For those not in the know, you might just walk by Monica Mei’s new boutique located conveniently on the Ave and Dav strip. Tucked on the second floor of a townhouse, you would feel like you’re walking into a girlfriend’s house, not a secret nook of all that is classic and beautiful. Perched high in her tower sits Monica Mei, the designer of Aime Luxury. Standing at no more than 5’2″, she ushers myself and my photographer (Oscar Kwong) inside and offers us a glass of water.
As she walks into the kitchen to fetch us our beverages we take a minute to examine our surroundings. Exposed bricks line one half of the boutique, upon which a rack of garments and precocious patterns are hanging. Half work space, half boutique, this hybrid area boasts two large windows at one end of the room which let copious amounts of light pour in.
From a quick glance around, you understand (or at least think you understand) who Monica is as a person and as a designer. There is a clash of modern design and rustic antiques that come together in a very organic way. Trinkets from vacations past and posters from concerts enjoyed line every available space. It’s a true feast for the eyes, much like her clothes.
Our talk went a little something like this:
Shanice Clarke: So, what was your driving force behind starting your line?
Monica Mei: I guess every girl kind of dreams of being a fashion designer at one point in their lives, I’m not sure if it’s just me and you…(chuckles). It was just something that ever since I was little, always enjoyed fashion. My parents brought me along traveling and we used to look at art and culture. However being asian it wasn’t something I was really allowed to do (giggles)! That was actually an incentive surprisingly enough! Then one thing lead to another and my parents said, “Yea, you can do whatever you want to do.” So I stopped payment on my cheque to university for sciences and immediately started transferring over [my courses]. Then after I made that decision it was kind of go-time from there.
SC: Love it! But, why the direction that you’ve taken with Aime, why not a grunge line?
MM: Well I love art, but I really see myself as a designer and I think designers solve problems. I want to make pieces for women that they can wear for themselves. I feel like a lot of clothing and a lot of fashion are uniforms for other people. You know what I mean? I feel like women have to wear a lot of hats and a lot of certain uniforms and I wanted to create a collection that transcends their actual lifestyle. So it’s not really the clothes, like “Oh, I like that [piece that] you’re wearing” but you know, you look great and you kind of don’t know why.
SC: Alright, so now walk us through your design process.
MM: I like process, but at the same time I don’t like to be too contrived where it’s this and then this and then this (slices hand down for emphasis). Sometimes it kind of just comes, and I like traveling a lot, so whenever I go traveling I keep my eyes and ears open to absorbing different things. It kind of comes and I don’t think it’s purposefully watching a film or purposefully going somewhere to be inspired. That’s why I’m looking forward to the boutique where I don’t have to stick to a particular fashion calendar. I just want to make stuff (laughs) and put stuff out there and if people like it, then great!
SC: What is next for your line and the boutique
MM: I’ve been looking for a space for the past two years and I lost one by a day in Leslieville and for two years I’ve been searching and searching. Finally, actually the day before I left for Jamaica for my wedding in April, I saw the for lease sign in the window. So I made a call to the guy and at this point it was just nothing. No floors, no wall really, no kitchen, just empty structure. So it was two years in the making, but still at that time I didn’t really know…like in 2102 I’m going to open a store, it kind of just happened. So I’m excited, I want to start bringing things back from my travels. I want Aime to become more of a lifestyle [brand].
I also really want to start doing collaborations with other great designers and do small runs of fun things and make good things!
SC: If you could be in any other design field, which would you be in?
MM: I love interiors actually, but that’s along the lines of being a designer, you’re just curious about many different things and you like to touch upon many different things. But I actually love cooking! I love to host people, so maybe a chef! I would love to open my own…
MM: …cafe bistro! Maybe when I’m forty!
SC: What is your dream vacation?
MM: I think I might be going on it soon! I just booked my flight to South America, I’ve never been to South America before! So I’m going to be going to Bogota, Rio di Janeiro, Panama City and Beunos Aires. Actually, No! Maybe that’s not my dream trip. My dream trip is actually Scandanavia!
MM: Well, I haven’t ventured into Eastern Europe yet, so just for the design. I really want to go to Copenhagen, Helsinki and Croatia and definitely Russia. There’s just so much culture and history and it’s a space that I don’t know much about actually.
SC: What’s your number one guilty pleasure?
MM: Eating and traveling! I love the life of leisure. I like my wines and food an travel… so whenever I get a chance, I go with friends and there’s always happy memories!
SC: Oh, I almost forgot to ask you, Out of this whole process what has been your favourite and your least favourite part about opening the store?
MM: I’m a pretty easy-going person. If it wasn’t for Fashion’s Night Out to push me, I would be trying to perfect myself, I’m kind of a perfectionist. At the same time, I’m like “Ok, Whatever,” I’m just going to open it up soft launch for Fashion’s Night Out and keep editing and keep changing things as I go.
SC: It’s good timing I would say! It seems like it’s all coming together for you.
MM: It is all coming together! I am a spiritual person and a religious person, so ya, God has blessed me!
Monica will be opening her doors to the public starting on Fashion’s Night Out (September. 6th) with a backyard party featuring music by Tunezy!