Aya Wear :: Modern Fashion + African Flair

Arlene in one of her latest Aya-Wear creations.
If you're a Portie regular then its very likely that you'd have met Arlene Passley in one of her many roles as either Blue Mountain tour guide, Entertainment Coordinator, Mentor, or more recently as the creative talent behind Aya Wear Fashion. The self-taught desinger started Aya Wear just over a year ago and hopes to eventually help create a greater appreciation for African-inspired clothing locally. I caught up with her yesterday...over the best veggie-burgers ever from Woody's Low Bridge Place:)...to talk about her work, living her dream and the blessings of Portie living.
Here's more from our conversation.

Prêt-à-Portie: How did you start a career in Fashion design?

Arlene: Fashion has been a major part of my life since age 16 when I was introduced to the world of modelling. But, that was many moons ago, and after experiencing every fashion trend since the 80's, worn every major designer label from every continent, and having had the opportunity to travel internationally I can honestly say that back then I was more a "fashionista" than a fashion designer. My design concept was borne out of my understanding and acceptance of Africa as the sovereign land and the fact that we are a royal people and should therefore attire ourselves accordingly. The feeling derived from wearing clothes made from African fabrics can only be described as "royal" and I felt the compelling need to share this feeling with my 'sistas', hence the birth of AYA-WEAR.

PAP: Explain the name, Aya-Wear. Where did it come from?

Arlene: AYA is the Akan adinkra symbol of endurance, resourcefulness, and defiance against odds. That could describe most of the women of this world, regardless of nationality or ethnicity. We women naturally possess these qualities and abilities. AYA-WEAR exudes royalty and confidence in the knowledge of who you are and where you're from. I call it "modern fashions with an African resurgence" because I use authentic African fabrics to create modern, fun, and even sexy pieces. I do traditional styles as well but of course even with those I have to put my 'AYA' spin on them, jazz them up a bit. AYA-WEAR is a symbol of modesty and grace, but make no mistakes, the AYA woman is one who knows what she's about. So when you see her coming roll out the red carpet.

Arlene lounging in the Royal Hut at Great Huts
PAP: Where does your inspiration come from in creating a piece?

Arlene: My mind is a constant wellspring of fashion designs. I am a designer at heart. I design through the mind's eye before I even visualize the fabric. Then when I physically examine the fabrics, I design according to the lines, patterns, textures, colours and so forth. I do a lot of mixing and matching and crochet inlays.

PAP: Who are your favourite designers?

Arlene: Locally, I'd have to say Mamayashi and Sandra Thompson of Kamit Revisited. Mamayashi and I have a mutual friend, so I was more than thrilled to meet-up with such a talented sistren. Internationally though, I love Senegalese designer Oumou Sy's work.

Here are some photos from the 2009/10 Aya Wear collection.

Photos by Nino Sciuto

Photos by Nino Sciuto & Noël Cianci
Arlene's work can be found at Shop # 3, Zion Hill, Portland, and she can be contacted at arlenepassley@yahoo.com.


Keresa said...

Lovely article and beautiful pics. Great work Ren!

Renae Simpson said...

Thanks Ker. Means a lot coming from the PR maven herself:)

caron said...

Renae, these are simply amazing pictures. Well done. Very proud of you. Enjoyed AYA interview immensely. The running water pictures was quite breathtaking too. Big up!

Renae Simpson said...

Hey Caron!!! Thank u girl:-) Long time no see. Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, we got to let the world know where we're from..lol!!

Harvest Girl ~ said...

Love this.. She is very inspiring.. hope to link oneday. blessings

Mamayashi said...

This was a nice piece! Go aya wear! :) especially loved those beautiful breezy pics that remind me of ja!

Renae Simpson said...

Thanks Harvest and Ma Yashi! You both do awesome work too! Keep it up, and thanks for stopping by:)

Iyabinghi Ashanti Tafari said...

Beautiful article on a beautiful Afrikan Sistah. I am so pleased to find this in our Beloved Portland> Arlene the Ancestors watch over you as you honour them with your Afrikan Pride. Love all around you. Pret-a-Portie great job!

Orianne said...

Hello Renae, you have a wonderful blog - I'm follow now.

Greetings from Switzerland:)


Renae Simpson said...

Thanks Ladies:)
Love your blog too Orianne!

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