The Rapidian

Fashion designer creates clothes for expressive people of all kinds

Ashley Triệu, designer of Iconoclasp, creates colorful ready-to-wear clothing for creative tastes in her small apartment home.

"One of my favorite words is "iconoclast," says Ashley Triệu, designer of the year-and-a-half-old Iconoclasp

"I would define it as someone who goes against the grain and feels comfortable breaking outside of societal norms," she says. 

"I wanted the kinds of people that levitate towards my clothes to be kind of inconoclastic. I added the "clasp" to give it that clothing twist. But really I liked what the word stood for and that's who I feel I'm making clothes for."

Triệu's designs started out as "upcycled or restructured vintage" but have gradually become purely handmade.

"Right now I've really gotten into making my own handmade clothes," she says. "Its completely handmade; I just find the fabric."

Not only is she bravely exploring a new art form, her aesthetic is bold. She describes it as "eclectic." She draws inspiration from vintage fashion, particularly 60's psychedelic, mod and the 20's flapper.

"I can appreciate all different styles. I feel like even in my own day-to-day style I go from being hippie to punk to urban," says Triệu. "My style is very retro and it's kind of out there. I think people around here can appreciate it but I'm not sure it's something they'd actually wear."

Her unique taste in clothes is what eventually led her to sew, besides providing her with a job during school.

"That's the reason why I started sewing my own clothes: because I would go to the mall and if I was looking for something really unique I could never be happy with what I'm finding with the stores around here. I wasn't finding the stuff I wanted so I thought, 'if I can't find it then there must be a demand for that, too, elsewhere.' That's why I like vintage, too, because things are more handmade and made carefully and it was more about quality but now it is more about quantity," she says.

Now she is even harder to impress. Working as a designer has made her appreciate fine craftsmanship in an item of clothing.

"I've been able to really appreciate certain pieces. Like 'wow, the craftsmanship of this is amazing, the design is amazing' because I know what goes into it now. I feel like I have a higher appreciation of fashion, too. It's not just aesthetic value but more about what goes into it," she says.

She finds items of clothing she likes in a variety of places but mostly, she says, in Salvation Army. She also occasionally finds fabrics there for her designs. 

Her discoveries have led her to strongly believe in the artform of fashion.

"There's so many options, different fabrics, different textures and different kinds of colors. If you take that piece of fabric and give it to five different designers they might come up with five completely different things," she says. "I think it's an art form because the person, depending on their skill, molds it into something else. In its true form it's really expressive of the person that created it and that's what makes it into an art form."

Triệu is one of the few fashion designers in Grand Rapids. All of her items are sold at her online Etsy store. She has currently made approximately 400 sales on her Etsy site, but only two of those sales were made in Michigan. The rest of her sales are made in places like the United Kingdom, New York, California and Chicago. Her prices, she says, are very affordable in comparison to other Etsy vendors.

She hopes to get into high fashion, but is currently focusing on what makes money right now.

"I'm more of a designer than a seamstress," says Triệu. "Right now it's more economical for me to do all of it." She does all of her work herself in her two-bedroom apartment that she shares with a roommate.

She recently participated in her first fashion show in Kalamazoo. For the show, she ordered vintage kimono silks and restructured them into several different dresses. She is working on a lookbook of her best designs to gain the attention of the New York fashion world.

Several have suggested that Triệu open up a storefront.

"I think even from the business standpoint, all of the costs in having an actual store compared with an online store and with the people I can reach that way - it just doesn't make sense for me to do that. Eventually I would love to design things and maybe own a factory where textiles are made and another factory where the clothing is made. I would really love to give people a really great place to work and have a really cool working environment. That's really important to me as well. That's something I see in my future, not the storefront."

The online storefront of Etsy and social networks are working really well, she says. She believes she still has to work on how to market herself.

"As an artist, I don't want to sell it," she says. "I want someone to be inspired by it. I want people to gravitate towards it naturally. It shouldn't be a forced thing."

Recently a red carpet reporter contacted her over Instagram about a photo she took of some skinny ties she made. He asked her if he could have one.

"I had a girl from Nickelodeon write me and ask 'can you make me something for my photoshoot?' shares Triệu. “It's crazy ‘cause I haven't done much to promote myself as I should. These opportunities have been popping up, and I'm like 'online is the way to go!'"

Besides the rich and famous, Triệu is often contacted to accommodate people who can't find clothes in their size or who have bad reactions to dyes in cheaply made clothing.

With all this demand for her clothes, Triệu is very busy.

"I stay up really late. I'll be up [until] between 4 and 7 a.m. working," she says. "When I get up I will pack the orders I got then ship them.”

Triệu says she still loves what she does. She is passionate about the more hidden connotations in clothes.

"It is expressive and shows your personality,” she says. “It's not just an aesthetic thing.”

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.