This season, we are seeing an emerging trend that is good not only for the runway, but also for the environment. And designers like Ashlynn Park, the creative eye behind the brand ASHLYN, are creating collections rooted in sustainability.
As a child growing up in South Korea, Park always assumed she’d be an architect, even choosing it as her major in college. “But during my first summer break, I took fashion illustration lessons,” she recalls. “I even submitted my designs to a fashion contest run by the Korea industrial minister — and I won. After that, I changed my major to fashion design.”
Since then, Park has worked for notable designers like San Francisco native Alexander Wang and Raf Simons. And while those experiences were instrumental in her career — and sparked a move to New York — it was her very first job as fashion designer and pattern maker for Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto that inspired her to start her own brand and be conscientious while doing so. “Yohji instilled in me a sense of pride and commitment to design quality that would counter a world where overproduction and overconsumption in fashion have become the norm,” Park says.
Then COVID hit, and she was left designing for a collection during difficult circumstances. “It was a time of serious pause, reflection and rebirth,” Park shares. “So I challenged myself to reevaluate my role as a designer. How could I change the fashion system to reduce its adverse impact on the environment?” Park discovered just how much fashion impacts the environment. “The latest research reports that fashion production is responsible for 10 percent of humanity’s carbon emissions,” she notes. “It dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams. When discarded, 85 percent of all textiles end up in landfills or are burned annually. Even washing garments, specifically those made of synthetic fibers, can release microplastics into the ocean with each cycle. With our planet and lives at stake, I wanted to take on the challenges of navigating ethical production and slowing down the fashion cycle — all while bringing beautiful designs to life.”
With this firm commitment, she creates collections where items are preordered and never mass-produced. All the materials are responsibly sourced, mostly from Japan, and garments are ethically made by hand in New York City. And she offers bespoke tailoring.
Her fall collection, which is titled “Hibernation,” embraces the unexpected. Traditional silhouettes are reworked to mirror the lines of change. Mannish deconstructed tailoring is juxtaposed with plush voluminous shapes and minimal knitwear dresses. Park plays with billowing silhouettes in contrasting hues of black, white and cardinal red — a color signaling her resilience. Crepe suit jackets are enclosed with elongated ties and bondage straps and paired with cotton poplin shirts that explore unexpected folds. Gowns expose whimsical back cut-outs and an air-dried cotton skirt plays with double-layered pleats. “All my pieces are constructed to last, and it is my intention for each collection to bypass trends and be worn season after season,” the designer says.
As for spring 2022, Park is exploring transparency in construction while continuing to focus on building a sustainable brand and passing on what she learns to anyone who will listen. “Yohji always had a great respect for the incredible artistry he put into his work, the attention to every detail and the focus on perfecting the interior construction of the garment,” she says. “I will continue to work in this way and share this technique with my team and the future generations of designers.”