Self-taught Singaporean fashion designer Danelle Woo’s designs are far from trendy or gimmicky. Instead they represent modern and timeless fashion pieces.
Understated is the first word that comes to mind when looking at the simple yet beautiful designs created by self-taught Singaporean designer Danelle Woo. The elegant simplicity that permeates her work is a refreshing quality in a market that is flooded with mass-produced clothing. Danelle’s designs are the perfect epitome of contemporary, effortless and timeless dressing. In fact, most of Aijek’s pieces are extremely easy to wear – perfect for today’s modern, busy women who want to look stylish and chic.
Sharing her thoughts on how Aijek started, Danelle says, “I started Aijek five years ago in Shanghai in my home office. I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and I’ve thrown away so many things on my travels, but I realised that I keep going back to key centrepieces in my wardrobe no matter where I move to, whether it’s Korea, Australia or Shanghai. So, I want to create pieces like this for other women too, especially women like me, who don’t have a size zero body, have kids, and juggle a busy schedule. It’s about designing something that’s forgiving enough, but still timeless and classic for the modern woman of today.
The brand also places great emphasis on craftsmanship – every piece is individually handmade in limited quantities in factories that also manufacture for leading designer labels like Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang, Diane Von Furstenberg and Prada, to name a few. The subtle sophistication of her outfits has not gone unnoticed – apart from Singapore, Aijek has since established a strong following in the US, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.
In this interview, Danelle speaks about her thoughts on the local fashion scene, what inspires her, and her plans for the future.
Who was the biggest influence in your decision to become a fashion designer?
My aunt. She was a shopaholic, and I vividly remember going on countless shopping trips with her when I was young. Although I didn’t understand what fashion was back then, I was fascinated by the beautiful outfits in the boutiques, and loved touching all the garments while waiting for her.
How would you describe your design style?
Effortless, feminine, and timeless.
Who are some designers that you look up to?
New and upcoming Asian designers include Zang Toi (Malaysia), Peggy Hartanto (Indonesia), Ran Fan (China), and Lie Sang-Bong (South Korea).
Could you share some advice with aspiring fashion designers who hope to succeed in this highly competitive fashion industry?
Having passion for what you do is extremely important – love what you do, and never ever give up.
Could you share with us your thoughts on the local fashion scene?
It is amazing to see so many new labels and young designers starting their own labels and doing cross collaborations. This is compared to a decade ago, when there were many more barriers to starting up your own business. With support from the government and Spring Singapore, local designers and fashion brands are picking up speed. Also, being in the design scene creates opportunities to meet fellow designers, from homewares to accessories, inspiring new designers to do amazing stuff.
What more do you think can be done to help local designers raise their profile in Singapore and overseas?
The recent Keepers was an excellent initiative by the Singapore Tourism Board to promote Singapore designers to tourists and locals, and it was very well received. For Aijek, we showcase in New York twice a year, supported by the government. Being in the fashion scene over time definitely does help in creating brand presence, and buyers will also gain more confidence in the brand when they know we are stocked at shopbop and selected major retailers.
Where do you get inspiration when you have to come up with ideas for your new collection?
Travelling has definitely made a great impact on my designs – seeing how women from different cities juggle family and work, having to manage their duties as a wife and mother at home, and also building their careers. Their passion and drive inspire me. And it is exactly why the clothes I design are for the everyday woman like myself. The same woman I meet despite different cultures; who does not have a size zero body but celebrates her femininity and her love for fashion.
What does Aijek stand for?
Aijek is actually my Chinese name “Kejia” spelled backwards. Aijek has no meaning as a word which is great for diversification (if we decide to do menswear one day). Only my family and childhood friends know me by my Chinese name so it’s really close to my heart.
How different is the fashion scene in China as compared to the West?
Chinese women are getting more sophisticated with higher expectations 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 I’m 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 socialising is a big part for the modern women here in China. The Chinese women today are so much more experimental. They are willing to try different looks, buy brands they have never heard of before, as long as it serves to express their individuality. In that sense, I do believe the difference between fashion in China and the West is closing up.
Where do you hope to see Aijek five years from now?
I hope we will continue to touch the everyday woman and connect with her through fashion.
Can you share with us about your upcoming collection?
Aijek has always been known for our lace. We are throwing in more elements of masculinity for this upcoming SS2017. But for now it’ll remain as a secret.
Aijek is available in several stores across the island including Tangs Orchard, Trixilini, Sarah B, Nana and Bird, Soon Lee, Tangs Vivo, Mporium, and Society A. For more information, visit aijek.com
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