Despite the fact AIJA is a beautiful name, it pays tribute to a dear soul that was lost. Sisters Riina and Maali Rahnel created the brand, AIJA, fairly accidentally from a pile of leather goods. The result? Leather pieces were crafted into new pieces, which eventually lead into the avenue of jewellery.
From then to now, AIJA products have flourished with the brand creating a huge array of beautiful and unique pieces. Riina, who models for Scoop Management as well as living abroad in Bali, sat down with The Chic Edit, and shared her amazing story behind the accessory empire.
Q. What does AIJA come from/ stand for?
A. The name AIJA is that of my older sister who passed away. Not only did she embody everything an AIJA girl is (strength, honesty, natural beauty) but as I originally founded the business along with my younger sister it made sense that AIJA be a part of it too.
Q. What did you see missing in the market that made you decide to go into business with your sister?
A. It’s not so much that we saw somethig missing.. the business formed fairly accidentally. It started with a pile of leather pieces we had at home and were experimenting with.. We crafted a few pieces for our own use and started receiving orders! We thought we’d explore further by having pieces professionally made and it went from there.. The jewellery came in some time later but has since run right ahead of the leather!
Q. Define (what you believe) makes a timeless piece of jewellery?
A. Timelessness runs on a fine line. Bold enough to be noticed but not being overly embelished means you can wear it with almost anything & to anywhere, and of course good craftsmanship means it will last so you can wear it for years.
Q. How do you see your customers wearing your items?
A. Oh this is my favourite.. Seeing customers wearing their AIJA pieces gives me the biggest thrill! I so love to see customers layering them up and giving it their own personal edge, perhaps even layered up along side some of their other sentimental pieces. An AIJA chain here, a locket with grandmas pic there. That’s my favourite because it becomes personal. Jewellery should be personal.
“It especially blows my mind when I watch them make the links for some of the more intricate chains one by one.”
Q. What is your jewellery made from?
A. All AIJA jewellery is made from 925 sterling silver. Every piece is hand made, from scratch. The artisans I have working on them really are masters; melting the silver down, pressing it out into the desired thickness and crafting it from there… It especially blows my mind when I watch them make the links for some of the more intricate chains one by one. It’s very primitive; no hi tech machinery, just some basic tools and very skilled hands.. It’s incredible!
Q. What’s the price range?
A. The price point is mid – range.. The jewellery is split into Basics and Bold.
The basics are your everyday layering pieces and start around the $20 mark.. The Bold collection are your statement pieces and can go up to $700.. So there is something for every budget.
Q. Who is your muse for AIJA
A. My mum.
Q. How long has AIJA been running for?
A. AIJA was created around 4 years ago.. but has since gone through many incarnations to land where we are today.
Q. If you could have anyone in the world (alive or dead) as a brand ambassador who would it be?
A. Prince. My ultimate.
Q. Are you a basic or bold kinda girl?
A. Lifestyle, Basic.. Jewellery, definitely Bold.
Q. What is it like living in Bali?
A. Fun. Chaotic. Peaceful. Spiritual.
We absolutely love living in Bali! I made the move over with my husband after realising that the business really needed it on a quality control level.
Whilst the Balinese are beyond skilled, they can tend to let their ‘creative liberty’ takeover if you aren’t checking so you never know what may arrive with the next order!
But since being based there I’ve discovered so many other areas that have benifited.. Mostly my mind! I realised how much I craved the slower pace.
I also love the element of adventure.. riding through the countryside to meet with contractors and business dealings in Indonesian – a language which I’m studying to try and smooth out this process!. It’s always unpredictable.
Q. Where can Australians (and people overseas) purchase AIJA from?
A. AIJA is currently avilable exclusively online.. Unless you happen to be in Bali and you can pop into our gorgeous new stockist ‘No.216’ in Seminyak.
Q. What made you venture into leather goods?
A. It started with leather goods as I’ve never been into bling and all of the leather goods out there at the time were overly embellished and I was craving something simpler where the leather itself was the star.
Q. Have you ever considered going into mens pieces?
A. I get asked this a lot but probably no, with leather anyway. All the blokes I know use the same wallet/belt until it’s falling apart and then when that’s done they go out and buy the same one again! I think I would get bored in that domain fairly quickly! Also, material and manufacturing costs in Bali aren’t that cheap, so I don’t think it lends itself easliy to something so utilitarian.
With the jewellery there may be more scope.
Q. Can you define ‘success’ as a young business women ?
A. Success is seeing happy customers who are proud to wear your pieces.
Q. Do you get mental blocks when trying to ideate and differentiate yourself from your competitors?
A. Yes all the time.. That’s why I decided only to create new products when I had the ideas/materials at hand and not force it just to fit in with ‘seasons’.
Q. Where do you take your biggest inspiration from?
A. Often when people ask me to describe my brands style I explain it as ‘Viking X Homie’.. haha! What an unlikely mix! The Viking part is a throwback to my ancestry (my family being Estonian). I’m so inspired by the strength of the materials, the talismans and the bold chains and links. As for the Homie part, I’ve always been into soul/r&b/hip-hop and the whole urban style that goes with it. The hoop earrings, the layered chains… Both styles have an attitude, a tom-boy edge.
Q. How do you find balance between AIJA and modelling?
A. It’s been difficult since the move to Bali and has meant a lot of time in the air bouncing between the two.
Q. At this stage in your life, what comes first now: modelling or AIJA?
A. Right at this moment, AIJA. Because a small business is a bit like a baby, it needs constant attention. Tough though as I still absolutely love modelling! I’ve been doing it since I was 15 so it’s part of my fabric now.
“I’m looking forward to falling into a bit of a rhythm with the business so I can spend more time modelling again.”
Q. What are you favourite pieces from your collections?
A. Depends on my mood! I would have to say the chains. I love them on their own, layered, casual, dressy. I’ve always got at least one chain going on.
Q. What is your ideal outfit head to toe (with AIJA included of course)?
A. I’m super casual by nature and like to be comfortable.. linen, silk, cotton, wool… & bare feet.
Q. What can we expect from your next drop?
A. More chains (of course!), exploring the textures and wieghts of different chains. More layering pieces. A lot more BOLD.