During a year when most New York-based businesses took a strong hit and faced the possibility of store closures, opening a storefront may not have been top of mind for many business owners. This was certainly the case for Moya Annece and Ashley Cimone, founders of travel accessory brand Ashya. Or at least that’s what they thought.
“Last year shook the industry to its core, [and] many of our retail partners did not survive the pandemic,” Annece told Travel + Leisure. Despite the obvious hurdles, Annece and Cimone revealed that these changes allowed them to reimagine ways in which they could grow as a young design label, leading them to opening the brand’s first brick-and-mortar store at Industry City in Brooklyn, NY, in March.
“We’re most definitely still learning about who the Ashya customer is and having a shop gives us the unique opportunity to discover more, get one-on-one feedback, and create an intimate touchpoint for our customers,” the NYC-based brand owners said.
The shop is decorated with warm and vibrant colors, wood accents, and a custom oversized raffia-framed mirror in the center of the store. The two owners leaned on a close community of creators to make sure their vision came to life and that their Jamaican and African-American heritage was well represented throughout the store. “The interior features designs by local artists like Lutfi Janania Zablah, a botanical sculptor who created the custom statement mirror installation in our shop; furniture pieces by Raini Home and Brooklyn Navy Yard-based fabricators Skilset; as well as custom-built displays by E-C Designs.”
Aside from the culturally enriched ambiance, shoppers at the Industry City shop can expect an intimate introduction (or re-introduction) to the brand during their private retail experience. This is accompanied with Champagne and a consultation on the many different ways an Ashya bag can be styled. The brand also offers special perks for those who shop with them regularly, including exclusive updates, first dibs on new drops, and invitations to private events.
With the world slowly starting to open up again, the brand’s latest collection is designed with effortless mobility in mind, giving “hope for the possibilities of travel and exploration.” The Passport Bolo (ashya.co, $225), which has been out of stock since last year, is back, along with the designers’ newest addition, the Bolo Bag (ashya.co, $375). The multifunctional Bolo styles are unisex and are available in new colorways as well. Another standout piece from the new collection is the Shema Slingback Bag (ashya.co, $1,295). The Slingback is a crossbody-backpack hybrid that can be worn in multiple ways, as with all of Ashya’s other pieces. The bag can be slung across the body, hoisted over the shoulder, or even converted into a handheld bag carried by the circular top handle. Both Annece and Cimone agree that this style is an easy favorite and a main attraction to many customers who visit the store.
To buy: Shema Slingback Bag, ashya.co, $1,295
As for their drive to make these chic, multifunctional, travel-ready bags, the designers mentioned their community as a constant source of inspiration and motivation behind their creations. They credit people like Bethann Hardison, leader of the CFDA Designers Hub program, and Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem Fashion Row’s Icon 360 fund. Their initiatives provided ongoing support for Black designers through the pandemic and gave young creators such as Annece and Cimone the opportunity to grow as a label.
With countless achievements under their belt (bags) this year, the brand also gushed about their month-long trunk show with online luxury fashion retailer Moda Operandi. “We’ve been wanting to partner with Moda Operandi for sometime now — we’ve always been huge admirers of their curation of designers and trunk show features,” said Annece.
If you see your very own Ashya bag in your future, you’re in luck, since the brand’s Fall/Winter 2021 trunk show with Moda Operandi is still available to shop for a limited time and features upcoming designs, available in exclusive colors and styles. You can also shop Ashya’s bags and accessories on the brand’s website and Shopbop.
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