ASH HOLDEN - INTERVIEW
INTRODUCING - ASH HOLDEN
The cold waves lessen as the spring heat protrudes the atmosphere. The sky, speckled with soft off white pillows floating along with an exaggerated nonchalance as a near by river, meanders delicately over smooth stone. The trees which wore leafless begin to dress themselves with the urgency of an adolescent, as a spattering of newborn blooms delights the human traffic with their fragrance.
As my senses adjust to what spring has so politely offered, I compose this post about one of the most exciting British designers to emerge in recent years.
UNCON: IDENTIFY. ASHLEY WERE YOU A CURIOUS PERSON DURING YOUR YOUTH?
ASH: As a child I was extremely shy, and disconnected from the world around me. Having numerous disabilities and feeling cut off I would lose myself into both fantasy and the natural world around me.
UNCON: IMPRINT. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR INITIAL URGE TO CREATE?
ASH: Creating always came naturally to me from a young age. I would create my own toys, build my own play houses in the back of my garden out of scrap materials, and make my own costumes, to bring to life these fantasy worlds.
UNCON: EMBOSS. FAST FORWARD THE YEARS AND ASH HOLDEN WAS BORN. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
ASH: Ash Holden is my friend and biggest critic, and if anything, is like holding a mirror up to myself. It leaves me feeling vulnerable because each design portrays facets of myself and my imagination. At the same time, it’s exhilarating being able to give birth to the stories and characters in my head, and bringing them to life for the play and enjoyment of others.
UNCON: PINPOINT. YOUR WORK IS ALSO ABOUT A CALM CONNECTION TO THE FABRICS YOU USE. WHAT SHAPES THE SURFACE STUDY OF YOUR WORK?
ASH: The choice of fabric comes from the story we’re trying to tell, the structure and movement they provide the wearer, and the authenticity of their use. We thoroughly research the British textiles industry, and select the fabrics most suitable for the garment. For example moleskin has been manufactured in the UK for centuries and used in outdoor wear, while cambric has been a traditional material for shirting, cuffs and collars since the sixteenth century.
UNCON: BRIGHTON. IT IS YOUR HOME TOWN, COULD YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR LOCAL PRESENCE?
ASH: Ash Holden has a deep connection to the claustrophobic, coastal city of Brighton. Trapped between the brooding sea, and the wild hills of the South Downs, lay the narrow lanes, decaying palace and crumbling hotels of this old Sussex town.
But bursting within is a rebellious community, that throughout history has embraced modernity, pushed the boundaries of arts and culture, and welcomed difference. Acting as a haven for the people who needed escape, Brighton and it's community have always resisted the natural and human barriers that surrounds them through open experimentation, and today is home to thriving creative industries. Ash Holden's roots run deep here, with my experimental designs paying homage to the shadows of old Sussex around them.
UNCON: ASPIRE. WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU, IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR WORK?
ASH: I wish to create a legacy, producing garments and accessories that are not part of a throw away culture, but instead kept, given, inherited, and forgotten. Perhaps to be rediscovered down the generations, locked away in the forgotten trunk of a family attic, or hidden in an alcove.
Timeless pieces where the original story and character of the garment is still depicted through the design, long after my label and the original wearer are lost and forgotten.
UNCON: UNDERPLAY. IN IT'S SOLEMN PURITY, WHAT CAN INSPIRE YOU TO DRAW A NEW PATTERN?
ASH: It’s about telling stories – putting on a play with clothing instead of actors, which you can invite the wearer to become part of the performance. The inspiration itself is drawn from anything. Maybe a striking photo in an old book presents an image that sticks in my mind, or perhaps something else comes to the foreground in a dream. For this collection I was partly influenced by the old concept of upstairs-downstairs. The relationship between aristocrat and worker, the tensions, the passions, all played out in a decaying weather beaten house, crumbling on the coastline of an old English fishing village.
UNCON: EMERGO. ANY NEW CHAPTER NEEDS NEW INPUT, WHAT WOULD YOURS BE?
ASH: I’m already working on the next collection, and it will present a different story and evolution of the brand. Perhaps we’ll work towards something more organic and representative of the natural world, or maybe ethereal and touching upon the spiritual. The act of creation in itself can be chaotic, but it’s when pen is put to paper, and scissors to fabric, that the new idea truly presents itself.
UNCON: AMBITION. NEXT TO DESIGN, DO YOU FIND TIME FOR OTHER INTERESTS AND DEVELOPMENTS?
ASH: I’m always keen to learn and develop new skills. For sometime I’ve been looking into the traditional techniques of millinery, jewellery making and wood work.
When I’m not designing and making, I find myself exploring the hidden places of the Sussex South Downs, or seeking peace in a cottage on the wilds of Exmoor.
UNCON: INSIGHT. CAN YOU GIVE US A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO WHAT IT INVOLVES TO DESIGN AVANT-GARDE FASHION?
ASH: The most exciting and interesting part of avant-garde fashion design is the experimentation. I’ve left wooden clogs and silk dresses hanging in the tree of my garden for weeks. Layered fabrics over a mannequin, tear and cut into them. Hammered, bleached, and burnt silk, wool, and cotton. Every time I wait for the result, and then see how it fits with my vision. Sometimes the effects are beautiful – a chemical reaction in one experiment caused a burnt orange colour to appear over black mole skin. I adored it, and while not practical right now, I’m sure I’ll find a use for it one day.
UNCON: COMPLEXITY. WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THE QUALITIES OF THE COMPLEX PATTERNS COMBINED WITH FUNCTIONALITY? HOW DO YOU INTEND FOR THESE QUALITIES TO EMANATE FROM YOUR WORK?
ASH: Pattern making and the sculpting of a garment does not need to be complex. The simplicity of silhouettes, and the subtleties of small details, can evoke more emotions than complexity.
UNCON: ARTISAN. ORIGINALITY AND AUTHENTICITY ARE IMPORTANT FACTORS IN AN EMERGING LABEL, HOW DO YOU STAY AT THE FOREFRONT OF AVANT-GARDE / ARTISAN FASHION?
ASH: Ash Holden is not trapped by trend nor convention. By creating concepts that stay truthful to my own experiences and imagination, I’m limited by time and practicalities alone.
UNCON: DESIGN. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTIC OF ONE OF YOUR HANDCRAFTED PIECES?
ASH: The originality of the character that is brought to life for the wearer by the combination of garments and accessories.