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LA-based designer Ashton Michael grew up as a child model and actor (but don't tell him we told you that) and started sewing in sixth grade. Out of boredom, he started college while he was still in high school and still lacking excitement, started dancing in hip-hop groups. After deciding they would need costumes, so he might as well make them, the designer found his calling. "This is what I love," Michael said of that epiphany. "There is something about the mathematics of clothing that I really love." With that, he enrolled in FIDM's Apparel Manufacturing program and got right to it.
While enrolled in the DTLA design school, Michael started the line Glaza with three other people but after much success in stores, the partnership eventually fizzled out and he wasn't sure what his next step would be. He began working with music's finest, styling and making customs for clients such as Chris Brown, Usher and The Black Eyed Peas which really led him to designing full collections, "I was making all this and then seeing people put it in collections," the designer said of starting his line. "Not saying I pioneered this because that's bullshit, I would never say that, but there's a similarity very soon after someone sees it on a celebrity, 'Let's put that in a collection.' I got frustrated with that."
Seven years later, Michael now designs two collections a year for a line he calls "wearable, street, edgy." Although the Ashton Michael brand is primarily menswear, he does design a handful of empowering pieces for women, "It's how I would dress if I were a women," he explains. "There's something careless about it." The line is all about leather with cashmeres and wools for the winter and silk georgette for spring. He has a very hands-on, go-big-or-go-home approach to his process. Balancing his celebrity jobs, which pay the bills, Michael designed his 85-piece fall 2013 collection in 30 days and had the city close down his block for his last fashion show. "We built a runway in the street," he laughed. "So they would say 'Ashton Michael shut it down, literally.'"
We sat down with the designer who is super busy with celebrity dressing and his Fall 2014 collection at the moment. Over cleansing juices we found out the best advice he was ever given, how he unwinds after a long day and what he would do if life ever handed him lemons.
What are you drinking today?
"A cleansing tonic, carrot, apple, beet, ginger."
Dark or Light?
What's your go-to after a hard day?
"It's definitely a drink. That happens around 4pm, hard day or not. A good scotch, a cigarette, a steak and I'm happy."
What is the best advice you've gotten?
"From my dad, 'Don't work too hard to not stop and smell the roses.' It's very simple, it's very silly, but it made me realize that I'm doing so much and accomplishing so much and never appreciating it. Now, every time I'm stressed out I just pull back, take a few breaths and smell the roses."
Beauty or Brains?
"Common sense! Can I get an Option C?"
What song did you listen to on the way here?
"'Back to life, back to reality.' That shit is my jam."
Designer or Thrift?
What's your favorite fast food?
"There's a place downtown called Farmer Boys, it's not so fast but it does have a drive-through. So really it's slow food but you don't have to get out of your car."
Staycation or Vacation?
Anything you're saving up for?
"I thought I was saving for my life then it's like, 'Oh, where's all my money?' I'm saving for my parents, they're almost 70 and my dad still works, I want to take care of them."
Biggest pet peeve?
What's your go-to last minute gift?
"I am the worst at that! An American Express card? You can get whatever you want. No, that's so tacky. It's always a bottle of wine, that's the safest."
Who is the last person you went to a nice dinner with?
"My boyfriend Felix. He's a chef so he took us to a pop-up dinner from New York that was in town."
What's one thing you wish you would have known then that I know now?
"To not be afraid of who you are and everything that encompasses. I think everyone has underlying fears of self-imagery and self-worth and especially nowadays it's become a lot better with support groups for gays and whatnot, but I remember being young and being very confident in everything I did but still feeling like an outsider and not really having an outlet. So just to have self-confidence and security as a kid."
Cats or Dogs?
What has been your proudest career moment?
"I think there's been a few that have been amazing but the stuff I did for Usher at the Superbowl and being on the field for that was like 'Holy shit, everyone on the planet is watching this right now.' The energy of the entire stadium was overwhelming, super emotional-like, 'my dad's jealous of me right now.' It was kind of surreal."
When life hands you lemons…
"Throw them at someone who's pissing you off."
What's one thing that will never get old to you?
"You won't be able to publish it…"
· Ashton Michael [Official Site]
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