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


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?


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?


10. Desert Island. Three things, go.

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

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2020 is Around the Corner: Here's How To Design Your Next Decade

Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!

You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!

Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.

Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.

One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:

What worked? What were my successes?

Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?

Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.

If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?

Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?

Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?

Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.

While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.

Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!