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David Jones picks up Australian label Aje as department store wars rage on

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Like the latest instalment in the Store Wars franchise, the brand tussle between David Jones and Myer has seen the former pick up Australian label Aje overnight.

In Store Wars Episode 200, the Australian label founded by Adrian Norris and Edwina Robinson in 2008, has signed a three-year agreement to be stocked in 27 David Jones stores from July.

Aje's resort show on Monday night coincided with the news it would be joining David Jones in a new exclusive deal after ... Aje’s resort show on Monday night coincided with the news it would be joining David Jones in a new exclusive deal after two years at Myer. Photo: Wendell Teodoro

The deal inked between the brand and Myer in 2015 – it’s first with a department store – saw it stocked in 12 stores.

Mr Norris said the opportunity to have a bigger department store footprint was one of the main drawcards of a deal with David Jones.

“That’s a huge growth step for our business. We have our own 10 stores we deliver to monthly. It was about finding the right partner who could push the button and go to more stores,” he said.

Mr Norris said Myer had been the right fit for Aje at the time of the 2015 deal and there was only goodwill between the parties.

He said David Jones’ stable of brands was a better fit for Aje going forward.

“David Jones has an impressive portfolio of Australian designers. We wanted to sit with some of our peers. They have fantastic customer service and merchandising,” he said.

On their way to David Jones ... Aje designers Edwina Robinson and Adrian Norris. On their way to David Jones … Aje designers Edwina Robinson and Adrian Norris. Photo: Esteban La Tessa

While Aje has focused most of its growth domestically, Norris said online accounted for about 30 per cent of sales.

“We’re always hoping to grow that but it’s very good for us,” he said.

A model showing a dress featuring a print by Indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle. A model showing a dress featuring a print by Indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle. Photo: Wendell Teodoro

In July, the same month the David Jones deal reaches fruition, Norris and Robinson will travel to New York with the Australian Fashion Chamber to launch the brand internationally.

David Collins, David Jones Group Executive of Merchandise, said Aje was “renowned for beautifully crafted designs” and was a welcome addition to the company.

We wanted to sit with some of our peers.

Aje founder Adrian Norris

“Aje answers the demand for statement day wear and unique occasion pieces.”

Myer has been contacted for comment.

Ksenjia Lukich (left) and Jesinta Franklin attend the Aje show at the Art Gallery of NSW on Monday. Ksenjia Lukich (left) and Jesinta Franklin attend the Aje show at the Art Gallery of NSW on Monday. Photo: Esteban La Tessa

It is unclear whether Aje’s defection has any connection to Teneille Ferguson’s return to David Jones, where she has returned after a four-year stint at Myer. In her time at Myer, Ferguson was credited with repositioning the store’s fashion strategy, including the introduction of top Australian labels including Aje and White Suede.

Known for its statement leather and denim pieces, the brand has an ethos of “tough femininity” and a commitment to working with local artists.

The David Jones announcement coincided with Aje’s resort show, which featured a collaboration with the work of indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle.

Norris said it was a privilege to work with Pwerle’s family to bring her prints to a broader audience.

“It’s incredibly special to bring that kind of iconic artwork into wearable pieces,” he said.

Guests at Monday night’s show at the Art Gallery of NSW included David Jones ambassador Jestina Franklin and singers Jessica Mauboy and Dami Im.

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