Founded in 2009 by Danelle Woo, Aijek is a homegrown womenswear label that has been stocked at major department stores all over the world including Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus, and last year turned over $3 million in global revenue. Now, the 40-year-old mother of one has decided to take a step back from it all in order to spend more time with her family. BAZAAR spoke to Woo about her decision and what the future hold for the designer.
What was the moment you decided taking a step back from Aijek was the right thing to do?
I believe as you journey through life, especially as a woman / mum /entrepreneur, your priorities change. Sitting back at my Shanghai home office 10 years ago with a crying child and no help, I would not have imagined where Aijek would be today. As with everything, success comes with a price tag. The punishing schedule of flying between cross-geographic offices and expanding Aijek’s international presence meant I was constantly away from my family and friends. There was little time to be with the people I love and care about, not to mention myself. Taking a break means I can now focus on myself and those around me who truly matters.
What was the hardest part about making the decision?
Aijek has been my life and soul for a decade. It was not an easy decision for me – particularly leaving a team I care about that has accompanied me through the hardest periods of running the business; from tight production deadlines, to sharing a laugh amidst designing for the latest season, or the heart racing seconds at the backstage before a runway. Aijek has brought me unimaginable possibilities to date. I am focused on the road ahead and am excited about where life will bring me next.
Do you have any fears or concerns over stepping away from it all?
To be honest, most definitely! Many have asked me what my plans are, what I am going to do with the free time, if I plan to return to fashion or designing. At this point, there are no concrete plans to share. What I know is that I am really enjoying taking things down a notch and spending time with my son and my family. I have also started training for a marathon, planning for a trekking trip to Nepal and learning about investments and wealth management.
How does your family feel about it?
My son Kai, who is 11 years old, and I drove out to Macdonald’s for a late snack on one of those nights he couldn’t sleep. Seven years ago I had asked Kai if he would like me to stop working and spend more time with him. Obviously he was jumping with joy. That night, I asked him the same question. He was quiet for a while, then he replied that it was not his decision to make and he would support me in whatever I decided. He suggested we do a pros and cons list and when there wasn’t enough space at the cons column, he said the answer seemed pretty clear.
What is the status of the label currently?
We are experiencing a spike in sales since the news has been out, mainly from Aijek regular shoppers and fans stocking up on their favorite styles in difference colours or styles they don’t already have. Aijek continues to be sold at Tangs Orchard from now to end May. Customers who wish to shop online can continue to do so as well.
What does the future hold for both Aijek and yourself?
Fashion is something I have loved since a young age. For me, it is about having an outlet to create something beautiful. I plan to continue designing and sketching, but now I can do so at my own time and pace. For Aijek, many love the brand for its laces, fit and classic designs. For me, it is my childhood dream come true. Who knows, Aijek might be back again one day.