Interview with Ashton Michael – Archive Issue III
November 21, 2014
I pay a visit to the brilliant Ashton Hirota. His brand Ashton Michael LA has rightly reached a coveted cult status, both in Los Angeles and worldwide and his styling career has earned him a reputation respected highly by some of the world’s biggest superstars.
I stop by his Hollywood headquarters, an unlikely setting for his darkly creative lair. A monochromatic space, sharp mirrors and organised racks, at first it appears pristine, with a serene ethereal energy. But look closely and subtle touches of the macabre start to appear everywhere. His coffee table books are major indicators of his dark and complex mind such as ‘The Bone House’ by Joel-Peter Witkin – an erotic and deeply twisted collection of photographs, documenting themes of death, corpses and deformity.
An ominous baby’s head candleholder casually sits upon his desk, whilst a deep sensuous aroma shatters the angelic atmosphere into pieces. Born and bread in LA, we start by discussing his viewpoint on living in the city where thousands of people set up residence each year, in the hopes of finding success. Ashton explains –
“Everyone comes to LA chasing a dream, yet people who are from here, we’ve realized the dream, we’ve been through it, this is our lives, whether it’s a dark aesthetic or not, its our aesthetic.”
Just like most designers his creative journey has taken many twists and turns over the 14 years of his successful career. Ashton has always stayed true to his attention to detailed and a methodical approach to tailoring. We go on to discuss how he has finally reached his faultless and definable aesthetic on which he spent years perfecting –
“I told myself – No! You’re a little bit gothy, your chic, you make staple pieces, you have created this identity that is timeless, whether its street Goth, urban Goth, black tie Goth, Its Goth, and Goth can be anything, and it’s a beautiful circumference that’s saying – I like to make moody clothes because that is what’s impactful.”
When it comes to impact, Ashton hits hard. As well as his successful and on going styling career, he has singlehandedly directed and cast every one of his shows, built up a loyal following and now has a number of international stockists growing season by season. Not one for labels or boxes, a snapshot of the models cast for his last collection ‘Black Heart’ showcases just this, an unruly yet perfectly harmonious miss-match of burly bears, striking albinos and Stylenoir’s favourite Rick Genest (Zombie Boy)
Ashton himself is a walking portrait of his deeply creative and dark tinted mind, covered in intricate tattoos and religiously all in black, his sarcastic yet realist outlook on life is refreshing and stimulating. As we go on to discuss his mantras and creative ethos, we explore the subculture of Goth and his interpretations and observations over the years –
“People are afraid to tap into their dark side I think – so they tip toe in, then once they realiSe – this is amazing, and not depressing they realise Goth is a way of life but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing – its real life.”
This insert portrays perfectly how Ashton’s involvement in the darker way of life is as much a part of him as the black markings, which cover his body. It is just this – a way of life, not a fashion, or a trend – it’s a lifestyle. As if knowing the very answers I was searching for, Ashton proclaims –
“Everyone here is depressed as shit, you know who’s happy here? Tourists”
If anyone would know the emotional deepness of LA it would be Ashton. Just like Jonny from Skingraft their rose tinted glasses are stained black, they see what I suspect a lot of Los Angeles natives choose not to. Yet seeing this depression only spurs Ashton on creatively as he explains –
“As much as people don’t want to admit that they are depressed and manic, fashion is always more popular when its manic.”
Of course its impossible to talk to Ashton without talking about leather, the skeleton of his brand, yet passionately he shouts ‘Leather is not Goth, Leather is leather’ both our eyes roll intensely at the sheer mention of a certain popular rapper and his overuse of leather in his own portrayal of a relatively new sub division of Goth ‘Urban Goth’ –
“I love the fact that there is an urban Goth movement and yet no one is educated enough to understand it”
It is clear that Ashton’s well though out opinions are not only founded in experience but a deep routed understanding of his surroundings and his skill to seamlessly sail between the alternative and the mainstream.
My eyes roam the monochrome collection, one particular piece instantly grabs my attention – Ashton caresses his artwork and explains –
“This is the’ Heartness’ – from my collection Black heart – a black harness that creates the pentagon of the heart when worn on the chest”
In this once single piece Ashton executes his entire ethos and brand message perfectly: its emotional, its passionate, its though provoking and its dark.
As we continue to sip our G&Ts we talk the future. Having shut down an entire Hollywood street to showcase his FW13 collection, I can only dream of where this is headed. Ashton exclusively reveals that London is the next city to concur, given his coveted following, I can foresee London welcoming him into our polluted hands and cold dark hearts. Watch this space.