The dresses of Ashton Miyako Designs are colorful, textured, and fun. But these designs are no lightweights; they have serious character. Much of their thoroughly modern, yet, classic appeal comes from the fact that Miyako uses vintage fabric, much of it pre-'80s.
And since her work is custom-made, her pieces reflect the vibrant personalities of Houston women. Her designs also carry a mature sense of taste. "My dresses are form-fitting garments that work will people's bodies well," she explains. "You don't have to show a ton of skin to be sexy. That's something that I want to promote, that you don't have to be naked to be noticed."
Miyako's fashion sense developed early on. She was born in Kansas and grew up in Alaska, both fashion wastelands. She started small, literally. "I would always get in trouble for cutting up my clothes to make Barbie doll dresses. I would make clothing for my dogs. I did it because I liked it." When her family moved to Santa Cruz, California, she realized that fashion could also be a striking form of self-expression. She began to reconstruct clothing for herself, and became a skilled practitioner of upcycling, or using old material to create new pieces.
In San Francisco she started working as a model at 16, primarily doing runway work. "The more I started to do that, trying on different designer's clothing, I thought, I can do this too," she says. Her designer friends invited her to help with making garments, and from there she started creating and selling her own dresses. Now she's focused on transforming the Houston fashion scene by encouraging consumers to buy one-of-a-kind pieces from local artists. Compare that with buying an expensive bag at a department store. "It's not an entirely exclusive piece," she points out. "Just because it's designer doesn't mean it's going to stand out. The local artists here are fantastic, but it's about getting people to open up a little bit and see what's in their own backyard."
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