Recently, Lisa, Barbara, and I had the opportunity to visit Cynthia Ashby in her studio near Chicago. Though we were sure it would be a great trip, we were not prepared for the incredible experience that awaited us on an otherwise normal Wednesday.
We arrived at a city-block-sized building that had been a factory of some sort in a previous life. Cassy, who works with Cynthia, greeted us at the door and started to show us around. She explained that the building’s current owner recently saved it from being torn down and is now turning it into artist studios and event spaces. She brought us into an impressive room that preserved the building’s personality with exposed brick walls, the original freight elevator, vintage factory relics used as decorative objects, and a row of tall factory windows filling the space with natural light. There was also an atrium filled with plants tended to by the building’s tenants—a beautiful and peaceful place to clear your mind. The entire space was inspiring and left us awestruck.
After we were sufficiently inspired by the building itself, Cassy led us to Ashby’s studio space, which contained a rack of new apparel creations, walls of exquisite photos and ads for Ashby’s clothing line, and all of the work space that you’d expect to find in a studio. It was a quaint but well thought-out space. And, of course, everyone there was wearing at least one of Ashby’s designs.
Most of Ashby’s pieces are garment dyed. That means that each garment is sewn together first and the entire piece is then dyed as a whole. This is not a common process in the fashion industry because it takes more time and effort. The color depth and texture found in Ashby’s clothing are a testament to this technique—the kind of details that can only be created in small batches by a talented designer.