After running the article on Sandy Vu from Dum Dum Girls in Giant Robot 68, which might still be on some stands, I posted a show review that got reposted via Facebook and blog by a local clothing company called AI FOR AI. A flurry of FB friending and emails turned into coffee in Echo Park, and it turns out that Carol and Elizabeth Ai (right and left, in pic by Jiro Schneider, above) not only make cool clothes for awesome bands (bonus DDG pics below) but they are also knowledgable about GR and share some mutual friends with me. Now the sisters can be your friends, too. New Yorkers, look for Carol during Fashion Week!
GR: Your distribution is quite selective at this time, so running into people wearing AI FOR AI must not happen very often. What do you do when you see someone in your designs? Gush? Play it cool?
C: I’ve seen it twice now since we made our first delivery last year. We’ve only shipped two seasons that have been on display so it’s pretty awesome. I didn’t say anything to the cute ladies I saw in our clothes but I did do a little somersault in my heart!
E: I have not had the chance to witness such glory but I don’t go out very much. I’m pretty much a recluse unless it’s work related, happy hour related or a good friend’s birthday.
GR: To me, seeing your gear on Dum Dum Girls and Bethany from Best Coast was awesome because it linked you two with other local women who are doing rad things. Can you tell me some other highlights from your first year/four seasons?
C: You definitely named off two of our highlights, we absolutely adore Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls! With each collection we get very excited about working with the talented ladies of Los Angeles. People are always asking us, "Who is your girl?" From the very beginning we knew we wanted fun, creative, brave women that don’t take themselves too seriously wearing our clothes. The biggest highlight of all is wearing our own clothes and loving what we make.
E: I totally second that. All the other work that I’ve done up until this point has never provided such a gratifying experience to actually have these tangible things. There are so many ways to express oneself and I really admire those that take the time each day and special occasion to relish in the expression of themselves and the messages they put out in the world with what they wear. Biggest highlights of AI FOR AI’s 2010? Delivering our first collection in March 2010, getting to work with L.A. artists, Mercedes Helnwein, Owen Schmit, Kime Buzzeli and being covered in Women's Wear Daily and a finalist in W Magazine’s Fashion on Film contest.
GR: Members of bands aren't supposed to wear their own concert shirts. Do you wear your own gear much?
E: Oh, yes. It’s a perk of making clothes. Of course we wear our clothes! If we don’t like a piece enough to wear it we don’t include it in our collection. It’s like being a chef and never eating your food.
C: Not possible for us. We even tested some men’s styles and find ourselves wearing those pieces from time to time to make sure we like them. Wearing our clothes is the best part of the job!
GR: What clothes did you wear as kids? Were you into goth music, knowledgeable about the Gothic & Lolita lifestyle, or into other non-jeans-and-T-shirt culture?
C: I had a Kusama moment without knowing it. I was about 7 and my mom got me this crazy polk-dot wardrobe. It was my favorite thing in the world to wear all my polka-dot clothes at once. My elementary school teacher would call miss Polka-Dots. I had a sweatshirt, dress, skirt, T-shirt, tank top, canvas shoes, socks, you name it. My mom is a very creative lady and would go on sprees of dressing us up and giving us asymmetrical and strange haircuts.
E: I had a shameful moment in middle school that I’ll come clean about! I think about it and it makes me cringe. I listened to gangster rap and hip hop and would wear gigantic bright red, yellow or green Cross Color jeans and baggy flannel Pendleton shirts with only the top collar button buttoned and lined my lips in black eyeliner. How crazy is that? I was in love with Tupac and danced to Pharcyde and new all the words to R. Kelly’s 12-Play! I still love the music but, man oh man, am I glad I stopped wearing that gear when I got to high school.
GR: What were you doing before launching AI FOR AI? Did your previous gigs add anything to what you're doing in fashion today ?
C: I’ve always wanted to have my own line. For years in high school and in college I worked in retail for with French Connection and BCBG. After finishing up some training at L.A. Trade Tech I designed clothes for a number of private label companies. After getting laid off in 2009, I went to Liz and said that we had to do this. It was something we’ve been talking about since we were kids!!
E: I’ve always worked in a creative field. I interned a bunch at various film companies and studios while I was studying creative writing at USC. My internship at William Morris scarred me for life, so shortly after that experience I immersed myself in the L.A. art scene and started writing about the arts and curating art shows, and founded an art based non-profit organization. That experience lead me to producing some really neat art projects in town which then lead me back to my interests in stories and film and after a making a few short films I met Harry Kim and David Choe and, voila--I produced my first feature documentary in 2008. All that experience only better prepared me for this venture with sister. There is so much story in the making of our collections.
GR: Did you provide fashion advice for Harry Kim before his film fest appearances ?
E: Very funny, Martin! Nope. Harry Kim has a very unique sense of style that I admire. His T-shirts speak volumes into the future and into the past but you already knew that!
GR: And is there any truth to the rumor that AI FOR AI is in the running to be an official outfitter for Paris By Night?
E: No comment. But watch out for episode #3056, your wish of this happening may just come true!
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