Q&A with designer, Ashley Rowe, on the journey to creating a clothing line.
How long have you loved fashion?
I knew 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 shopped in the mens department a lot; I have always had more of an androgynous style, which I think influences what I design now.
Where did you first get into the fashion industry?
I grew up in Toronto where I felt a close community in a big city. There’s a great art scene there, great food… it’s a really cool city. In Toronto I worked at various fashion companies and actually created my first small clothing line while living there.
What’s the story behind your first clothing line?
I was working at a high end department store and I couldn’t afford the brands that I felt like 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 a girl who made patterns for me and I ended up deciding to sell what I had designed. This first line was really high end. It was menswear inspired, I used all kinds of great silks and 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 a great energy here. It is affordable to live here, it feels good, and it seemed like a 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 really wanted to learn how to sew. It took me about two years to figure it out and rework patterns from my first line that I designed in Toronto 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. I found it all very technical, and it just really didn’t inspire me at all. Going through that process of teaching myself such a highly technical skill is why I want to teach other people how to sew - I try to share my experience with others through my at-home sewing kits and hopefully some tutorial videos are coming soon!
What opportunities in Marfa allowed you to expand your brand?
It really 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 really 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 sell 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?
I have always known I wanted my clothes to be one size fits all because it’s really just how I dress - I’ve always worn a lot of men’s clothing and oversized pieces; I like simplicity in my collections. Having six pieces that are all one size helps me appeal to every body.
I am pretty consistent in the materials I use. Canvas was my first love; My earlier collections were all in canvas. I was staying in this trailer that I owned for the weekend looking at fabric online, and I came across this really sick denim. I actually spent my rent money on this denim, and my pieces ended up looking really 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 clothes as my medium while other artists may use paint, metal, etc.