AOI, the acronym for ‘An Ocean of Ideas’, is the brainchild of 27-year old Lebanese-Kuwaiti designer, Farah Marafie. After pursuing her BA in fashion design at Parsons School of Design in New York City and working for the likes of Chanel and Oscar De La Renta, Marafie wanted to create a brand that revolves around the idea of collectibles. She moved back to London, where she still resides, in 2018 to pursue her MA in Innovation Design at Central Saint Martins, and it was there that she launched AOI.
AOI takes inspiration from music, color and texture. With this in mind, a unique duo of products, made with exceptional materials and know-how is dropped twice a year, in limited-edition runs. “Dropping two categories that have no dialogue in common activates a duality and dichotomous story,” Marafie says. “The options are endless. I’ve had my sights set on developing a collection of collectibles that are well-made and that stand the test of time. After working for many different designers and brands, I realized that I wanted to create a multi-disciplinary design house that could allow me to bring together all my interests in a unique way, starting a new wave in design, a nod to the brand name, An Ocean of Ideas.”
At AOI, each piece is numbered, limited and never reproduced. “We are proud to only use fabrics and materials that are 100% cotton, 100% wool, 100% cashmere etc., natural fibers, made of the highest quality, with the finest of methods. We are built around the idea that if something is sold out, we will never reproduce it, confirming that we are part of a slow fashion system,” Marafie explains. In this approach, they use fewer resources to create collectible products that truly stand the test of time.
Her debut collection, or rather, debut collectibles, which launched earlier this year included silk suits with prints exclusive to AOI featuring nappa leather detailing and mother of pearl buttons, as well as 18K rings which are found in three gold variations. “This selective combination gives our customers the chance to either buy all the collectibles or just one, whilst still feeling as though they own something unique,” Marafie explains. Bought alone, they stand as an object of art; however, if they are bought together, they form a carefully curated gallery.
Marafie’s design journey starts from where the product is made and where the materials come from, she says, emphasizing that research is an integral part of how the brand functions. “We find where the product is best known to originate from before venturing there to source local factories and resources. It makes it possible for me to oversee details, preserve the art of global craftsmanship and ensure that no traditional fashion supply chain corruption occurs,” she explains. Each AOI ring is handcrafted in Athens, Greece, by a family-owned goldsmith and stone-setting atelier, and the 100% silk twill suits, which are loomed and woven in Italy, are manufactured in a family-owned and run factory in the UK.
Twenty-seven ear piercings
While her debut collectibles are an odd, yet interesting combination — their commonality lies in Marafie herself. “I have twenty-seven ear piercings and you’ll always see me wearing jewelry. I also love printed textiles” she says. Her pairs of items exist alongside each other, fully functional, not just as decorative items. The pieces are to be seen as pieces of wearable art, to be passed on and appreciated by future generations to follow.
While the world may not need another fashion brand, it is people like Marafie, and her approach to design through AOI, who are part of the solution and not the problem. “To operate sustainably has been an important part of the brand, even before launch,” she explains “That’s why I have built a brand that believes that every part of the design process should create a positive impact.” In being fully committed to controlling the brand’s eco-footprint, whether through its supply chain or other means, Marafie promises to maintain a modernized road to sustainable micro-production.
AOI is a brand that is confident, individualistic and enigmatic. Confident as they do not shy away from their commitment to sustainability and transparency, individualistic because of their uniqueness and limited runs and enigmatic because the world is their oyster.