MSU student uses success with his clothing line to start first student-produced fashion week on campus
Fashion culture and the year 1996 come together to influence experience architecture junior Ashton Keys.
Keys is the founder and owner of his own clothing brand, Ninety6. Keys started the clothing brand in 2015 under this name, but has been designing since he was 15 years old.
Keys said the name originates from the year 1996, which was a pivotal year for urban culture.
“I just felt like that year, as I researched as far as culture, music, sports and things that I like, a lot of great things came out of the year ‘96, so it built the brand up as defining culture,” Keys said.
For example, the rise of cultural icons such as Jay Z, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant.
The slogan for his brand is called "Youth In Revolt," which came about from his research and understanding of a lot of the brands and industries being controlled by older people and people out of the generation. The brand is created for the youth of the generation by the youth of the generation, he said.
“That’s the main purpose of Ninety6 is to create the trends, to create culture and keep it for the youth,” he said. “You see that a lot on social media and things like that, where we create all the trends and the corporations come and steal it, make memes and stuff like that, so for me, it’s to take the industry back from the older people and people that are not in this culture.”
Being a full-time college student and running a business is not easy, he said. Still, Keys embraces this opportunity and doesn’t see it as something difficult because he is very passionate about his current path.
“I’m not going to say it’s easy, because it's not, but it’s not hard because it’s something that I’m passionate about, so I’m happy to give up my time," he said. "I’m happy to sometimes not be able to enjoy certain amenities that other people at college can. But it's very time consuming and you need to be dedicated, you need to be open to listen and you really need to be thinking about opportunities.”
Keys said being a business owner and a full-time college student has benefited him because people are now willing to give him advice, help him out and open the doors for an opportunity to network.
Journalism sophomore Ariana Taylor said she has known Keys for only about a year, but they have become close because they share similar interests and work ethic.
“He makes sure everything, with his clothing line, is exactly how he sees it," Taylor said. "I think he’s kind of like a visionary, he sees what he wants, sees a design and he somehow brings it to life with his clothing.”
Along with working on his clothing brand, Keys is also starting MSU’s first student-produced fashion week.
“MSU Fashion Week is something that came from me,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of fashion shows across the country, I just did a fashion show at the Miami Dolphins' stadium in Miami and I just realized that the energy and that opportunity, we didn't have at Michigan State.”
MSU Fashion Week began Feb. 26 and ends March 3, and started with the fashion show in the Union Ballroom.
Keys already knows designers and people at MSU who have their own clothing line, so he wanted to work together with all of them instead of collaborating differently at different times.
“I feel like we should all put together and put on a event where we could showcase amazing talent of designers that we have at Michigan State at one time,” he said.
One of the designers who is going to be presenting her collection at the show is media and information sophomore Amir Butler, under her clothing brand name Soreem.
Soreem was created in March 2016, when she had the idea during freshman year and decided to pursue it.
Butler was chosen to be one of the MSU designers by Keys in the first Fashion Week on campus.
“I have 10 models who will be modeling for me, which is a mix of boys and girls, so that (will) be fun,” she said. “I’m actually really excited and it's one of many shows that I’m doing this year, so I’m pretty excited and it's keeping me busy.”
Using the connections outside of MSU and designers he has met in the industry, Keys is bringing the high-end atmosphere from big metro cities, like New York and Paris, to MSU Fashion Week.