Recently, on a beautiful summer evening in Chicago, we had the pleasure of dining with Cynthia Ashby and part of her team to talk about her Fall Trunk Show at Artful Home.
Cynthia Ashby (left) and Barbara
Cynthia has been in business for 23 years — no small feat in the competitive, ever-changing world of apparel. Her success is due to her ability to adapt, continually innovate, and create designs that speak to her customers. Cynthia has been part of the Artful Home family for about 4 1/2 years and was one of the first designers we worked with when we introduced apparel. We felt that her designs were the embodiment of the woman we were trying to reach and that her artisanal approach to producing her clothes spoke to our roots as a company representing artists and their work.
Cynthia Ashby showing fall styles to Artful Home CEO Lisa Bayne.
Cynthia is a fascinating woman. Every time I talk to her, I discover something new – whether we’re ‘talking shop’ or just talking. This time, she advised me on the best boots to buy for farm work in the winter (this is a whole different story). Ashby knows about such things because she lives on a small farmette in Wisconsin, which she shares with her husband and an equine menagerie.
Cynthia Ashby (photo courtesy of Nancy Merkling Photography)
For the Fall Trunk Show, Cynthia designed 28 exclusive, limited edition styles that incorporate her signature combination of sculptural shapes, texturally interesting fabrics, unexpected details, and her poetic use of color – that amazing combination of romance and edginess.
When I asked Cynthia what the starting point was for creating the collection, she said it all started with the fabrics. She has incorporated fabrics that have been waiting for just the right project – textured linens, nubby knits, crinkled wovens, plaids and more. We’re thrilled that she was able to put them to use for our limited time event.
Ashby said that the collection gave her the “opportunity to play – something every designer needs.” She was able to experiment with dyeing techniques, hand painted details and other labor-intensive details that can’t be executed in her regular collections.
One of Cynthia’s favorite experiments employed in the trunk show involves distressed dyeing, in which garments are all hand-dyed, making each piece unique. The technique gives each garment a mottled look, adding even more texture, layers and variance of color.
The silhouettes in the collection are also new, with some favorite styles that she re-invented from past collections in new fabrics, or styles from her archives tweaked a bit from their original iteration.
Two women who have worked closely with Cynthia for years joined us for dinner as well: Cassy (Director of Production) and Kaylee (Director of Sales & Operations). They were able to offer glimpses of what it was like to witness the creation of the collection. According to Kaylee, “It was really great to see what Cynthia can do when not limited by restraints like reproducing an exact color or considering the time and cost of very labor intensive details.”
Cassy offered a different perspective. “It was amazing to see Cynthia so inspired and playing with the designs for the show. I’m just a little sad that these are limited edition styles.” So are we, Cassy. So are we.
l to r: Lisa, Barbara, Cassy, Kaylee, and Cynthia
We’re excited to see what you think! Take a look at the collection here.