What is Aila Magazine? What does ‘Aila’ mean?
Aila is a fully illustrated magazine that aims to empower, educate and encourage women to be their best selves. The name Aila itself is actually a Scottish Gaelic name meaning 'from a strong place'. The meaning really resonated with me when choosing a name for the magazine, as the whole journey behind Aila is from my own place of strength.
What were you doing before Aila, and where did the idea of the magazine come from?
I was at University as Aila started as my final major project - I studied Fashion Branding and Communication at Birmingham City University and was lucky enough to be given a lot of creative freedom. When it came to our final project, I'd already decided the fashion industry wasn't for me, so I wanted to do something that meant something to me. At the time, I had begun posting body-positive pictures and captions on my personal Instagram and was pleasantly surprised at the response. I'd been through a lot and was working on healing my self-esteem and self-worth, so I wanted to turn everything I was learning into something physical to share with other women. The decision for Aila to be illustrated only was key - I wanted Aila to be a completely comparison-free zone, so no photography made sense. When you read Aila, it is a proper breather from the noise of social media and unrealistic and unrelatable content.
Can you walk us through the journey of developing each issue, from initial concepts to the final outcome?
Hahaha it is quite the journey, so I'll try and do this in a nutshell. The first thing I do is a writer's call out. I’ll share a post on Instagram asking people to send in pitches. From there, my editors and I narrow it down and usually select 15 - 20 of our favourite pieces, categorising them into topics such as sex and relationships, body image, mental health, etc. Whilst the editors work closely with the writers, I design the layout in Adobe Indesign. I map out where everything will go, so the foundations are set, ready for me to brief the illustrators. Once this is ready, I do a call-out for illustrators and play cupid between illustrators and writers. Billie Francis is my resident illustrator, and we will spend a day together deciding what articles should go with which illustrator. Then I write up individual briefs for every piece, and the magic begins. It amazes me every time how the illustrators bring the vision to fruition. It's my favourite part of the whole process of seeing articles come to life. Finally, everything gets sent over to me - final illustrations and articles ready for me to place. I'll put it all together and usually do a couple of test prints with my local printers here in Brum. Then I approve the final proof, and it goes to print!
Where do you draw inspiration for the artistic direction? And how do you go about developing the illustrations?
Aila is a very feelings-based, storytelling project, from the magazine through to Instagram. In that sense, I draw a lot of inspiration from daily life, experiences, situations and want to bring all of that into the illustrations themselves. Not to go too woo woo, haha, but I had a Human Design reading recently - I found out I make decisions based on what feels good, rather than logic/rational (has its pros and cons). In a creative sense, I often choose colours and imagery through the emotion it evokes. I also have to say the illustrators I work with are INCREDIBLE, and I have learnt A LOT from them. So in terms of developing the illustrations, I cannot take credit - it's their talent and understanding of the Aila vision that makes it what it is. Billie, especially, is brilliant at giving direction to the other illustrators and helping me understand what brings an image together.
What do you hope to inspire through Aila?
For women to give themselves a well overdue break! And for everyone to just be more honest, you know? For decades we have been bombarded with pressures and unrealistic expectations and standards. It's time we were allowed to breathe and be content with who we are whilst allowing ourselves to grow at our own pace. Self-love, self-care, they're such buzzwords now, but at their core is self-compassion. Everyone's journeys look different, so if Aila is to inspire anything, it's to give yourself the credit and love you deserve.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their own brand/ business?
Be patient, find your why, and get comfortable with fear. Finding your why is SO important. Starting a business is one HELL of a journey, so you NEED to know why you are doing what you're doing as this is what you fall back on when things aren't going smoothly. What is it that's going to get you out of bed in the morning when you're not seeing the instant results or gratification? On that note, patience is key. Social media combined with hustle culture can fool you into thinking everyone has had overnight success - it's simply not true. You've got to be in it for the long game. And, finally, getting comfortable with fear. There will be decisions to make and risks to take that don't always feel 'safe' - get used to it. Getting outside of your comfort zone doesn't get less scary, you just adapt to it easier.
What’s next for Aila?
I'd love for Aila to become a seasonal magazine. Last year we did two, so this year I'm aiming for three, and then next year four. I'm also thinking of exploring special edition themed issues - I already have a vision for valentines 2023, hahaha. One of my favourite things about Aila is the connection and community, so I think I'd like to start doing more collaborations and potentially explore the idea of different workshops to give people more opportunities to connect too.
Hannah's Round of Speed Dating with DMY
1. What is your go-to drink?
A nice cold Pinot Grigio Blush or Provence Rosé - I really need to try the famous Whispering Angel.
2. What was the last thing you Googled?
San Carlo’s and Lucarelli’s menus.
3. What was the last book you read?
How Do You Like Me Now? By Holly Bourne - SUCH an honest read, highly recommend.
4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Amsterdam, or I’ve never been but I’m really drawn to places in Scandinavia.
5. What is your favourite TV show?
All time fave would be Sex and the City, but recently I watched Maid on Netflix which was incredible.
6. What would be your ideal date?
Happy hour hahaha or if they’d planned a surprise - love it if someone shows a bit of effort.
7. What’s your guilty pleasure?
I am addicted to pesto pasta - I don’t really feel guilty about it either, pasta is life.
8. What’s the best and worst purchase you’ve ever made?
Best: I took my Grandad to see Fleetwood Mac and my Mom to see The Nutcracker so the tickets for both of those! Would much rather buy experiences than things.
Worst: Any food that has ever disappointed me hahaha
9. What was your first concert?
The NME awards tour - I remember Two Door Cinema Club and Azealia Banks were there.
10. Make a party playlist with only 3 songs:
- Mariah Carey ‘Fantasy’
- Luther Vandross ‘Never Too Much
- Malika ‘Go (Crazy Cousinz Remix)’