For slow fashion brand, ASHYA, which designs contemporary unisex travel accessories, 2020 has been a year of adaptation and solidifying its efforts to unify luxury and utility through design. With travel of all kinds indefinitely redefined, ASHYA’s mission and products have only become more intentional.
Co-founder Ashley Cimone recently spoke with Squarespace about building a slow fashion brand, how she and her co-founder are redefining the idea of luxury fashion as Black Jamaican and American designers, and how ASHYA is staying true to its values in the shifting landscape of the pandemic.
SQSP: You co-founded ASHYA in 2017. What motivated you to launch a niche fashion brand?
AC: My Co-Founder and I, although coming from a fashion business background, are creatives at heart. We created ASHYA to fill a void we felt existed within the contemporary design space and honestly design things that we wanted for ourselves and couldn’t find. ASHYA will evolve as a lifestyle brand and is an outlet for our many creative passions — it’s our way of sharing what's in our minds and hearts with the world.
SQSP: The travel and fashion industries have been directly impacted by the pandemic. How have you evolved your business strategy to meet shifting customer needs during this time?
AC: This time, although extremely challenging and unpredictable, has been in ways oddly affirming for us as designers and creatives. We all found out this year how truly volatile the fashion industry is, and how things most thought were so important or necessary, like fashion week, weren’t. It is most definitely a time of reckoning. But ASHYA is a slow fashion brand, producing in small batches and not entirely working off of the traditional fashion calendar, so our business model when it pertains to product hasn’t shifted much. We’ll continue to be conservative and focused, because as we’ve seen this year, excess creates too much volatility and environmental damage.
But outside of product, we’ve just spent time checking in with our community. It’s less a business strategy than it is just our nature. At the height of the pandemic we hosted a virtual wellness series that included yoga, meditation and nutrition classes. We collaborated with friends in the wellness and creative space and really just wanted to create a safe space for folks to talk about how they were feeling and do some much needed collective healing.
SQSP: How do you use storytelling as a way to position your products for customers?
AC: Storytelling for us is a part of our creative expression as artists. We pay homage to the global indigenous and Black communities that raised, nurture and inspire us. We share the stories of these communities as a backdrop to our designs, sometimes there is a direct connection, sometimes there is not, but we want to be clear about where our taste and creative spirit comes from. In building a travel and lifestyle brand, we want ASHYA to help shift the conversation around luxury (as Black Jamaican and American designers) and hope to encourage thoughtful exploration, post-tourist travel, where folks think about their individual impact on the communities they move through when exploring new places. How can we contribute rather than take? How can we honor rather than appropriate? These are questions we’d like to answer through our storytelling, with our products being a physical embodiment of this mindset of thoughtfulness.
SQSP: As the holiday shopping season approaches, what steps are you taking to ready your ecommerce store?
AC: We’ve had a busy summer and are almost sold out entirely at ASHYA.co, so for the holiday season we’ve got a special drop of all new styles and colorways coming to the ecommerce shop. The shop page will be updated in the coming weeks with new features on the home page and special offers to those who sign up to our mailing list.
SQSP: What advice do you have for other ecommerce businesses as they scale?
AC: Be focused. What we’re learning as a mono brand is that less is more, and we’re most successful when honing in on what works well for us. We’re focused on promoting strong, narrow and deep offerings of products that both speak to our unique design language and are responsive to our customers’ feedback.
SQSP: Your brand’s philosophy is clearly outlined on your site. What role does your online presence play in communicating your brand to customers?
AC: Our online presence is our voice as a brand so we use our site as a way to communicate who we are and what matters to us with our community.
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