If you click through the highlights on Auné's Instagram page you’ll find yourself sifting through a long train of “muses,” of all sizes, genders, and professions wrapped in the brand’s signature mesh. Models, singers, artists, and many more, myself included, have flocked to claim a piece made by Xenab Lone Jamil, slink into the skin-tight material, and, for a night, feel like one of the designer’s stunning muses. Her designs pass on more than an aesthetic—though they are recognizable to any in-the-know observer—they offer a feeling. A confidence, a swagger, an allure, simultaneously in your face and out of reach.
It’s nothing short of magical how a thin layer of mesh separating the body from its environment can recall the inspirational goddesses of ancient mythologies, the figures who embody the poetic and the lyrical. From a more modern understanding, the figures who lead artists to pick up a pen, brush, or instrument. Jamil’s designs embody a collision of classic aesthetics and modern cuts and colors, stripped down to something stunning, sheer and singular. It’s a feat in line with the legacies of her named influences, including Mugler and Vivienne Westwood, others who struck a chord at the cutting edge of classic. For this reason, her pieces have become enmeshed among style tastemakers turned muses. You may have seen Jamil’s work on the Instagrams of Beyoncé and Kylie Jenner, on tour with Shygirl and Rina Sawayama and stealing the show on the second season of HBO’s Euphoria.
Composed of printed mesh garments, Auné offers a made-to-order, slow-fashion alternative in an ephemeral digital landscape that not only captures attention but holds it. The brand’s signature drape features a half-moon shaped cut-out dress paired with matching gloves that displays a mastery of fashion’s ability to both reveal and conceal. The result is incredibly sexy, undeniably stylish, and completely comfortable.
“It makes you feel comfortable and drapes the middle area, which can be quite a sensitive place for a lot of people,” Jamil said over a Zoom call from her hometown of Birmingham, an hour outside of London. “Another reason [for choosing mesh] is obviously, because it's stretchy. You can make for a lot of sizes, and it's a bit more accessible to a lot of people. I can make for any size, which is great—it’s what I've always wanted.”
Growing up Jamil loved clothing and visual art. Dressing up and “being glamorous” with her older sister and cousins and admiring Madonna’s style. She had never considered fashion as a career possibility until a youth club leader pushed her towards clothing design. At university, the head of the program pushed students outside of the box and toward the avant-garde, but the prospect of owning her own label was hindered by industry gatekeeping; season- and buyer-focused collections, and the high cost of creating a collection without any guarantee of pieces landing in the hands of paying customers.
“When I graduated, it was 10 years ago, so there wasn't Instagram. There wasn't really that whole thing of ‘you can do it on your own.’ It just kind of seemed impossible,” she said. “But now it's so accessible. Stylists will come directly to you. You don't need the middle person. You don't need a PR person. Everyone will come to me and I find that much more empowering. Having celebrities reach out themselves, that has been crazy. People who I think, ‘How would I ever speak to them?’ but then they message you. Like, oh my God.”
In early 2020, actress Alexa Demie (Euphoria) connected with Jamil over Instagram, asking the designer to create a look for the premier of A24’s Waves. But with the pandemic, the premiere didn’t go on as planned, and Demie wasn’t able to wear the label’s signature set in the vibrant orange sculpture print. Demie eventually gifted the dress and glove set to her younger sister, and instead took a few pieces of Jamil’s collection to the stylists at Euphoria.
“They didn't pick that outfit [for Maddie], but then they contacted me and they bought something for Hunter Schaefer’s character and for Barbie [Ferreira] as well,” Jamil said. “I just saw the rooms that they have full of clothes, but to actually think, 'Wow, they picked my stuff like that?' That kind of thing is really nice. It's humbling, the power of social media.”
While she can testify first-hand to the power of Instagram, cultural figures, and pillars of media like Euphoria, Jamil is also keenly aware of the digital landscape’s constraints, noting how Instagram fashion has become its own genre within the industry, filed separately from the big names holding shows at fashion week. She finds some solace in Birmingham, geographically and mentally separating her from the looming sense of competition in the industry hustle and bustle of London.
