In celebration of Black History Month, NYLON is running a spotlight series called UNAPOLOGETIC. Every day, we’ll celebrate different aspects of black culture through profiles, interviews, roundtables, reviews, videos, and op-eds. #Blacklivesmatter and we hold that truth to be self-evident.
Asata Maise is a powerhouse on the rise. At just 23 years old, the Wilmington, Delaware, native has already worked for a major fashion house, traveled the world, and started her own bespoke clothing company Asata Maisé. What started as an innocent attempt to navigate away from a problematic teacher has grown into a full-fledged career of creating signature looks for a host of clients that include members of the band Boytoy and Lockhart Embroidery's Marie Lockhart.
While every piece that Maise creates is one of a kind, there is a common thread in that each article is a clear nod to bygone eras. She finds a way to bring the past to the present, using vintage fabrics and drawing inspiration from classic films, and infuse modernity into each of her hand-drawn and hand-crafted designs. On occasion, Maise creates custom pieces from pre-existing vintage garments, by painting or embellishing over them in some way. Influenced by the bespoke tailoring of London's Saville Row, she has opted to bypass mass production, choosing instead to stick to tradition and take each client's measurements and involve herself in every part of the process, from drawing designs and selecting patterns to hand-sewing buttons and hems.
When asked what inspires her most, she says, "I’m still learning, traveling, and growing spiritually, so many things from my own personal growth and experience. Meeting people, especially women… women inspire me so much. Their stories and our struggles, and black people and our culture and what we've had to go through and that we’ve still managed to do it with style and dignity."
A series of life events, including her recent acceptance into London College of Fashion, have encouraged her to accept that she has a gift and a skill set that had before gone unnoticed, and she is now choosing to design and create full time. You can find Maise's custom-made garments on Instagram. If you'd like contact her and to have your own piece made, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Below, get to know the designer and see some of the looks she designed.
How did you begin as a designer?
It was essentially an accident. I began learning how to construct garments in high school through my school’s elective program. I needed to get out of cooking because I didn't get along with the teacher, and the only available elective was textiles and clothing. Turns out I was actually good at it and really enjoyed it because I was able to work with my hands and be the perfectionist I really am. After my first year of taking the class, I started to participate in local fashion shows.
When did you launch Asata Maisé?
When I was still in high school, I did my first local fashion show. It was was a total disaster; I was so inexperienced, and nothing fit the models, except for one dress that fit a model perfectly. It was so well constructed that after the show people approached me asking me to make them something. I began making things for friends and people that I knew in the city, but with me traveling, I would stop for a while and start back up. While traveling I was influenced by places I went, and going to museums, especially in London, but it was in 2016 that I began to take this seriously. I met Marie Lockhart and began making a lot of custom garments for her, then began dressing the band Boytoy for part of their recent tour. After a lot of soul-searching and other personal things going on, I decided, "You know what? This is what I'm going to do. I'm tired of working for other people."