FAULT Focus: the story of Aaizel, as told by designer Minhee Jo

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FAULT: What, would you say, is the primary inspiration behind your label, Aaizel?

Minhee: I wanted to combine my love for art and fashion as one. I thought it would be interesting to create a character on which the label is based and, of course, she/he maybe/even ‘it’ is named Aaizel. Aaizel embodies many realities of life through experience, emotions and people and what better way to tell a story than through garments that represent various parts of life. From the very first capsule collection until now, with the third collection in progress, each collection represents a chapter of Aaizel’s life.


What would you say are the unique features of the brand?

The character of Aaizel! Did I mention that she is also a mermaid? She is definitely one of a kind! Every collection that is created brings her that little bit closer to life – which is the founding principle of the brand. With that in mind, one of my design priorities is to juxtapose femininity and masculinity in harmony, accented by hardware features and ornate embellishments. A perfect interpretation of this is the art behind yin and yang.


We love the literal interpretation of telling a story with your designs. Given that that you design with Aaizel, the story’s protagonist, firmly in mind, we wondered where the idea for the myth came from?

Aaizel is an analogy for fashion and life. Aaizel’s consistent story reflects what I call the ‘Art of Collection’: gathering the one off, the forgotten, the not-readily available piece; these are precious. All pieces start from this principle and all have their own story entwined into one to become Aaizel (the label). The character Aaizel came first before all designs.

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Did the story come first and then the designs followed? Or did the narrative build itself around the designs once the “fully-clothed” character was formed, so to speak?

The story comes first before the inception of the collection. I decide what happens to Aaizel and the story, with parallel meanings between the creative and the literal. For example, the first collection – the capsule collection Nouveau Depart (Trans-Seasonal 2013) – is the story Aaizel of being banished from her kingdom because of her appearance and opinion. She is left to fend for herself with no sense of direction and a great sense of fear, doubt and even excitement. In reality, for the label Aaizel, I saw that as going against everything that is trending or on the immediate horizon. Each collection of Aaizel mirrors a story featured under the heading ‘Myth’ on the website, and the story cannot be understood until you read between the lines.

We have to ask about the imagery that illustrates the Aaizel myth on your website – it’s amazing! Are they drawings or paintings? What’s the story there?

The images found all over our media and website are made up of mixed media. A little bit of watercolour, spray paint, charcoal, pen and pencil. There are people who definitely appreciate visual art as well as descriptive creative writing. Combining these two make up the perfect fairy tale, myth and fantasy; keeping in mind that this isn’t just a story telling book, it’s a combination of art and life and the story of Aaizel. . The pictures are there because I always thought about doing an adult picture storybook. Not sure if it has been done but I think adults like a little bit of pictures especially if they are into their fantasy reading.

In the past, you have reflected on how important it is to know your market, to design for your customers. How do you reconcile that practical necessity with your more creative process In which you are influenced by the imaginary, the ethereal and the mythic?

Being practical and unique seem contrary to each other but this is another concept that Aaizel runs with: the idea of juxtaposing opposing elements in complete and utter harmony. It’s about re-working your wardrobe and breaking the traditional rules, encouraging people that it is absolutely fine to be creative with how you put together pieces, and learn to ‘rock the look’ with confidence. I want them to have that ‘Aaizel’ glow.


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Do you have a favourite piece from your current collection?

One of my favourite pieces from this one –Mimicry Complex Trans-Seasonal 2014 – is a maxi length cardigan named Gensho. She is a special number because she (I like to refer my pieces as genders) can be worn over our intricate lace dress but then can also be worn underneath our top Mosadi! Sounds strange, but it is nice wearing garments that are that little bit different. So not only do I get to be creative in how I combine my fabrics and trims and place all these seemingly opposite elements but I also I believe that they work well together. Once you let go of that main concept of how things are supposed to be worn you will find dressing up a whole lot more exciting and enjoyable.

Is there a particular process you follow when designing?

Fabrics are number one on the agenda! I have to be able to feel the texture of the fabric and imagine the silhouettes all coming together and that is where the magic begins! The silhouette is so important to me because it plays such a dramatic part in every collection. Once I know what kind of silhouette I want the collection to represent, then I get deep into sculpting, perfecting the silhouette and overall mood for the range. When I know exactly what I can work with, I go through the 2D process of sketching and patterns to begin the 3D process- toiling, with lots of re-working until the fit and the design is right. Then I move onto the real pieces.

Embellishing & polishing come last as a whole, as I am constantly checking if all the pieces flow as a collection, not individual random bits and pieces. I think it’s extremely important to make sure that the collection is tied in as one story. As much as I think it’s crucial that each piece has that little different characteristic from each other, a collection should be cohesive and work well as a whole and be mix matched with each other. I often say that I become lost in the world of Aaizel.


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Minhee Jo, founder, creative director and lead designer for Aaizel

Tell us about your latest collection – and how it encapsulates/corresponds to this part of the Aaizel myth.

Aaizel rises above the water and realises it isn’t what she had imagined it to be. In her mind she imagined a perfect world, anywhere but where she had been before. Away from the violence, the narrow-minded species; anything but pessimistic. But to her unfortunate surprise she finds herself in a land unlike anything she had imagined. It is a world true to the theory of Black & White and the visual impact on Aaizel is massive. Her eyes cannot bare it and she questions her ability to survive her journey.

The colour palette for this new season is black and white, heavily opposing textures, and the signature of Aaizel; craftsmanship & embellishments throughout the highlight pieces. The overall look is what I describe as “eloquent –grunge”.


Do you ever see yourself going down the mass production route (if you were given the opportunity)?

If I were given an opportunity to collaborate with companies that I deeply admire, knowing that they are big and cater to a lot of people, I would most likely do so. Not because I believe in mass production but because it’s giving other people an opportunity to get their hands on our product. I don’t mean pump them out cheaply just to get the numbers up, but there’s always a way to produce quality goods sourced and made with the best materials and lots of love.


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What is your FAULT?

Sometimes I’m a little too cautious, which turns into self-doubt. We live in a competitive, malicious world where you just need to be cautious with every move; especially when you love something so much that you only want the best for it.


For more information, visit www.aaizel.com