Meet Aiken - Nomadic Spirit
AIKEN by Aigerim Akenova is a brand inspired by the world’s ethnic cultures, from the desert steppes of the designer’s native Kazakhstan to the land, sea and sky of the Polynesian islands. Meant to evoke the nomadic spirit of discovery, the collection offers an unique, multicultural approach to fashion that has been embraced by fashion lovers around the world.
What's your name?
Where are you from?
Describe your signature design style in five words.
Authentic, Sustainable, Contemporary, Sophisticated, Functional.
What's your biggest source of inspiration?
Nature, the stories behind cultural codes, and human beings.
Do you think true innovation in fashion is still possible?
Yes, and it can be achieved by changing one's mindset in the matter. I believe that today, innovation is required for creating sustainable models in the business of fashion.
What role does the commercial aspect play for you? Does it limit your creativity?
This has been always a dilemma - to be conceptual or commercial. I’ve always veered toward conceptual. I think in order to do a commercial brand, one has to be an entrepreneur and not a designer. It doesn’t make sense for me to create commercial clothing and have it just be another trendy dress or top. I want to create meaning. I develop concepts which then are translated into designs. That being said, I do try to strive for balance between the two.
What other art forms inspire your collections?
Architecture, contemporary art, textiles, and natural forms.
Do you prefer to follow or subvert trends?
It’s fascinating to me to find common denominators of what inspires people around the globe, every time I start my design process. I don’t find trends inherently negative. I've learned to actually forecast trends, so that my processes end up more authentic and less commercial.
Do you thrive off of spontaneity or careful planning?
During the creative process, I’m more intuitive and spontaneous, but there’s always logical reasoning behind the scenes. However, during production and post-production, I’m a very careful planner.
Do you prioritize aesthetics or functionality?
I choose to find harmony of both. My brand evokes the nomadic mentality, meaning it highly values functionality. However, aesthetics are the crucial language I use to present my ideas and concepts.
How do you think the fashion industry is going to change as automation takes over?
I strongly believe that the future of fashion is in sustainability. Technology will be used to balance the fashion industry with nature.
Which fashion designer do you have the most respect for?
Oskar Metsavaht (founder and creative director of the Brazilian brand OSKLEN).
Are your designs connected with or inspired by your heritage?
Yes a million times! The Kazakh people were nomads and I’m proud of the nomadic heritage in my culture. This spirit of openminded people who lived in harmony with the vast steppes, respected nature, and lived in a natural flow of life inspires me daily, and my goal is to share this with the world.
Did you undergo a formal design education?
Yes, I did a BA course in “Fashion and Textile Design” at IED Milano, as well as an exchange program with FIDM L.A., where I mostly took classes in the business of fashion. Finally, I took an MA course in New Tech-style Design at Politecnico di Milano. I recently received my certificate in “Fashion and Sustainability” at Kering x London College of Fashion.
Do you think collaborations between companies and designers are cash plays or real attempts at innovation?
I remember graduating in Milan in 2009, at the peak of the economic crisis. Italian textile manufactures were desperately looking for collaborations with designers to innovate and attract new target audiences, in order to avoid bankruptcy. Nowadays, it seems like high end brands collaborate with successful streetwear brands in order to reach the younger generation, and thus to expand their community of followers.
What first made you passionate about fashion?
Since my childhood, I'd always wanted to be an investigator (I watched too much of the TV series Hercule Poirot with my mom) or an inventor. I always loved math and hand crafts. This combination of these interests led me to the perfect profession - being a designer. I love investigating, researching, and collecting piece by piece inspirations, inventing new meanings and designing color and textile combinations, and looking for common denominators and design solutions. To me, being a fashion designer is not just a job, it's a way of living.
If you had to invent a new color, what would it look like and what would you call it?
An orange color with a slight hue of pink. I’d call it “supreme orange”.
What is your favorite film?
There are too many to list! In terms of TV series, I'd say Hercule Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch. For movies, The Notebook, Gattaca, 500 Days of Summer, and The Bridget Jones Diaries.
Do you have any rituals when starting a new design?
Before starting to design I do a lot of research and come up with a consistent concept, which I then collect in a mood board and color and textile palettes. Then, I translate my concept into an actual design using my language of colors, textiles, and silhouettes.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of fashion?
Travel and explore new cultures, see my friends around the world, make new ones, and get lost in nature.
What is your favorite food?
Either a specialty Italian cheese called Tomini, or okonomiyaki.
What's your favorite month or season?
Spring. It just feels so colorful and fresh. I grew up in Almaty, where in the spring time, high mountains and glaciers are covered in snow while the hills bloom.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the world on a new collection, who would it be?
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
The Tao practices of the “Inner Smile” and “Emptying the 3 Tan Tiens”, which entails emptying all thoughts and emotions.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
To inspire people toward positive transformation. That, or teleportation.
Check out Aiken's new collections here