Who is ak Mojet?
Designer ak Mojet has always made an impression on people because of her eclectic style and the attention to details of her outfits. Her quirky, meticulous clothing ensembles, complete with hats, gloves, and sometimes wigs, were what made a statement during her 20-year career as a video editor in NYC. People frequently suggested she should consider becoming a costume designer. Then, in 2010, two films, two coasts, two temperatures, and a double layer scarf bought at a NYC street fair, an inspired idea developed that turned ak’s personal love of fashion and individual style into its own brand. Over the next few years, she was pulled by a vision to create the sharmbaa shrug, a shrug that seamlessly blends utility and femininity.
The sharmbaa shrug is such a unique idea. What was your original inspiration?
The inspiration for the sharmbaa shrug came to me one hazy, hot and humid New York City summer day while in frigid movie theater escaping the heat. It’s a modern day dilemma: freezing cold air-conditioning inside, hot unbearable weather outside. I draped a double layer scarf, which I had just bought at a street fair, around my shoulders to ward off the chill of the air-conditioning. I absent-mindedly played with the two fabrics while watching the film “Inception.” I draped, folded and wrapped the fabrics in style after style after style and created an elegant solution to my modern day dilemma. By tying the bottom layer edges of the double layer scarf into sleeves I had created the first primitive version of the sharmbaa shrug. The very next day, I made a safety-pinned version, which we eventually used as a guide for the first pattern.
You talk about two films having an impact on you. I know Inception was one. What was the other one?
I was also influenced by the film, “Black Swan.” The duality and metamorphosis required of the character Nina in the film subtly influenced me on many levels, especially with the costume design, allowing me to see the duality between utility and femininity. Utility and ease of use is what the ballet shrugs offered and graceful, flowing femininity is what the ballet costumes offered. I believe that sharmbaa shrugs seamlessly blend utility and femininity into one garment.
You were bicoastal for a while. Did this have an impact on the sharmbaa brand?
For 20 years, I lived in a variety of neighborhoods in Manhattan. I’ve been able to engage in the culturally diverse, vibrant and immediate lifestyle that Manhattan provides for its residents. Everything is available, at anytime, day or night. This idea of abundance and availability and action and versatility is firmly rooted in the sharmbaa brand, which stems from my experiences of living in Manhattan.
I lived in Los Angeles for about a year to experience the lifestyle. I discovered it does “get cold” in LA! In fact, on a typical day, there can be a 25-30 degree temperature change. The fabric needs are much different, knits, modals and fleece are the menu of a West Coast day. While in LA, I was also able to establish relationships with LA knitting mills, other designers, models, photographers, makeup artist and art directors. I’m looking forward to going back for the LA TEXTILE Shows and hanging with my wonderful friends at De Longpre Studios ;-)
I know you have always been interested in fashion. Can you tell me about any early influences?
Oh, yes! My Grandmother was always an influence for me, as she dressed ‘very much the lady’. And, I vividly remember hazy, hot and humid summer visits with my Grandparents in Ohio at the end of August and walking to the drugstore to buy the September issue of Vogue. Just the size and weight alone of that issue called out “I’m like no other!” I couldn’t wait to get back to the house so that I could start looking through that thick, luxurious issue, wishing the temperature was cool enough to wear my interpretations of the amazing outfits shown on those glossy pages. My Grandmother would have a tall, ice-cold glass of ice tea waiting for me so that I could cool down from the walk. We would “have a party” and enjoy looking through “the Book” together. When I open that first page, whoosh! It whisked me far, far away to another place that was a rich, vivid world of incredible design, detail, color and beauty. So, when I start designing the shrugs, they were far from the elegant silk/silk chiffon designs I currently have in the Lovely collection. My dream would to have my collection shot by Tim Walker and be in the September issue of Vogue. Then, I could go visit my Grandmother, we could have an ice-tea party, look at “the Book” and find the page that had the sharmbaa shrugs. My Grandmother would then look over, smile and say to me, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
The other influence has less to do with fashion and more to do with how I want to run my company. My parents knew how much I loved stories before bedtime and my favorite was “The Lorax.” The times I remember fondly were the chilly winter months when I would wrap my comfy, soft blanket around myself and snuggle up next to my mom, on the cinema red velvet loveseat purchased especially for story time. I remember feeling filled with warmth and joy of the land of the Truffala trees and the vibrant colors of this land inspire me. I particularly enjoyed the rhyming words that describe this thing called a thneed, the fact that it’s so versatile and a thing that everyone needs! However, the manufacturer of the thneed does not take heed when the Lorax pops out of the trees to speak for the trees. The land is demolished and at the end of the book the reader is left with the feeling “unless” we take care of our environment, we will not have anything left to take care of. For me, the story was about the need to co-create with the earth we live on and with. I grew up with this philosophy in so much as we were members of food co-ops, grew vegetables & herbs in our small backyard garden, we were environmentally aware and we participated in recycling. As I see it, first and foremost, the manufacturing process must be held accountable in so much that the fabrics are made according to social and transparent standards such as Fair Trade, labor and reporting standards. To me, the people who are making the fabrics, creating the patterns, cutting & sewing the garments must be paid fair wages for the country they reside and be treated humanely. Second and third, eco-friendly fabrics and environmental management go hand in hand. It’s challenging to fulfill those three needs. One reason it’s a challenge is that I currently can only do small quantities. The other reason is that there just aren’t that many textile companies out there that comply on all three areas. Like I said, it’s challenging, not impossible. It’s taken time, research and due diligence but the five companies I source my fabrics from fulfill all of my requirements.
What is your current vision for the brand?
Over the past few years, I have focused exclusively on creating the patent-pending sharmbaa shrug. It is purposefully designed for the dynamic woman who needs an innovative, elegant enhancement for her wardrobe, be it for work, event, weekend or travel. With just this one design, and a variety of fabrics and trims, a sharmbaa shrug provides a seamless blend of utility and femininity. For the rest of 2015, I’m committed to bringing the sharmbaa brand collection of shrugs into more boutiques. I’m also in collaboration with other designers to have another PopUp Shop in NYC again and, perhaps in a few select cities across America.
What is your vision for the brand moving forward?
In some ways, the vision has evolved into a reflection back to my life’s philosophy: living by inspiration, participation with life and trusting the unfolding path. I plan to create essential separates that unify a woman’s limitless lifestyle. My practices include: meditation, exercise, education, nutritional health, spiritual participation, centered relationships, creative playtime, artist dates, laughter, community involvement, gratitude, water and 6 - 8 hours of sleep.
My practices, in a way, originate from a centered, still place -- the antithesis of the dynamic shrug concept. When I sit, I am in process of seeing what drops in around the zazen shrug. This shrug will be more in the traditional style of a ballet shrug, yet reimagined as only sharmbaa brand envisions it. It is a reversible shrug, with a savvy touch and has thumb holes.