By: Milana Alchemista
Photos by: Franco Perry
When I heard about the model-turned-designer behind new Dallas-based swim line, Asherah Swimwear, I envisioned a sort of cold “glamazon,” daintily gluing rhinestones onto LYCRA thongs. This may be the only time I’ve ever been happy to be dead wrong. Cejae Jones, the brand’s founder and designer, was so sweet and inviting that I felt like I was talking to an old friend. She was beautiful indeed, but her striking features were only the icing on the cake.
Asherah Swimwear officially launched in early July, but you would never guess the brand was fledgling. Everything about the line, from all the pieces in the collection to each page of the website, was handcrafted personally by Jones. With her 10 plus years of graphic design experience, a modeling career and lifetime of designing her own clothes, it’s only right that Asherah would incorporate all her talents.
Cejae had a bit of trouble describing her exact entry point into the design world, probably because she’s been around design in one way or another her entire life. “Well, of course, from very young, my mom actually influenced me because [she] was super crafty. She was always making everything in our house, not even just clothing, everything; from the couch covers to the curtains to the freakin’ plant holders. Every single thing in my house was a homemade something. She was sewing my clothes up until, I want to say, high school. It was that serious. That’s where I got the crafty, sort of artsy background. I get that from her for sure.”
With that early exposure to customization, it came as second nature to her to add her own flair to everything she touched. Her decision to move into designing full time came with a little trepidation at first, but her passion for innovation has been ever present. “I’ve never had any formal training in fashion and I’ve always been such a summer girl. I love the water, I love the beach, I love the simplicity, yet I need to be creative to make swimwear something different. I’ve seen swimsuits from every [price] range and they’re all the same; all basic triangle tops. Like two years ago, I was getting swimsuits from H&M and putting my own stuff on [them].”
Throughout her decade-long career in the modeling world, Jones made swimwear and custom pieces for friends. Always working for fun, until one day, a conversation with a photographer served as the catalyst for her venture into the fashion world, but this time on the other side of the lens. “[He said] What are you doing? I know you’re doing this here and there, but you should really make this into a business. I had grown up making clothes and I had been making swimsuits forever, so I said ‘You know what? I should.’ That was a couple of years ago and here we are now. I’m like, I’m here. I’m taking it seriously. I’m gonna go for it.” And with that, the seed of Asherah Swimwear was planted.
From the very beginning, the designer was beyond hands on. The first thing she did was buy a sewing machine, the second was to sit down at her desk to handcraft her designs, making them a reality, which, I’ll have you know, is no small feat. While many designers have someone else draw their plans and then another group of people execute their product, Cejae has handled everything from start to finish. “I didn’t want to hand it off to someone and have them sew it up for me, I wanted to be super hands-on so that I could have everything exactly the way I wanted it. When you’re handing your designs over to someone, you’re not going to get 100 percent vision of what you want. So I designed all the images, all the suits first.”
Today, we see the fruits of Cejae’s labor and although it appears to be a flawless execution, it took two years of endless work to get the brand off the ground. “It’s been a lot! … I have not stopped working from the day I bought those sewing machines to now. Like all day long. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s been crazy. When I say 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the morning, it’s been like that. Ask my fiancé, he’s a promoter and works late, until 3, and I would still be up for an extra 2 hours after he gets home. I put a lot of work into it. I stopped my graphic design job and really just wanted to pursue something that I felt I would be happy with … I was just like, I’m into fashion, I’m a graphic designer, how can I mesh all my talents into something I’m happy with?” Those first designs created a buzz as far back as a year before her official launch. Asherah Swimwear was out in Los Angeles, shooting with the likes of Rosa Acosta and Christina Milian. Since then, Cejae has painstakingly worked to develop a line like you have never seen before. “I was super sporty when I was younger, so that’s where the first collection came from. I wanted it to be about me something that had my background and flavor; a little sexy and a little sporty.”
A breath of fresh air, Asherah ties together just the right amount of athletic sultriness missing from today’s market. The summer 2015 line exudes the “crazy-sexy-cool” vibe with staple white and black, and bright pops of neon. In case you were wondering, there IS more on the way. True to form, Cejae is already in the lab working on the design and release of some reworked styles from her current line, as well as some brand new pieces that you can expect before the year’s out. Without a doubt, Asherah is sure to inspire more than a few squeals of “Yaaaaas,” which can be roughly translated as: we COSIGN. Check out Asherah Swimwear’s pop-up shop at Bungalow Beach Club every weekend until the end of summer. You can also shop the collection at asherahswimwear.com.