Cutting Room

Designer Ashley Tyler on architecture and fashion

 “My approach to initiating concept direction always begins with the selection of an architectural image.”

Q. Did you always know you wanted to be a fashion designer?

A. When I was a little girl, I first wanted to be an architect. I was creating drawings of buildings before I ever began sketching clothes. I have always been inspired by architecture, and from a young age had the capacity to understand and the desire to design objects in three dimensions. At my insistence, my mother taught me how to sew when I was only six years old, consequently kicking off my career as a “maker.” But more than anything else, architecture has had a profound influence on me and my work as a fashion designer.

Q. Can you explain the role architecture plays when crafting your vision for a collection?

A. An architectural image creates the foundation of the inspiration for that season’s collection. For instance, the lines and curves of a structure can influence the silhouette and proportion of the garment. In addition, the structural materials and textures, tones, and patterns can also have a profound influence on the fabric, finish, and print direction.

Q. How does the exterior of the home inspire you versus the interior?

A. The exterior is the cornerstone image upon which I build the architecture of the collection, literally from the ground up. It’s like the opening scene of a movie, beginning with an aerial view of the location, and then zooming in to a close-up frame of the home. This sets the tone, and hence, the development of the characters, creating a narrative that makes the product engaging and emotionally compelling. The interior images build the visual mood board. There might be a pop of color from a piece of art on the wall or a piece of furniture that inspires the initial color palette. Even the fundamental architectural materials and interior finishes can set the tone and help to build that palette as well as influence the textures and finishes of the fabric; this includes the hardware and trim on the garment.

Q. What other questions do you ask that assist with your design process? How detailed do you get?

A. Part of my design thinking process includes asking myself the question, ‘What ideal style of architecture would my customer live in, and where would it be located?’ In essence, what are their tastes and values, and how do they live? I believe that the style of architecture is indicative of the lifestyle and aesthetic of the customer. This determines whether their style can be described as a modern minimalist or classical traditionalist–whether their lifestyle is casual and active, or formal and elegant, or both. All of this information helps build the narrative about the customer you’re designing for, and is vital when you’re directing a large design team, each working on different product categories, which, when combined, make up the head-to-toe look.

MH+D is proud to partner with acclaimed architectural photographer Trent Bell on his architecture, design, and photography podcast. To hear Trent Bell’s conversation with Ashley Tyler, please visit

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