This Former Scientist Turned Fashion Designer Is Reshaping How Women Dress For Work

This Former Scientist Turned Fashion Designer

Is Reshaping How Women Dress For Work

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For Aja Singer, fashion and art were always a big part of her life. She attributes Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney as major inspirations for her, and also recalls childhood memories of art museum visits with her parents, taking drawing classes and making a dress for her school dance with her grandmother. But when it came to furthering her education, she decided to pursue a degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology from McGill University in Montreal. Then, upon graduating from McGill, with a desire to work in the fashion industry still lingering, she decided to apply to Parsons School of Design in New York. “At the end of that [first] degree, I thought I really needed to give [fashion] a try and see if I could make it work. I applied only to Parsons and I thought ‘If I get in; I’ll pursue it'” says the designer. Well, as fate would have it, Aja got into Parsons and moved to New York to make her career in fashion work.

Aja Singer Courtesy of Of Mercer

Fast-forward eight years, and Singer has indeed made the “fashion thing” work for her. After interning in the design studios at Carolina Herrera and Zac Posen and establishing Alex & Eli – a contemporary womenswear brand that she co-founded following her graduation from Parson’s – Singer is now the head designer for Of Mercer, a New York-based women’s workwear fashion brand,  a position she is passionate about.

The designer – who has been with the brand since before their launch in 2013 – describes the Of Mercer woman as a professional woman in her mid 20’s to mid 30’s who has a professional job in finance, consulting or law and works in a larger city, but also lives a full, dynamic life and values her time with friends and family. “I make sure that the clothes that I design carry through all of her life and all of these other elements going on in her life so she doesn’t have to worry about changing her outfit.”

Of Mercer is designed and produced in New York City and sold exclusively on their website and at their store in NYC’s Flatiron neighborhood. Most of the brand’s clients live and work in New York City. According to Singer, the ability to design, produce and predominately sell in NYC makes it easier for her to carry out her design mission since she is able to build face-to-face relationships with customers and receive constant feedback on her designs. “I think during the design process, it’s so beneficial to me to be surrounded by all of my potential customers, how they’re living, [and] then, in terms of actually making things in the city, it allows me to be very hands-on and make sure the quality is there,” Singer says. 

At Of Mercer, Singer creates precise, well-fitting designs at an obtainable price point (dresses average $160) and a wide range of sizes (hello, inclusivity!). Singer designs two new pieces a month that are produced and added to the brand’s evergreen collection on the site. The designs are later offered in different colors and variations. Having spent almost all her career working with this very specific area of fashion, Singer credits her experience interning at Zac Posen as the cause of her devotion to creating tailored clothing. “At Zac Posen, I was working directly with one of the pattern makers there and saw how the pattern making and draping could be combined, that peaked my interest and set me off on this tailoring path,” says the designer.

Bedford Dress Courtesy of Of Mercer

As a young female who decided to go for it in the fierce and ever-changing fashion industry, Aja encourages any aspiring fashion designer to never stop learning and exploring. “Getting inspiration from new places – especially with all of the innovations happening right now on the business side of it, or fashion tech, fabric innovations that are going on – keep your eyes open and keep exploring” she notes.

The Quick 10

1. What app do you use the most?

Spotify.

2. Briefly, describe your morning routine.

7:30 AM meditate and yoga (on a good day).

9:00 AM pick up latte, check email and scroll through Instagram on the train

9:30AM  at my desk

3. Name a business mogul you admire.

Natalie Massenet.

4.What product do you wish you had invented? 

The iPhone.

5. What is your spirit animal? 

A panther, the Cartier kind.

6. What is your life motto?

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde.

7. Name your favorite work day snack.

Whatever is in the office… usually some type of chocolate. If there’s mint involved I’m extra happy.

8. Every business/entrepreneur (you pick one, then fill in the blank) must be _______________ to be successful. (entrepreneur)

The right kind of crazy.

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?

Morocco.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go. 

My sister. All the music. Sketchpad (and I would craft a pencil from island objects).

Kelsi Zimmerman

Kelsi is a digital beauty, fashion and lifestyle writer who resides in New York City. In addition to SWAAY, she also contributes to Teen Vogue, Women's Health and New Beauty.

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