As part of our HUCK Indies 2013 exhibition, we meet some of the self-made brands out there forging their own path. First up, fashion label, AMH.
“One night I watched that 1980s film Tron and was feeling inspired and started doodling. Then my friend called to say that Michael Jackson had passed away. I thought about what I could do to pay tribute,” explains Ashley Marc Hovelle on the genesis of his eponymous high-end fashion label AMH. “I came up with the idea of a t-shirt with ‘I’m Bad’ on it – not only to have connotations with Michael Jackson but everyone wants to be bad.”
Ashley was out in Ibiza for a hedonistic summer season when the news struck in June 2009. Timeliness was key to getting his t-shirt idea out yet the local printers were too busy to print them. The solution was to “take inspiration from Banksy” and get all DIY. He went and bought some spray paint and blank t-shirts and made up this soon-to-be-classic tee on his balcony.
“I carved out the stencil with a scalpel. I’d never done it before but I’m particular on anything I do and make sure it’s exactly right. I went out onto the street and this kid saw it and said, ‘Wow, what’s that t-shirt?’ I sold it to him for €35 and then got them stocked in a store the next day,” he says, clearly stoked on the endorsement.
In fact, the t-shirts were so popular on the clubbing scene, he started making more runs with other iconic 1980s pop lyrics like ‘Don’t stop me now’ and ‘Annie are you ok? – this time screenprinting them to cope with the demand. Within a few months, Ashley’s tees were being worn by likes of deejays Mark Ronson and Annie Mac, and AMH landed a spot on a local fashion show and even some coverage on Spanish television.
On Ashley’s return to the UK, his statement pieces got snapped up by mainstream fashion stores like Topman and Harvey Nichols, and were on their rails within a year. Nowadays, with several successful seasons behind him and sales in sartorial hotspots including Paris, New York and Berlin, Ashley reflects on this rapid rise with pride yet insists on looking forward.
“I don’t feel it resonates back to Ibiza now. If you look at my current collections, it’s quite high-end and then the type of stores I’m in is not really where clubbers shop,” he says. “I’ve wanted to step away from just being a statement brand. I’ve never wanted to do just t-shirts either, I now do shorts, sweatshirts, shirts and jackets.”
According to Ashley, AMH’s designs have matured into “gentrified patterns” and “stripped down designs” but still hold a connection to the original concept of paying homage to the past. “The 1980s resonate with me. I was born then and get a lot of inspiration from old family holiday photos. I’m trying to create something that’s classic in essence and not blasting logos everywhere, but also with a retro vibe,” he says.
AMH may have begun as a personal endeavour but with growing success, would he be willing to part ways with what he’s created for the right sum? “Not at the moment, no,” says Ahsley without hesitation. “I see this as long term. It’s my name to the brand so I don’t just want to sell it and move on. I’ll be doing this for decades to come.”