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Local Artist Feature: Ashley Trieu

Contemporary Conversations

Local Artist Feature: Ashley Trieu

Ashley Trieu is the founder of Iconoclasp, a handmade women’s apparel shop based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We interviewed the artist to learn more about her fashion-forward projects.

Outside of fashion she is interested in psychology, music, and retro-gaming.  In her spare time she enjoys reading missed connections and karaoke.

How would you describe your work?

I would describe my work as eclectic but inspired by the past.  I love vintage fashion and although I don’t intend to, many of my designs end up having a hint of a past era.  I try not to limit myself by boxing in my designs or fitting into one aesthetic so it’s a little difficult to define.  Many of my designs are pieces that I wished to have for myself that I was not able to find so my work is very much modeled after my own personal style.  I work primarily with knit fabrics that allow for comfort and ease without forfeiting style.  For the most part my pieces are classic with a twist, I love working with either neutral solids or loud prints.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

That they require a lot of hard work, determination, and dedication.  One of the biggest misconceptions I come across is that this is avoidance of getting a “real job” or some guise for laziness.  This cannot be further from the truth.  I work around the clock and devote primarily all of my waking hours to building my business and skillset.  I am a one woman shop and do my own photography, website building, customer service, social media content, and sewing single handedly and there is very rarely any real time off.  I know that this is a very common story for those in the arts but it is still so commonly misunderstood.

Without a doubt my family.  I have always been motivated by my parents’ and grandparents’ coming to America story and admired their strength and resilience in adjusting to life in a new country.  It has inspired me to work hard not only for myself but as homage to those who made it possible for me.  Through family I was also immersed in Vietnamese culture which is something so valuable and dear to me, it has always given me a strong sense of identity and pride and I cannot imagine myself without it.  It's had a huge impact on my way of thinking, the way I interact, and what is valuable to me.

Do you have a piece of work which stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?

I can’t say that I have a specific work that stands out to me.  I have designs that I am proud of but I still feel like I am capable of more and am always pushing myself to grow and create.  I can say that I really love my work yet am never 100% satisfied.  This feeling does not bother me at all because I feel it inspires me to continue challenging myself.  I actually have this feeling with all of my creative pursuits, not just fashion design.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I plan on designing as much as possible this year.  Last year was largely devoted to filling orders and creating content to grow my social media presence.  This year I want to push my creativity to the max and fill my shop with pieces that I really love.  I think my sewing skills have really grown in the past few years and I finally feel ready to create pieces that have been lingering in my head but I haven’t attempted to execute yet.  I also plan to collaborate with my boyfriend and release some short fashion films that will give life and movement to my pieces.  Since my shops are all online, I want to be more creative in how customers interact with my designs.

What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts?

That they require a lot of hard work, determination, and dedication.  One of the biggest misconceptions I come across is that this is avoidance of getting a “real job” or some guise for laziness.  This cannot be further from the truth.  I work around the clock and devote primarily all of my waking hours to building my business and skillset.  I am a one woman shop and do my own photography, website building, customer service, social media content, and sewing single handedly and there is very rarely any real time off.  I know that this is a very common story for those in the arts but it is still so commonly misunderstood.

How can communities, specifically Grand Rapids, better support the creative workforce?

Make purchases from local creatives, spread the word about their work, give constructive criticisms that will contribute to growth, and attend or invest in events intended to showcase local artists.  I have gone to workshops by Avenue for the Arts and UICA that are geared toward bringing artists together to share information and I have found them to be really helpful, I think more events like would be great for Grand Rapids creatives. 

What are you passionate about besides your work?

I love the field of psychology.  When I started my shop I was graduate school bound with goals of teaching and conducting research in social psychology.  This is still a huge passion of mine that I intend to pursue at some point, but I saw the potential in my shop and decided to see how far I can develop it first.  My specific areas of interest are implicit bias, terror management theory, and research on Asian American populations.  I would love to develop programs for Vietnamese youth to provide social support and other resources.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?

Stay true to yourself and value your work. 

Looking for more? You can find more about the artist here.