Women's Wear Daily wrote it best when describing the Ashaka Givens collection in 2003: "slinky and seventies a la Halston with a dash of bohemia." The fashion trade magazine subsequently bestowed on Givens a "most promising designer" nod at her last Mercedes Benz Fashion Week runway show in 2005 for her sleek red carpet-ready looks, placing the Rochester, New York native on their "Ones to Watch" list. And a wide cross-section of tastemakers took note: The Roots' funky drummer ?uestlove; singer Raphael Saadiq; rapper/actor Common, and Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, to name a few who have commissioned one-of-a-kind pieces from Givens.
Givens' love affair with fashion began in high school where she intuitively taught herself how to design women's clothing and produced her own runway shows. She went on to study fashion design at Buffalo State College and spent a leg of her time there as a student at the Manchester Metropolitan University in England. It was abroad where she honed her tailoring techniques and studied couture design. Givens further developed her signature style think "funk-meets-sophistication" at the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating with the class of 1996.
Upon graduating, Givens began designing custom pieces for her first major client, Erykah Badu, who she met in New York City in 1996 at the brink of her musical career. She began dressing the singer for events such as the Grammys, music videos, international tours, and live television performances. Badu, then a rising music sensation, big screen star and fashion plate, landed on best-dressed lists across the country, crediting Givens along the way. When Badu exclaimed to People magazine that Givens "has the best fit on the planet," the endorsement marked Givens' arrival on red carpets the nation over. Several years later Rosario Dawson echoed Badus' sentiment telling the designer that she loves the spirit embodied in her pieces.
Since, her celebrity clientele has grown to include singer Angie Stone, TLC, Floetry, actress Annabella Sciorra, Les Nubians, and many more. In 2006 Givens expanded her women's ready-to-wear line to include bridal and special occasion dressing. She debuted her first bridal gowns during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and stated: "In the spirit of my women's wear line, I want my brides' gowns to reflect their individuality. Wangechi Mutu, known in the art world for her originality, paid me a gracious compliment at her wedding saying that she loved her gown so much she intended to preserve it in order to pass it down to her daughter one day." That timeless elegance has enabled her to build a solid fan base comprised of fashionistas, magazine editors, stylists, musicians, artists and actors.
After a four-year hiatus, Givens has returned to do what she loves best: making women feel beautiful, sensual and powerful in her chic goddess-like creations. With a love for draping the female form in sumptuous fabrics, bold colors and sensual silhouettes, Givens is back. And women will be all the better for it.