words JENNIFER PERUSEK | photography DEOGRACIAS LERMA | photography assistant SARAH COCHRAN

Through her eponymous fashion line, Asha Ama Daniels creates designs for the woman who defies limitations. In a beautiful sense of symmetry, those same words, “woman who defies limitations,” perfectly describe the designer herself.

Asha Daniels grew up blessed, she says, in the urban Cincinnati neighborhood of Avondale, in a household with her mother, father, and sister. She proudly speaks of her creative parents who “break the mold” and don’t necessarily think the way that society wants people to think. Her father, a bus driver by trade, could make anything that he set his mind to, and her mother had amazing sewing skills. As a family, they collaborated on many projects. Asha fondly recalls the Queen-Nefertiti-inspired First Holy Communion ensemble that they created for her special day.

In high school, Asha considered a career in either medicine or law, stating that she didn’t think that fashion design was a viable path because she “never saw women who looked like me as fashion designers.” At the encouragement of her design teacher, Alison Probst, she reconsidered and chose to pursue a career in fashion, studying at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, also known as DAAP.

During her years in the highly regarded program, Asha completed two co-op tours with the world-renowned high-fashion house Marchesa interning at the brand’s New York City atelier. Asha recalls the time her supervisor handed her a picture of a flower for inspiration. Allowing the image of the flower to guide her vision, she draped a skirt, a skirt that was later shown to lead designer, Georgina Chapman. Impressed by the design, Chapman took on Asha as her unofficial intern. Asha continued to work on pieces for the brand, several of which were shown on the runway. Moreover, the original floral creation that Asha had imagined into existence became the centerpiece of Marchesa’s bridal collection.

Asha accepted every challenge presented to her during her schooling as an opportunity to define the type of designer she wanted to become. “I was tested,” Asha explains. “I doubted myself for a second, and then I pushed through. I realized that this is exactly what God put me on this earth to do. God is my biggest inspiration,” she explained, adding that she admires the world’s beauty and how well it is designed. “There’s no way the world we live in is an accident.” In a testament to this overarching belief, Asha explored the beautiful yet dangerous animals that inhabit the earth in her senior thesis, “Fearful Symmetry.”

A true test of character came packaged in Lifetime’s Under the Gunn with Project Runway’s Tim Gunn. Asha finished in the final three. She credits her mentor, Mondo, as being a vital component in her accomplishment. “He helped push me to a level where I was uncomfortable, which is where I find I have the most growth.” It was during that time that she learned to make daring statements with prints. Her finale collection, described as “if Queen Nefertiti was reincarnated and living in Harlem,” married her newly honed skills with her go-to aesthetic and monochromatic color schemes, with emphasis on one strong design element.

Asha often contemplates the lessons she was taught as a child and regards them as crucial to her success. “One of the greatest gifts my parents gave to me was the naiveté to believe I could do whatever I wanted to do. There’s such a beauty in not knowing the limits that you have.” She translates that central idea into her design process by visualizing her creations first and then working backwards in her mind to the initial steps.

The basis for Asha’s newest collection for Fall 2015 was inspired by the Afropunk movement and her desire to showcase this under-discussed subculture to a greater audience. The collection features a balance of hard and soft elements— exoskeletons of leather paired with soft silhouettes in the form of draping and maxi skirts. Jewelry designed by her collaborator, Julietta, enhances the feel of the collection.

“My woman is a tough woman,” says Asha of the woman she designs for. “She’s not afraid to speak her mind, but at the same time, she knows when she can let her presence do the speaking.” One could easily think that Asha is speaking of herself.




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