For the past three years, Ashton Keys has worked on designing and building his own clothing brand, Ninety6, the name of which comes from the year he was born and from his love of fashion and entrepreneurial mindset. This passion recently led the Experience Architecture junior to travel across the Atlantic to showcase his work during Paris Fashion Week in Paris, France.
“The experience I had in Paris was amazing but also a lot of work,” Keys said.
Keys and his team arrived about six hours before the show to set up, fit the models, then practice walk throughs with music and attire, all the while working around language barriers and using an interpreter to communicate with coordinators at the venue. After the show, there was a press run with various interviews, photo ops, and business conversations with manufacturers.
“I had a lot of interest in some of my pieces so I learned what products of mine would work best globally comparatively to those that are successful in the U.S.,” Keys said. “It was a crazy weekend to say the least.”
The Catwalk to Paris
A native of Detroit, Keys chose to further his education at MSU because he wanted to study at a premier institution that would give him the opportunity to grow.
“MSU attracts individuals from all over the world and has allowed me to learn from different perspectives and has helped me see with a global perspective,” he said.
As an Experience Architecture major with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Keys has taken his two interests to cultivate something that’s never been done before. Using the resources through The Hatch, MSU’s start-up incubator on campus, he was provided the resources needed to turn a great idea into a business.
Through The Hatch, Keys also was connected to The Runway, a new fashion incubator in Lansing. From there, The Runway connected him to industry professionals.
This past December, Keys was invited to be a part of an Art Basel emerging designer showcase hosted by the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. There, he showcased his Fall/Winter ‘17 collection, which received rave reviews. It was this event that lead him to be invited to showcase his collection at Paris Fashion Week as an emerging U.S. designer.
Connecting XA with Fashion
People often ask Keys how his Experience Architecture major relates to fashion, and he believes they go hand-in-hand.
“I use so many design principles learned from my coursework in my business,” he said. “It’s more than just someone liking a product and then purchasing it. You have to create the story behind your brand and the content that you put out. Whether it’s a pop up experience or an ecommerce site, XA helps me craft those experiences for my users.”
From the products, to the webpage, to the fashion shows, Keys goes through the same design steps.
“I create a paper sketch mock-up, then I move into a high-res mock-up, then create a sample, test, and iterate,” he said. “XA helps me think of my brand as a start-up rather than only focus on creating the product. I have the tools for the whole process to scale and be a UX team of one until I have the opportunity to bring a team along.”