How long have you loved fashion?
I knew that I wanted to be a designer when I was thirteen years old. I loved clothes and spent all of my money on them growing up. I frequented the men's department; I have always had more of an androgynous style, which influenced my current designs.
Where did you first get into the fashion industry?
I grew up in Toronto, where I was lucky to feel part of a close community in a big city. There’s a great art scene there and great food. It’s a cool city. I worked at various fashion companies in Toronto and created my first small clothing line while living there.
What’s the story behind your first clothing line?
At the time, I worked at a high-end department store, and I couldn’t afford the brands that I felt I needed to wear at work. I put an ad on Craigslist in search of someone to help me make clothes for myself. I found someone who made patterns for me, and I loved them so much that I wound up selling what I had designed. It was menswear-inspired and less casual than my pieces now; I used all kinds of silks and just generally beautiful fabrics, and everything was lined. My designs began to evolve, and the last collection I designed in Toronto became the base for my clothing line now.
You’re from Toronto, how did you end up living in Marfa, TX?
I was 29 and on a road trip, thinking I was going to move to Los Angeles. I drove through Marfa, and I just felt great energy there. It's affordable to live there, it feels good, and it seemed like the perfect place to take some time to figure out how I could do this! I started with a residency program and then moved into a tiny studio where I finally developed my first six-piece collection.
You had someone doing the sewing and pattern making for you on your first line, how did you get into doing it all yourself?
When I moved to Marfa, I wanted to learn how to sew. It took me about two years to figure it out and rework patterns from my first line into what would be my new line.
Was it challenging, teaching yourself how to make clothes?
Sewing has always been challenging for me. My mom taught me how to sew when I was about thirteen, and I took a few lessons in my twenties, but it never really stuck with me. The process of retraining myself on such a technical skill inspired me to want to teach others how to sew—that's the idea behind my at-home sewing kits. I hope to have some tutorial videos soon, too!
What opportunities in Marfa allowed you to expand your brand?
It all started when a retailer in Marfa called Freda wanted me to do a trunk show for them. I made thirty pieces for the show and felt that it was a great turnout. I was so excited about this opportunity, because I thought the other brands sold at Freda were so cool.
After that first trunk show, what was next for Ashley Rowe?
An agent from New York reached out to me, and I started selling my line at Need Supply where we sold out after a week. My agent at the time started to drive cross-country to take my samples to stores all over the place. Eventually I started selling internationally as well. It was a really big deal to me to have my clothes in stores like Selfridges, Totokaelo, Beams, and Tenoversix, stores that I have always loved to shop at and are all at the forefront of fashion.
What is the inspiration behind your designs?
A lot of my inspiration comes from color. I tend to lean toward more minimal shapes and silhouettes that feature vibrant, monochromatic color schemes.
Tell me about your obsession with monochrome.
My monochromatic collections are inspired by my mother’s monochromatic lifestyle—she has all colors but wears one color at a time.
What inspires you to make your pieces in one size?
It was a natural decision for me. I wanted my clothes to be one size fits all because it’s just how I dress—I’ve always worn oversized pieces; I like simplicity in my collections.
I am pretty consistent in the materials I use. Canvas was my first love; my earlier collections were all in canvas. I became interested in working with denim while staying in my old trailer for a weekend and looking at fabric online—I came across this sick denim. I spent my rent money on this denim, and my pieces ended up looking good in that too.
What is your design philosophy?
I look at all of the clothing as art. I perceive myself as more of an artist than a fashion designer—I use fabric as my medium while other artists use paint, metal, etc.