Designer Interview: Aminah Abdul Jillil
When I came across these stunning bow pumps worn by blogger Aimee Song of Song of Style I immediately had to find where these amazing works of art came from! That’s when I discovered the designer, Aminah Abdul Jillil. Not only does she have a flourishing new collection of shoes but she’s also a dancer who has danced with the likes of Britney Spears and Janet Jackson! I emailed her and she agreed to an interview for Fashion Steele NYC! I am always so interested in designers and their process and Aminah didn’t disappoint!
FSNYC: How did you get into designing? Do you have a background in design?
AAJ: I started working on my designs/brand in 2008. I would get asked quite a bit about things that I’d made , so that kind of gave me the confidence to start my brand. I’ve always enjoyed making my own things or playing around with DIY projects. One year, I enrolled in a Fashion Program during my down time in between jobs. I took basic courses in sewing, illustration and color analysis. I wasn’t able to complete the program because of my travels with work, so I did a lot of practicing on my own and sewing/ drawing and some of the other skills that I’d learned, became my funtime. I started with sandals because I just love sandals I have more sandals and jackets then anything else in my wardrobe. I made my first samples by hand with the help of my local shoe repair guy. I bought inexpensive sandals … that maybe had 1 or 2 straps on them (like a flip flop) just so that I could use the sole of the shoe. I cut everything off of them… bought some leather and just… cut, paste and hand stitched them together. I’m mostly visual and don’t really work from sketches…although I do sketch at times. But mostly I just go with the ideas that I have in my head and try to get them to come to life.
FSNYC: Where do you get your inspiration from for your shoe collections?
AAJ: I take inspiration from a lot of different things, people places. I’m an ’80s baby and grew up in the Music Video era. I can remember loving Jody Wately, Cindy Lauper and Madonna because of their outfits! The messy-funky…a thousand bracelets on one arm look and the rolled-down ankle booties that bulk around the ankles. Being in the entertainment industry you’re exposed to the Art of it all…Makeup, hair costumes and I LOVE it… all…. the theatrics. There are no boundaries. A lot of my designs have an exaggeration in detail…so I guess all of these influences play out in my designs.
FSNYC: Does your background in dance help you when designing?
AAJ: It has helped in the sense that, dancing has taught me to work extremely hard for what I want and to always work from a passionate, meaningful place…and so when I’m doing something that I love thats what I try to do.
FSNYC: I’ve noticed that you have shoes and tops currently, will you be expanding into more clothing?
AAJ: I would love too! My jackets are some of the first things that I started designing and I’d love to be able to expand in that direction.
FSNYC: Who is the kind of girl that wears Aminah Abdul Jillil? Who do you have in mind when designing your collections?
AAJ: I think that there are many different types of girls that can enjoy my designs. When I design, I think of the things that I enjoy or wish that I owned or had it’s like playing out a fantasy and I think that sometimes we wear or buy things to make us feel a certain way. For example, I think the Bow Pump can be quite sexy the way that it embellishes the foot but charming and fun at the same time. I enjoy the many different characteristics of design…the minimal, sleek, masculine/feminine…dramatic. They are all a part of me and show up in my designs.
FSNYC: Can you walk us through how you start from having an idea of a piece or shoe to the actual product. How does it all come about?
AAJ: I hand-worked all of my first shoe designs myself with the help of the local shoe repair. The same with my clothing except I used my little Singer sewing machine that I bought at Costco lol! I laugh because I sew everything on that machine… and still do. So, once I had my hand made samples together I searched out a shoe maker who specialized in custom shoes… he turned my hand made, living room creations into real samples :). Up until that point I think the extent of what I’d planned to do with my designs, was just to see my ideas come to life and that’s it. But once I saw the finished product I thought…what do I do next? How do I get people to see these… I was able to find a factory at a convention that someone had recommended to me. It was very difficult to get any factories to want to work with me, because no one is jumping out of there seats to work with a new company…a new brand. So, I was fortunate and found a small factory that was willing to work with me.
FSNYC: Who are some of your favorite designers or brands?
AAJ: Some of my favorites are: Alexander Wang, Valentino, Rick Owens, Camila Skovgaard, Phillip Lim, Isabel Marant…
FSNYC: What was the first piece you created?
AAJ: It was a denim hooded jacket.
FSNYC: What is your favorite piece you’ve created and why is it your favorite?
AAJ: My bow sandal is my favorite. It’s is like my baby because it took me some time to work the shape and structure of the bow so that it had some dimension to it. I kept working it…trying different leather…moving the bow from the side to the back to the side again and when it finally came together for me I was so pleased with it. I don’t know why but when I finished them I just thought that they were so pretty.
FSNYC: What advice can you give to someone who wants to get into designing?
AAJ: Go for it!..
Make sure to check out Aminah’s designs HERE. The bow pump is definitely a holiday must!