Asia Irving saw her lane and split the defense. She tells the story of how her ASEYE Studio came to be on the latest edition of “Boardroom Spotlight.”
Asia Irving grew up watching her father, Drederick, play professional basketball overseas, and attending the adolescent games of her older brother, Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. Born from that was a vision to create a universe where fashion and sports culture could co-exist seamlessly — and more specifically, for women to embrace that kind of self-expression.
The result is ASEYE Studio.
“I’ve been around ball my entire life, with my father playing ball, and obviously [my] brother plays ball now,” Asia told Boardroom. “Going to their games and seeing that there was really nothing to wear that I felt comfortable in style-wise, I wanted to create pieces that kind of spoke to that and reflected that.”
But Kyrie wasn’t the only one who could create his own shot. Asia graduated from Temple University with a BS in Accounting in 2013. A few years afterward, she decided to pursue her original idea a step further by earning an arts degree in fashion merchandising from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Thus began a series of peaks and valleys for Asia. She transitioned from a quick foray in finance into the fashion industry, starting as an intern at a couture women’s dress studio. The job introduced a deeper insight into the fashion industry and she began to explore other avenues in search of her niche. She became a wardrobe stylist for designers Reshanda Gray and Jordan McRae.
In 2018, Irving launched her first clothing line called “90s x Purpose,” a nostalgic collection of ’90s-inspired T-shirts marked with notable cartoons. Since then, Irving’s work has matured greatly, incorporating finer fabrics and classic silhouettes into the mix with the launch of ASEYE studio last year. Every capsule collection since its inception has represented the best in knitwear and outerwear, reflecting the intersection of sports and fashion as one. Her designs are eclectic and pull from a range of cultural influences including vintage aesthetics, letterman styles, Black culture, symbolic art references, and her desire for elevation. The pieces are aspirational yet grounded in a ready-to-wear nature, striking the perfect balance Irving has strived to achieve.
“I got to understand why consumers gravitate towards different brands. It was less about the who’s who, and more about the details of the brand,” she explained. “It’s the details that matter the most, whether that comes through messaging, visuals, or how you present yourself. All of those were important to see from a different eye and helped me to grow ASEYE Studio.”
In addition to her fashion designs, Irving has collaborated with Nike on her own shoe, the Kyrie Asia 6. The sleek style has been worn by several NBA and WNBA stars, including Sue Bird.
Now Irving — featured in a number of prestigious publications including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Official, InSyle, and Sports Illustrated — is ready to take ASEYE Studio to the next level. And the unveiling of her and Kyrie’s latest brand, Her Kai and I, will only continue to help her momentum.
In our latest “Boardroom Spotlight,” we visited Asia Irving at her studio to discuss telling stories through fashion, creating ASEYE, celebrating Women’s History Month, tips for selling clothes online, and the biggest lessons she’s learned as a business owner.
NATE LOUIS: What initially sparked your interest in styling and telling stories through fashion?
ASIA IRVING: My interest in styling has always been there since a child. I think I’ve always been a natural observer, whether it was observing my aunts getting ready to go out or styling my friends for talent shows or even creating visuals for my classes in high school. It was a combination of all of those together that really sparked my interest.
NL: How did styling and being a personal shopper prepare you for your own brand with ASEYE?
AI: Being a stylist prepared me to create ASEYE Studio because it allowed me to see brand development from a different point of view. I got to understand why consumers gravitate towards different brands. It was less about the who’s who, and more about the details of the brand. It’s the details that matter the most, whether that comes through messaging, visuals, or how you present yourself. All of those were important to see from a different eye and helped me to grow ASEYE Studio.
NL: What’s your creative process like from when you first get an idea? What’s the usual workflow to completion, from initial designs and sketches to getting samples and then final product?
AI: When I first get an idea, I like to take some sort of physical note of it, whether it’s a light sketch, writing it down or taking a picture.
From there, there’s definitely a lot of revisions. I like to have as many visuals and notes to support that, and then I’ll take those to my pattern-maker and we’ll go and make our first initial sample. After that, if we’re lucky, we can knock it out in two [revisions], sometimes it takes six revisions, but I definitely want to make sure that I continue to invest in it to make sure I get the best quality product I can.
NL: The logo sticks out heavily. How did you arrive at the final logo?
AI: The final logo was hard, but once I saw it and I felt like it was a combination of timelessness mixed with classic elements.
NL: You went to the Fashion Institute of Technology. How do you feel like that’s helped your experience navigating the fashion industry?
AI: Attending FIT was amazing for me because it allowed me to grow my fashion community coming from Temple University and studying accounting and business. That’s kind of like all the connections I had so I felt much more comfortable getting into the industry once I understood the business background of fashion.
NL: It’s Women’s History Month — who are some women that have inspired your journey in fashion and entrepreneurship?
AI: In fashion and entrepreneurship, Rihanna has definitely been the top person in terms of branding herself [firstly], and growing the brands that she’s launched with Fenty and Savage. She’s just a boss woman, so I definitely will continue to look up to her in terms of my own personal journey with entrepreneurship.
NL: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned about running a business since you first started?
AI: Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned with starting my own business is that it’s a lot of work [laughs] and to be patient with myself. Of course, there’s peaks and valleys. And I have to remind myself to celebrate my wins because sometimes I get so down on myself and I’m like, ‘Well this is not where I want to be just yet.’ But I have to remind myself to give grace, be patient, remain hopeful, and strategize to put myself in a better position.
NL: How important is branding yourself and your business in this day and age when social media is the primary marketing tool?
AI: Branding is extremely important for your brand to grow. You definitely need social media for your own personal brand. I wish that I didn’t have to use social media because I feel like it’s too intimate at times and just the perception social media gives. However, it is extremely important because of the reach and visibility that you get. Especially with COVID-19 and the pandemic over the past two years, I’m not able to connect in-person the way I would like to so social media allows me to reach more consumers globally.
NL: Can you name your top 3 practical tips for manufacturing and selling clothes online?
AI: Invest in product photography! Since it is online, customers need to be able to see the quality as best as possible for them to actually see it and touch it.
Styling! To give your product an example of a better way to wear something. I think some people are a little more hesitant when it’s a newer product or it’s something that they haven’t really worn yet, so I think providing examples of how to wear it and styling it.
Just know who your customer is! How you speak to them, how you want them to feel when they wear your product, I think all of that is extremely important.
NL: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs wanting to start a line? How do they find their own style and hone their creative power?
AI: My advice to someone who is trying to hone into their own personal style is to be yourself. Explore.
Trial and error will become your best friend, and you figure out what works and what does not work for you. Always be confident in what you put on and how you present it, whether maybe you didn’t like the shoes you wore, no one else has to know it! Continue to just be confident and for someone starting their own brand, just be patient, ask questions, seek help because we don’t know it all. And it’s important that we ask others and not to be afraid to ask.
NL: What’s next for you?
AI: I hope to have a successful brand in ASEYE Studio and for us to continue to grow and maybe even explore more creative roles. I’m definitely starting to step into more creative direction [roles], and it’s something I’m getting more comfortable with as I work. And learning how to elevate my brand further [is] what’s next for me.