasting, and we work on this together from sampling and production to quality control. We work with a small family-run business who are ECA (Ethical Clothing Australia) accredited and I connect with them so closely. I feel that this is possible because they’re local. The fact that I can contribute to creating jobs locally is such a satisfying feeling.