Image courtesy Denise Focil
Interview

Denise Focil

06.21.16

LA-based, Ecuadorian fashion designer runs two successful brands: AS by DF and ASTARS. AS by DF is a bit of an elevated version of sister brand ASTARS which retails below $250. Both however, are inspired by her love of music and travels and reflected in her bohemian designs that feature quality construction, special fabrications, and forward-thinking designs. Denise embodies the spirit of her brand, and recently she tapped influencer Louise Roe to collaborate on exclusive pieces for the brand. Additionally, for the fall season, Focil has introduced her customers to accessories, offering two leather and suede handbags.

Interview

Do you have a special connection with your Ecuadorian roots?

I have a lot of family & friends who live in Ecuador, and I feel extremely passionate and proud about the place that I call home. It definitely helped to nurture my love of clothing, art and beautiful colors-all of those things are ingrained in the country’s culture. Being a Latin American designer has made me extra conscious & in tune with fit, since looking your best in every sense is part of our DNA.

What’s your earliest fashion memory?

My earliest fashion memory would be dressing up in my grandmother’s heels & every piece of jewelry I could find. My grandmother was & still is a style maven, she always made statements and owned a room when she entered. My earliest & fondest memories of fashion are all about her.

How would you describe your personal style?

Eclectic. I have a very edgy & polished side to my style, but at the same time I have a very bohemian side. It depends on which day & which mood you catch me in. I have always believed in being able to appeal to the multiple facets of a woman’s personality. We are so wonderfully complex- we can be 10 different women in one day- entrepreneur, wife/girlfriend, mother, sexy, serious. I want to make a wardrobe for all of that.

How do you juggle both of your successful brands, AS by DF and ASTARS?

I work really, really hard. That’s the honest to God truth. Having two brands is really fun because I get to explore two very different sides of my personality & creative spirit, but I essentially run two companies & two brands and it is not for the weak of heart for sure!

How did your collaboration with Louise Roe come about?

Louise and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and as soon as we met there was an instant connection. We were so in sync about everything- from the cognac color suede of our Tulum Suede vest, to the ethnic embroidery on the back, to nailing down the perfect shade of blush for our silk cami – it all fell into place so effortlessly!

What is it about her that embodies the spirit of the brand?

Louise is the epitome of the ASbyDF- a world traveler, feminine, and uncomplicated. I love that duality about her, strong and soft at the same time-she is really the woman I design my clothes for.

I especially love your ASbyDF leather jackets! What inspired your fascination with this wardrobe staple?

From day one, my goal has always been one thing- to make the leather jacket of your dreams. When I graduated FIDM and immediately started working on leather pieces, I knew that finessing the fit, design and details of a perfect leather jacket would always be my end goal. I think of fashion as a woman’s armor for the day, so it’s important for them to feel strong, proud and beautiful in whatever garment they’re wearing. Leather was always the medium that I was able to best communicate my vision- there is a sensuality & richness about leather that I think you can’t find in any other material.

Why did you decide to incorporate vegan leather in ASTARS?

I’ve always wanted women to have options- even with my love of leather, I’m actually vegetarian! So with ASTARS and the bohemian nature of the brand, it was a natural fit to include vegan offerings. The great thing about our vegan leather is that it still keeps the same look and feel as true leather pieces, so nothing is compromised in the process.

Would you ever consider opening brick and mortar locations?

Absolutely- that is definitely part of the plan for both our brands- as I want to create a 360-lifestyle for both brands.

What do you love most about living in Los Angeles?

I love the mixture of cultures here; it’s the ultimate inspiration. I am constantly meeting new people, getting introduced to new ideas and concepts that really allow me to think outside the box. The weather doesn’t hurt either!

What was it like to be honored with the Moss Adams Fashion Innovator Award?

It’s a massive honor to be recognized out of all the California-based designers, not just for innovative designs but also for branding and marketing. To be up against such crazy competition and still have won, it’s surreal!

Will you continue to have fashion shows?

Yes, absolutely. The runway for me is not only a way to show the collection, but to let people enter our world for a few moments & have that world come to life.  Building that fantasy world is one of the most fun aspects of  being a designer.

You’ve grown tremendously with your labels in the past few years. Where do you see yourself in the next five?

I would love to see the brands have expanded globally in a big way with a few brick & mortar-lifestyle locations spread across the globe!