Colombian - born fashion designer Daniella Samper of Ajaie Alaie is on a mission to make sure her designs are a true reflection of her aesthetic and Hispanic culture. Ajaie Alaie ( pronounced a- ja-e /a-la-a) is a sanskrit mantra that means the “being in your power– It means invincible and indestructible.” With each trip to her hometown in Bogotá, Colombia, the young designer experiences a new spiritual awakening from the natural waterfalls, to the city’s food, festivities and cultural scene that all contribute to her brand’s look. At the core, Ajaie Alaie is all about sustainability so to keep the brand closely tied to the earth, Daniella has done away with using clothing tags and has reduced company waste by eliminating the use of plastic garment bags (for samples and other packaging). Conveniently and environmentally friendly, she has replaced them with reusable mesh bags. These simple answers to common retail problems are also a bonus for her customers who will now have a new bag for storing goods, buying produce and much more. Moreover, Ajaie Alaie’s garments are designed by chakra energy, which is specific energy points that are represented by the clothing’s form and color. Her unique aesthetic combined with Daniella’s Colombian upbringing —a city known for its dense population, loud music and emphatic salsa scene, births a collection of garments that are moveable, breathable and above all, sexy. On the heels of her first trip to Cali, Colombia ( about 9 hours from Bogotá) , the young designer talked with me about her brand’s identity and her various inspirations she incorporates in her latest collection. Go inside our conversation here.
Mel Writes: What's your design process like?
Daniella Samper of Ajaie Alaie : It begins with color. It sets the tone for me. Then the colors themselves tell me what they want to become. Then I choose my fabrics. Fabrics also have a personality so I try to listen to them as crazy as it may sound. Then I revise my sketchbook to revisit designs I've sketched but never came to be for a reason or another. Sometimes I tweak them, or just use them because I still love them, and then begin sketching a lot more putting together things I've been thinking about, and what I'm feeling at the moment. This whole process is my most favorite because I get to challenge myself and express my creativity the way I always dreamt.
How does Colombia fit into your design aesthetic?
I didn't know this at the beginning, but recently I've started to see how my roots influence my aesthetic. I love the woman’s body, and I always design having in mind that I want to dress her comfortably but I still want to flatter her figure in a very subtle and discreet way. While I sketch or drape there's always an impulse to give her a bit of playfulness. Sometimes I'm drawn into making something very boxy, loose, but then I end up manipulating it into something that will make her feel flirty, but also contained. Latin American culture is very warm and sensual while I've never considered myself to be those things. I think Ajaie Alaie is a reflection of that middle point for me.
I can definitely tell from the fit your collection where that philosophy is materialized. Can you walk me through your sustainability process?
Our sustainability process right now is very focused in reducing waste. I am trying to find out ways in which waste can be reduced in my supply chain from factory to customer. Plastic for me is a huge thing and it deeply affects me to know how much plastic consumption there is and how it is ending up in the wrong places like our oceans and then in the bellies of ocean creatures. I package my goods in mesh bags instead of plastic poly bags. The intention here is to motivate the customer to use the mesh bag to pack their fresh produce. I wanted to utilize a reusable bag that could replace another plastic bag to keep this momentum going. A trip to the supermarket meant using 10 single use plastic bags to pack fruit and veggies and that began to feel wrong. Now I use the mesh bags and every time I see people pulling those bags out of the roll it hurts me and all I can think of is of that bag floating in the ocean and being mistaken for a jellyfish by sea creatures trying to get a meal.
What’s your it like to design in Colombia? In Colombia I reconnect. I recharge that latin warmth that I can only find there. I laugh, I dance, and I remind myself that life is always better when you dance and laugh together with family.
Does it differ from your process in the US?
In the US, I polish all of those inspirations and feelings gathered in Colombia and funnel it down to my work.
Who is your ideal customer base?
She connects with nature, experiences, she's empathetic, and wants to change the world.
How was your trip to Cali Colombia…? Colombia never ceases to amaze me and it was my first time in Cali. I was amazed at the diversity in nature found in that region and the diversity of things you could do. We saw humpback whales jump out of the water, we went waterfall hopping in the backwaters of the ocean. To me waterfalls are like the doors to heaven- water is falling 24/7 since forever! All I do when I look up at a waterfall is feel grateful. That was the most memorable. I also danced lots of salsa of course, and I'm not a dancer. The air in Colombia charges you up and being there makes my heart full. It cleanses the saturation I get from New York and the fashion industry.