If there was ever a title to define me, it would definitely be UNORTHOBOXED! Beyond thrilled to grace the cover of up-and-coming out-of-the-box Unorthoboxed Magazine, a lifestyle magazine geared towards today's Jewish woman. In this article, I talked about my journey to Judaism and to leaving fast-fashion. Both of these paths, while completely different from each other, are very similar.
For my entire life, I was always searching for something that would spark my spirit. Little did I know, it would be Judaism that would ignite that fire. I didn't grow up around Jews, but in high school, my family moved to a predominantly Jewish town. Not knowing much about Judaism, I never thought it was an option for me. Lo and behold, life took its course and in college, I was introduced to a long term boyfriend who brought me closer to the faith. While that relationship didn't last, as most first loves don't, my love for Judaism kept going strong and led me to convert a few years later.
Back to sparking my spirit! I studied fashion design at Pratt Institute and immediately began working in fast-fashion after graduation. I took the first job that came my way and started working tirelessly in Midtown Manhattan. Yeah, it was great to be working for large companies, designing tons of products, worn by millions of people. But season after season, and year after year, it was exhausting. I felt like I was moving this fast life to keep up with fast-fashion and everybody knows, that's impossible. I was burning the wick from both sides and it did NOTHING for my spirit. I yearned to let my full creativity out, but didn't know how.
It wasn't until I was let go from my last fast-fashion job, that the fire started to burn. After meeting with a friend I used to work with, she got right up in my face and told me to start something on my own. Something that would serve my community. It was an intense conversation to say the least and it shook me to my core. I was 36 years old and had no idea who my community was. Then after a trip with my husband to Acadia National Park in Maine, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The Jewish community, the yoga community AND the sustainable fashion community was who I should be serving. The idea for Transcendent Active was born on a mountaintop in Maine and I have never looked back since!
"Rather than being upset at losing her job, she saw it as a blessing because it opened up the opportunity for her to reevaluate what she wanted to do going forward. Aja spoke with a career-counselor friend who told her that she needed to do something for her “community”. At that point she wasn’t sure what “community” she meant. On a hiking trip in Acadia National Park in Maine, as her and her husband were hiking, it dawned on her that she really had two communities – the yoga community (she was a certified yoga instructor) and the religious Jewish community. So she thought, “What if I married the two together and created a line of modest activewear?” She realized that both of those “communities” have challenges that she can fix through fashion design. An acquaintance connected her with someone who would help her refine her mission and what her new company would be all about."
As soon as I jumped into the design process, I was off! I found a deadstock fabric supplier in Los Angeles who I immediately reached out to. I know that was a mouthful and you're probably thinking, "What is deadstock fabric?" Deadstock is leftover fabric that mills overproduce and sell to small, independent brands like mine. It's a great way to upcycle the fabric and turn it into something new! Since my ties in the fashion industry run deep, I reconnected with a woman I worked with on a prior design project about joining the Transcendent team to help run production. She introduced me to a factory and became my Head of Production and Ethical Manufacturing. I have another friend from the industry who I asked to head up our Technical Design department. She and I worked together on the underwear brand 2-xist and knows what it takes to fit a garment like a glove! Before I knew it, I had a team in place of hard-working and fun women and was running the business I always dreamed about. Ok, there were our shares of hiccups, like in any new start up, but things just seemed to be falling in place!
"Transcendent Active is considered a sustainable company. All of the fabric used either comes from recycled bottles or is “dead stock”. Dead stock is the leftovers from big brands, which often order more fabric than they actually need. This excess fabric would normally go to the landfill, but instead, little companies like Aja’s can buy it and repurpose it so that it doesn’t end up going to waste. The fabric that she buys may be made from recycled plastic, or dead stock, but it’s high-quality fabric that many higher end name brands you would recognize are buying."
"Even though the brand is labeled as activewear, she’s designed the clothing to be more than just workout clothes – they are designed purposely to be able to be worn throughout the day. It’s called an “athleisure” brand – the clothing line comprises all-day active pieces that you can wear from carpool to a meeting to a workout and can also dress them up for going out. She says it’s for the woman on the go, but you don’t have to be a marathon runner to wear the clothes, Israeli National Champion Runner Beatie Deutsch is one of her brand ambassadors. She explains that the premise of the brand is that it is movement inspired.”
Everyone's journey is long and windy and we can go through life thinking we are a part of something when really we're not. And then something or someone who seems to arise from the dust of the earth, shows you the way to your true self. This person might not even be someone who is in your daily life, but they are crucial to helping you uncover your mission. I guess for me, it was my first boyfriend and my friend (who is now my go-to career coach). I am grateful for both of these relationships.