With creativity, femininity, and warmth in her soul, Ashaka Givens started out giving a gift to THE Erykah Badu years ago … and she’s been giving to all us since. But before we get into the dress that made musical history and Ashaka’s career, let’s go back to her first runway show in – that’s right … highschool.

Like many teenagers, Ashaka and her friends “loved fashion and looking fly.” While other kids whined to their parents about buying them the latest trends, Ashaka channeled her ingenuity and resourcefulness.  She learned how to style and cut clothes, and after seeing that there was no real outlet for her and her friends to express themselves – well, she created that too. Ashaka recalls that first fashion show:

“I cast friends that could give a good runway walk and had a presence… Add a few rehearsals, some music and a venue with the right backdrop and voilà. You’ve basically have the makings of a fashion show.”

She makes it all sound so simple. But don’t be fooled, A LOT goes into Ashaka’s creative process.  Fast forward from highschool to her presently flourishing fashion career, Ashaka is all about the feminine experience in her designs.  She begins typically by evaluating her materials because “that truly dictates what a garment or accessory can and can’t do.” From there, it’s a tapestry of inspiration as Ashaka – sometimes literally – weaves in elements from a “particular culture, time period,  (personal) travels, fantasy, reality … whatever it is that feels necessary to voice via the vehicle of fashion at the moment.”

Then she moves on to “loads of music, sketching, researching and draping – which is basically playing with the fabrications and seeing what they can actually do on the body.”

“From there it’s construction, tweaking, and editing until I get that indescribable feeling when I know a design is complete.”

Indescribable is right! It’s no wonder Erykah Badu took notice in 1997 when her iconic album Baduizm was released. Ashaka had an advanced copy weeks before it officially dropped and describes the musical landscape at the time as “in a drought for sounds like Baduizm. There was just nothing like it. It was fresh, witty, so sophisticated and fly all coming from this gorgeous green eyed Goddess.”

Badu’s artistic vision and vocals took hold of Ashaka and so began a collab that would last for years. Ashaka knew she just “had to design something for (Badu) as a ‘thank you’ for giving us all such a nourishing gift.” She goes on to recount the story:

“My friend, Lorraine West, was doing an illustration of her so I asked if she would please pass on a ‘thank you’ note that I had written, a photo of the dress I created for her, and my business card. Erykah called me the next day at 2AM asking ‘where is my dress!!??’ (laughs) and invited me to come on a photo shoot that weekend for Paper Magazine. That was our first time working together.  About a month later, when the album officially dropped, she asked me to go on tour with her. I quit my job as a menswear designer and we’ve been working together ever since.”

Ashaka went on to design for red carpet after red carpet, celebrity after celebrity – Joi, Missy Elliott, actress Annabella Sciorra, just to name a few. But it’s not all glitz and glamour. Despite having an obvious and intense love of fashion, Ashaka admits emphatically that “the industry is not a game at all!” She relies on her strong faith in God to keep her motivated in a business that has a reputation for turning even the most wide-eyed newcomer into a jaded cynic. On her determination:

“… the Creator didn’t put this blessing and purpose within me to just sit there and be affected by outside forces. I do my best to not take things personally and keep my faith that no matter how jaded it may seem at the moment, God’s got me and nothing can stop that. I like to call it ‘Godfidence.’”

Arguably, it may be Ashaka’s beliefs that somehow translate themselves into her goddess-like designs, most notably in her recent bridal collection. Sumptuous fabrics and alluring silhouettes are trademarks of an Ashaka bride. She says she’s “always loved bridal design – the fantasy, the romance…

“…and being able to create something so signature that reflects and makes my brides-to-be feel like love from head to toe. It’s an honor and privilege that I never take lightly.”

While many of us feel most feminine in an Ashaka Givens design, SHE says she feels most feminine when “I’m either holding a baby or when I’m dancing, especially Samba! There’s just something about the feeling of taking flight with your feet and the rhythms of the dance that’s just so divine.”

The future looks bright and well-dressed as expected for Ashaka Givens. She’s got a new collection coming out and will be designing costumes for two indie films this year. For her next business expansion – which she has to stay mum about for now – she’ll be taking us to “the Continent of Africa…The Motherland,” she says.

We’re right there with you, Ashaka – and we can’t wait to see what you’ve got coming down the runway next!

Photo Credit:

Photographer: Odinger Mitchell 
Creative Direction: Jesus Walks
Models: Kimberlyn Parris and Mabel Claye 
MakeUp Artists: Oscar Caballero and Anaya Waters
Earrings: Isii Bags and Anu Rock Metal
All Clothing & Hats by Ashaka Givens
tagged in Ashaka Givens