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This Former Scientist Turned Fashion Designer Is Reshaping How Women Dress For Work

People

For Aja Singer, fashion and art were always a big part of her life. She attributes Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney as major inspirations for her, and also recalls childhood memories of art museum visits with her parents, taking drawing classes and making a dress for her school dance with her grandmother. But when it came to furthering her education, she decided to pursue a degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology from McGill University in Montreal. Then, upon graduating from McGill, with a desire to work in the fashion industry still lingering, she decided to apply to Parsons School of Design in New York. "At the end of that [first] degree, I thought I really needed to give [fashion] a try and see if I could make it work. I applied only to Parsons and I thought 'If I get in; I'll pursue it'" says the designer. Well, as fate would have it, Aja got into Parsons and moved to New York to make her career in fashion work.


Aja Singer Courtesy of Of Mercer

Fast-forward eight years, and Singer has indeed made the "fashion thing" work for her. After interning in the design studios at Carolina Herrera and Zac Posen and establishing Alex & Eli – a contemporary womenswear brand that she co-founded following her graduation from Parson's – Singer is now the head designer for Of Mercer, a New York-based women's workwear fashion brand, a position she is passionate about.

The designer – who has been with the brand since before their launch in 2013 – describes the Of Mercer woman as a professional woman in her mid 20's to mid 30's who has a professional job in finance, consulting or law and works in a larger city, but also lives a full, dynamic life and values her time with friends and family. "I make sure that the clothes that I design carry through all of her life and all of these other elements going on in her life so she doesn't have to worry about changing her outfit."

Of Mercer is designed and produced in New York City and sold exclusively on their website and at their store in NYC's Flatiron neighborhood. Most of the brand's clients live and work in New York City. According to Singer, the ability to design, produce and predominately sell in NYC makes it easier for her to carry out her design mission since she is able to build face-to-face relationships with customers and receive constant feedback on her designs. "I think during the design process, it's so beneficial to me to be surrounded by all of my potential customers, how they're living, [and] then, in terms of actually making things in the city, it allows me to be very hands-on and make sure the quality is there," Singer says.

At Of Mercer, Singer creates precise, well-fitting designs at an obtainable price point (dresses average $160) and a wide range of sizes (hello, inclusivity!). Singer designs two new pieces a month that are produced and added to the brand's evergreen collection on the site. The designs are later offered in different colors and variations. Having spent almost all her career working with this very specific area of fashion, Singer credits her experience interning at Zac Posen as the cause of her devotion to creating tailored clothing. "At Zac Posen, I was working directly with one of the pattern makers there and saw how the pattern making and draping could be combined, that peaked my interest and set me off on this tailoring path," says the designer.

Bedford Dress Courtesy of Of Mercer

As a young female who decided to go for it in the fierce and ever-changing fashion industry, Aja encourages any aspiring fashion designer to never stop learning and exploring. "Getting inspiration from new places – especially with all of the innovations happening right now on the business side of it, or fashion tech, fabric innovations that are going on – keep your eyes open and keep exploring" she notes.

The Quick 10

1. What app do you use the most?

Spotify.

2. Briefly, describe your morning routine.

7:30 AM meditate and yoga (on a good day).

9:00 AM pick up latte, check email and scroll through Instagram on the train

9:30AM at my desk

3. Name a business mogul you admire.

Natalie Massenet.

4.What product do you wish you had invented?

The iPhone.

5. What is your spirit animal?

A panther, the Cartier kind.

6. What is your life motto?

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” - Oscar Wilde.

7. Name your favorite work day snack.

Whatever is in the office… usually some type of chocolate. If there’s mint involved I’m extra happy.

8. Every business/entrepreneur (you pick one, then fill in the blank) must be _______________ to be successful. (entrepreneur)

The right kind of crazy.

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?

Morocco.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.

My sister. All the music. Sketchpad (and I would craft a pencil from island objects).

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.