Aiayu, a Danish knitwear and home goods brand, marries ancient skills with Scandinavian simplicity. Founded in 2004 by Maria Heilmann fosters responsible business practices, working with local artisans to develop beautifully crafted and timeless products. Together with her two partners Marie Worsaae and Maria Glæsel, they recently opened their first shop in Copenhagen.
Why did you choose the name Aiayu? It means soul in the indigenous Aymara language in Bolivia, so it felt like the right name for our brand.
Who designed the shop? Space Copenhagen, stylist Christine Rudolph and ourselves.
What are your best-sellers? Our hand-knitted Helen clutch, all year around favorite sweaters and bedlinen in 100% crisp organic cotton.
Where are your products made? The products are sourced where the materials originate. Llama from Bolivia, cashmere from Nepal, and cotton products from India.
What makes your shop unique? It shows our universe in its whole, for the first time. It’s a shop that carries the traces of a 12 year journey with passion for quality and ways of making things properly.
Who are your customers? Quality minded, independent women whom are willing to pay for quality and mind how things are made.
How has the internet impacted your business? It has increased our visibility and our possibility to tell our story in pictures. It has also given us an opportunity to connect with the people that are engaged in our brand in a personal way.
Maria Heilmann, Marie Worsaae and Maria Glæsel, shopkeepers at aiayu.
Who inspires you? People who dare to do things properly and are passionate about what they do.
What inspires you? Nature and people from around the world, still carrying traces of where they are from. We love to cherish each country’s origin.
Before we were shopkeepers, we….were dreaming that we would be that one day.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Knowing when not to do everything yourself. Keeping the wheels turning while thinking ahead.
What task do you like to delegate? Structural things – and we love to work with people that knows more than us in different areas and that we get inspired by. This is generic for our collegues at aiayu – but also the people we partner up with like Space Copenhagen and Christine Rudolph.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? That it is not easy peasy to have space for all you dream of in the shop – so we have had to learn not to merchandise all at one time. And a beautiful learning is how openminded people are to learn about the products they buy – and the fact that we are uncompromising and have made an effort, makes people meet us with great respect and attitude.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Find the right location with a mix of other shops and general life. For us it meant a big deal that the street was not a main street and there is 24 hours life on the street with small café’s and wine bars.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? We would love Emma Watson to stop by as she is a fan of aiayu already and would love to show her our universe. And maybe ask her a question or two….
What is your perfect day off? A day without given tasks….a morning at home, radio on, run by the harbour in Copenhagen, work a little from home – and then lunch at skt annæ (a traditional Danish lunch place). Seeing friends, and doing things spontaneously. It doesn’t have to consist of big events, but being present where I am.
Do you have Five favorite shops? 1) Le Labo for the wonderful little universe of parfumes – though I always choose the same, 2) Le Bon Marché in Paris for it’s range of brands, 3) Save Khaki in NYC for it’s basic tee’s and menswear, 4) Stilleben for their unique ceramics and pick of Danish brands 5) abc carpet and home for their wonderful and magic Christmas feel. I always go to buy some vintage Christmas ornaments. I absolutely adore their universe, and go for their crab toast at abc kitchen afterwards in the bar is lovely.
Favorite neighborhood coffee shop? My favorite little coffee spot is 108, which is just crossing the harbor on a pedestrian bridge. The coffee at no11 is also great and where all the locals meet.
I wish we could… Make aiayu available for more people across the world – so maybe more shops in the near future around the world.
On the Future of Retail
“I think retail will continue to be important for the luxury segment. Texture, touch and feel of quality…and a unique experience of a brand’s universe are essential for apparel and luxury goods. I think retail and e commerce can work for mutual benefit, where retail space also functions as a showroom for the e commerce platforms.”
St. Strandstræde 12a, 1255 Copenhagen
Photos Asger Mortensen courtesy of aiayu.