“We have the ‘Instagram brands’ or whatever. I feel like I've been pigeonholed into that, which I don't really want to be so much," she shared. "We're so reliant on Instagram. It's a double-edged sword. In one way, it's great because it's a great platform to have exposure to so many people. But then in the fashion world, you're not really taken that seriously because you're not showing at fashion week. I feel like there can be a bit of snobbery or competition still.”
Jamil’s professional ethos is derived from her long-standing love for classic fashion, recalling vintage Mugler and the dream school uniform she designed as a young adult, a three-piece suit with a snatched waist. But she finds herself at-odds with the industry's burn-and-churn approach, where bigger is always better, more is the mandate, and quicker is the expectation. At university, she completed an internship with Alexander Wang in New York, around the same time the designer was being sued over an alleged sweatshop being run in Chinatown. (The case was eventually settled out of court, dismissed with prejudice.) Looking back on the internship, Jamil expressed gratitude for the people and friends she made, but also a certain sadness.
"You go out of your way to work for someone, and you hope that they will be an inspiring person, but then when you see the reality of someone like that, who's barely there and didn't really work that much. It's quite disheartening," she shared "But there's other designers like Vivienne Westwood, who apparently still works today. She goes into the studio, which I find very inspiring. She's iconic. My friend just got a job there and she's saying that she still cycles into work. She lives nearby and she comes in. Just incredible.” [Editor's note: Vivienne Westwood passed away on Dec. 29, 2022, shortly after this interview.]
In Birmingham, Auné is powered by Jamil, one intern, and the printer she contracts to turn her prints into the brand’s signature mesh fabrics. Not unlike her named inspirations, primarily Mugler and Gaultier, her collections conjure a magic that rests firmly on the shape of the person wearing it. The brand’s website estimates a five to six week wait time to receive a custom piece, giving time for Jamil to order the fabric from the printers then measure and cut it before stitching it to size. She notes that the pandemic has made people in general more patient, and in turn, willing to wait the necessary time to get their custom piece in the mail.
“We make the patterns specifically for each person as well. Most people probably buy the smaller sizes, but, for example, I just sent out an order today for someone that's a U.S. size 26. So you still have to adapt the pattern to fit that person's shape. Also, if I send it and it's wrong, I'll try to make sure that I get it right. I'll tell them, ‘Send it back.’ And I'll fix it until I get it right for them.”
This year Auné released its second collection titled Acid Lust, featuring psychedelic prints of flowers and sculptures with the saturation turned up high, creating the illusion of neon lights blurring together at the speed of light. Across some pieces, words float in a serifed font: AMAZONIA, SEROTONIN, MAGNETIC, ECSTASY. And that is exactly what it feels like to the eye: The come up on MDMA or LSD in a colorful world made purely of light. Like falling in love or, perhaps more accurately, lust. What begins as an abstraction of color and shape slowly reveals something concrete: A petal here, leaves there, a mouth, a face, a word, a feeling.
“I really wanted to make it quite impactful and bold," she said. "Because, like myself, I wear a lot of black. I felt this was a way of showing another side of my personality and feeling more confident in myself as well. So it was a very personal collection."
Toward the end of our conversation Jamil expresses a certain, though familiar, frustration of having hit a wall, feeling low on inspiration, high on the pressure to perform, to produce, and a sense of estrangement from the rest of the industry in London. In searching for the path forward, she returns to her foundation: Collaboration, community, and slow, inclusive clothes. She looks ahead to more collaborations with Shygirl—the first artist she saw perform in one of her designs—who she posits as an emblem of what she aims to create (cool, impactful, unique). She hopes to inspire her intern, and push them to find and follow their own creative journey. And until that new wave of inspiration makes landfall, she searches for it in women’s welding workshops, photography, and her friends’ work. Seasonless, like her collections, Jamil will make her next move when she feels like it.
“That’s the difficult bit. It's not just getting big or successful. It's maintaining it. The true test is actually being a brand that can survive for 50 years, because it's so hard," she said. "You always have to try and keep relevant or somehow just stay true to what you do. I think that what's worked for me, realizing not to look around at what other people are doing and just focusing on if I have customers, focusing on what they like, and just being true to yourself.”