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.
Of course, we were actually visiting the studio to preview new designs for the fall season, and it was time to get to work. Cynthia started pulling garments off the rack. Each piece had that signature Ashby flair, yet each one was different. Some pieces relied on layers to give them dimension. Others had custom dying techniques to give them personality. There were familiar silhouettes that we know and love from Cynthia, plus new shapes and silhouettes for the fall season.
There are so many incredible designs, it’s difficult to choose which ones to bring to our customers! Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make those decisions. It was a treat to experience the creative back-and-forth between Cynthia, Lisa, and Barbara as Cynthia shared her designs and we discussed her thought process for each one.
We had a fabulous time spending the day with Cynthia and her team. As always, the time was much too short. It’s an honor to be able to visit such a talented designer in her studio and to experience her energy and excitement for the work she does. Thank you to Cynthia and her team for letting us spend the day in their studio!