Amy Chien Ku created her own label, AIMEEKU, in 2014 – an African-inspired clothing brand that is a bold and colourful mixture of wax prints, coloured denim, tweeds and vibrant patterns. It’s a new language of fashion, one that crosses all borders and one that is getting a lot of attention. Kreol Magazine caught up with the young designer.
Ever since going to school in her native Taipei and opting out of wearing the school uniform so she could express her own style, Amy wanted to be a fashion designer. As she puts it: “Going to school was like a runway show for me!” She was also inspired by her neighbourhood, a part of the city where she still lives and where there are a lot of people from all over the world. From an early age, she was very much aware of different backgrounds and culture.
Although her passion was for fashion, Amy majored in French literature at university and only started studying fashion after working as a PR in the industry. Her job involved attending lots of fashion shows and this fuelled her dream of creating her own label. In 2014, after two years of planning, preparations and attending fashion design school at night, she launched AIMEEKU. So, how did the name come about?
“My pastor told me my name Amy means ‘beloved’; I like the spelling of Aimee because it also means ‘loved’ in French, and Ku is my last name – so that’s how AIMEEKU was created.”
The label had a name but it was one of the first items of clothing she designed that gave the brand its distinct style, as Amy explains. “My friend gave me a traditional African dress which was a simple loose fit. I really loved the fabric and the pattern on it, but it wasn’t a modern style so I changed it into a spaghetti maxi dress which was perfect for summer and the beach. After that, I started to create more dresses with African fabrics. Whenever I put them on, people always asked me where I bought those dresses so that inspired and developed the style of the brand.”
Only a year after launching her label, Amy was invited to participate at Africa Fashion Week in London, in 2015. It was a daunting prospect and she felt under a lot of pressure: “It was my first experience to have an international runway and trade show but I eventually put everything together and I was proud of myself.”
Fabrics and Designs
Amy prides herself that all AIMEEKU garments are made from high-quality fabrics by some of the best tailors in Taiwan and also with the Taiwan Textile Federation Workshop which is known for its delicate craftworks. Wax print fabrics are imported from Europe and Africa and they source other fabrics from local companies. In terms of individual designs, Amy starts by sketching out the concept and then looking for suitable fabrics. As she enjoys the “quiet time” of sewing, she often produces the sample herself to see if the fabric works with the style before discussing the cutting with the tailor.
In terms of ideas, she says she is never stuck: “I always have plenty of ideas in my head, I can say I never feel lack of inspiration, but it’s a pity that with so many thoughts I always feel that I don’t have enough time to realize all of them. I’m very detail oriented, so when I do a design of one piece it usually takes me at least one to two weeks.”
Cutting and tailoring are important, so too the quality of the fabric, and Amy admits to being “obsessed” with silk linings as it makes clothing more comfortable and allows the skin to breathe. “Once you try the silk lining you won’t be able to compromise with anything else, so even with the higher cost, I insist clothes have to be made with silk lining.” She prefers to use mannequins to construct a design as she enjoys seeing how beautiful fabrics are manufactured into stylish clothes and works on her collections throughout the year.
Sources of inspiration
Elie Saab, Valentino, Giambattista Valli and Stella Jean are among her favourite high-street designers and Net-A-Porter one of her favourite stores because it has “the most trendy and latest styles.” Inspiration for her designs comes from the area where she lives and from all kinds of artworks, movies, travel experiences and any forms of beauty in life, whether it’s a picturesque sunset or blooming flowers.
The international model, Kimora Lee Simmons has been another source of inspiration for many years. “Being a mixed-race child she couldn’t fit in any group of friends and other kids teased her a lot because of her height and special features, but she embraced who she was and became a Chanel runway model at the age of 13 and later on when she launched her fashion label ‘Baby Phat’. She inspired me to dream big and be brave.”
She defines her personal style in three words: elegant, feminine, and flamboyant. The company slogan ‘Print is the new Black’ sums up what her clothing line represents. “Black colour used to be the common language in fashion, but we believe bold prints speak in a more vibrant and dynamic way, so it corresponds to this new generation better.”
Her short-term goals for the label are to have fashion shows in the big four fashion capitals, raise the popularity of AIMEEKU, and have more retail channels around the world. In the long term, she hopes to be able to contribute to “make it a better world and to give helping hands to the needy”, adding, “I hope that one day if I reach to a great level, I will still remember these intentions.”
Admirers of the brand can check out their range of clothing and jewellery at www.aimeeku.com and AtMayfair.com, a UK-based premier online retailer of luxury fashion. AIMEEKU hopes to have a presence with more online shops and outlets in the near future. They also have a blog on their website, covering not only fashion but lifestyle, art, travelling and more.
Biblical motivation for youngsters
In the meantime, does she have any advice for aspiring young fashion designers? “If you don’t have enough patience and passion, don’t try it! However, once you start, be passionate about what you do, even when things don’t go well. There’s a Bible verse I always think of to encourage myself (Colossians 3:23-24) ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’”