Dunn-Edwards Portraits: Dimepiece LA fashion designer pivots to interior designer, continuing her creative professional career
06/05/2023 | Danielle Kinahan |
Ashley La Barrie admits to being an unusual child. During an early February telephone conversation, the Los Angeles-based interior designer and entrepreneur described a childhood in which she prioritized business over Barbie dolls. La Barrie recalled opening snow cone shops in her neighborhood … and she gathered her books and billed customers for the privilege of reading from her library. “I really didn’t realize what I was doing, but I guess I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” she said, laughing. “Looking back, that’s a bit unusual, but it has served me well!”
Although somewhat of an understatement, it is not an exaggeration. Beginning with her first company, Dimepiece LA, to her current firm, Ashley La Barrie Interiors, she has enjoyed remarkable success. Growing up in Los Angeles, La Barrie acknowledged feeling an unbridled intensity within her at an early age. “There was something in me that started burning when I was a little kid,” she recalled. “I recall that energy, even today. I was a restless kid who always looked for more opportunities. I wanted to learn more, to do more, to accomplish more.
La Barrie revered fashion and design. She recalled frequently searching her surroundings for spray paint to decorate her bedroom as a child. This inventiveness and originality motivated her to enroll at Cal State University, Los Angeles to pursue a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and fashion. Her decision led to an experience that changed her perspective on herself. “One of my teachers asked me to step in and help with instruction,” she explained. “She just wanted me to show my classmates something I had created. I learned that I did not see myself as other people saw me. I gained a lot of confidence in myself at that moment. That teacher thought I had talent. So, I began exploring what I wanted out of my future and where I wanted to go in the fashion world.”
While still a college student, the 21-year-old established her first business. LaBarrie and her former business partner cofounded the women’s streetwear brand Dimepiece LA in 2007. “There were many men’s streetwear brands,” she explained. “But there was nothing for women. That was a big gap in the industry that needed to be filled.” La Barrie indicated that Dimepiece was based on the premise of female cooperation rather than rivalry. Formed on charismatic, unrestrained statement clothing, it inspired young women to embrace their power and think independently. Dimepiece quickly became a favorite among fashion insiders and celebrities because of its daring visuals, provocative slogans, and subversive spirit.
“We didn’t have to do much advertising for the company,” she recalled. “We did not have to go out and find a public relations firm or do any marketing. Thanks to celebrities and influencers wearing the product, the company just took off. My favorite memory is Rihanna wearing this Dimepiece dashiki jersey dress in Vogue. It was a beautiful color that was attention-grabbing. Another favorite was when Missy Elliott wore Dimepiece next to Michelle Obama at an International Women’s Conference.”
The success of her company and the path her life took left La Barrie feeling ‘ecstatic.’ From 2007 to 2019, the label was one of the few significant women’s streetwear brands owned and operated by women. “We filled a niche in the industry,” she said. “One of the most important things to me was that the brand was so timely, from the empowering slogans to the environmentally friendly shipping methods we used.”
While La Barrie acknowledged that success did not change her, the constant professional demands impacted her life. “I spent 12 years completely dedicated to the business, rarely taking time for myself,” she said. “That took a toll, and eventually, I learned that. So I decided it was time to do something different.” In 2020, La Barrie As an outgrowth of her apparel career, La Barrie cofounded Manifest Grp., a design and large-scale manufacturing company. She also launched her first self-titled brand and a new studio in Los Angeles, Ashley La Barrie Interiors.
La Barrie was a natural fit for the interior design field. “I have loved design since I was a kid,” she recalled. “At Dimepiece, I would design our pop-up shops and offices.” Categorizing her approach to interior design as ‘completely organic,’ she embraces a design philosophy that illustrates the important link between layout and well-being. “I approach things with what I call ‘mindful focus,’” she said. “I ask people how they want their space. My work is all about spiritual undertones, so there is a connection between design and wellness. That is really reflected in my work, from the materials I choose to the colors that are reflected in the rooms.”
La Barrie opts for toxin-free materials, and her design aesthetic is a potent mix of sustainably sourced and diverse elements. She experiments extensively with texture, shape and energy. She helps her clients visualize what they genuinely want for their space, rather than recreating something they saw in the media or on the internet. Her interior designs have appeared three times in Apartment Therapy.
In 2019, collaborated with La Barrie on the 2020 Color of the Year campaign. The renovation project allowed La Barrie to illustrate her abilities in a supportive environment. “I lived in the building we renovated, so I was naturally interested in the project,” she said. “In the living room, I used this rich green Moss Cottage (DET608). It is this beautiful, deep green. I also used matte Black (DEA002) in the bedroom and dining room. It turned out beautifully. I love the colors we used, but I also love this wonderful sandy color named Cochise (DEC761).”
Images Above. Photo Credit: Bethany Nauert Photography
Her most recent project was a home design renovation project in San Bernardino County. “That one really challenged me,” she noted. “I felt like I was jumping through fire at times to secure what I wanted, but I was so focused on making it a success. I focused a great deal on light, and I used soft, calming shades. I did not want to make design decisions based on profit because the home would look like everything else out there.”
Although La Barrie’s career progression may seem swift and unimpeded, she quickly insisted this was not the case. “One of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced in my career is that I can get too emotionally connected to a project,” she said. “People don’t think about how much that can devastate you, because that can be an emotional rollercoaster. I had to learn to let things go and not let issues overwhelm me, whether it was a budget issue, products I wanted but could not get, or issues with products. I just had to let things go and move forward.”
During those times, La Barrie acknowledged some obstacles she faced were because of her own issues. “Like everyone, I have struggled with my self-confidence,” she admitted. “Some of that is because I put too much pressure on myself, and some is from outside pressure. Once you succeed, there is more pressure on you not to fail. Part of starting and growing Dimepiece was about women’s empowerment, and now I am focused on centering people and giving back.” Those same obstacles prompted advice for design students. “Work on your self-confidence,” she stressed. “Believe in yourself. Never limit yourself. Be that person who thinks they can accomplish anything. That is the image that you want to project.”
As for the future, La Barrie stated that one of her most important objectives is a mission she has already begun achieving. “I just want to keep creating spaces for people where they can take a moment and mend their souls for a while,” she said.