On a nice sunny evening I finally meet with the creator of Onyx & Pearl, Ashley Behnke, at a local coffee cafe. On our way into the coffee cafe I instantly notice the one thing that she's known for... scarves. She's got a navy blue scarf draped around her neck so stylishly yet effortlessly along with a gorgoeus assymetrical dress topped off with a cute belt and cardigan. Instantly, I could tell that this is a woman that definetly has a point of view about fashion and style that needs to be heard. As we got comfortable in our seats I could see the Austonian culture all over her that radiated such a warm, friendly, relaxed and welcoming vibe. I couldn't wait to dive into my questions. I wanted to see what makes her tick. I wanted to see what gives her the drive and courage to do what she is doing with Onyx & Pearl.Not to my surpise, I soon realized that I sat across from a spirtually grounded woman with the faith to step out and accomplish many great things. I know that we will be hearing way more about this designer and more about her point of view as a designer. The good news is you will be able to meet her too at our the Created Woman Spring Issue Launch Party on March 20th at North Door Austin, TX.
- Tell us about yourself and what Onyx and Pearl is all about?
Born and raised in Austin, TX. I'm married to a lovely man who keeps me on my toes, inspires me to kick butt in my endeavors, and who knows how quiet me when I need it. I admit, I can get wound up from time to time, so having a ying to my yang is such a gift. Not a mother yet, but children are undoubtedly in the plan. Creatively speaking, I've always had a mind to tweak things, alter them and make them better. This trait has served me well when creating pieces for Onyx + Pearl. Onyx + Pearl is all about embracing creativity and one's own personal style while helping serve needs in our communities (i.e. human trafficking and limited access to higher education). The products all have unexpected touches, so the way one wants to form an outfit with the scarf has everything to do with giving a voice to their style.
- Where did you get the name Onyx and Pearl?
Funny you should ask. I wasn't aware until I got a rejection letter, but the initial name I came up with was already registered in Texas, so I had to scrap it and come up with something new. When brainstorming, I used the description of the products to give life to a name. I wanted my products to be similar to onyx, in that when they are worn they make a statement. Onyx is not worn often, but when a person is wearing it you don't go without noticing it. Then with pearls, they can be dressed up or dress down...depending on your outfit. Same for O+P scarves, they can be worn with nearly anything. It should be stated, Onyx + Pearl is a step up from the first name. I'm thankful for divine intervention. Second reason for the name is far less thoughtful. I'm African-American and my phenomenal husband is Caucasian. Onyx + Pearl sounds far better than Ebony and Ivory or Licorice and Coconut.
- Tell us about your upcoming spring collection?
The next collection is crazy cool! The color, the ingenuity, the fun...I can't wait for it to all come out.
- What inspired this collection?
What jumped out to me with this collection is the word "surrounded." A scarf doesn't just lay on your shoulders, it is wrapped around (surrounding) one's neck when worn. So I was inspired by things that surround us and bring life...words, color and history. All of these inspiring things played a part in one piece or another in this collection.
- When you are in the middle of creating these amazing pieces what speaks to you the most?
When I’m looking a piece, to be honest, it’s a little bit of everything. So when thinking of the different patterns that I come up with and different prints I think what will go well with this and what would be unexpected to go with this or what will be unexpected to go with this. So when it comes to detailing I want something unique and unexpected and that’s what I want. I always want a little bit of an element of surprise in each every one of the pieces. I’ll see a piece of jewelry or looking a certain color combinations, those are what really talk to me.
- What made you step out to even start Onyx and Pearl?
It surely wasn’t boldness. I wasn’t fearful but I was like... that’s a really big step. I’m pretty entrepreneurial minded and I’ve created small businesses before when I was in college. This was one thing that really laid upon my heart and I never got rid of it and it never left me. I just kind of pushed on with the designs that came to mind. Then, I asked myself what can I do with this or how can I feed The Kingdom and use my craft or whatever my gift is to serve a purpose. I was like I can really do this and I enjoy doing it and creating things. Then, I decided let me go for it this is one thing that I can go for. So I just went out on faith with it, really to be honest.
- Where does Onyx and Pearl go from here? Do you think you will expand your accessories line in the future?
I absolutely want to expand. That’s my hope. I want to do one thing exceptionally well and then jump out and do other things. I don’t want to be in multiple paths and not excel in one thing. I want to excel in scarves first, but I know that there are so many other accessories to branch into that haven’t really been showcased in women’s as well as men’s wear. I’ll probably stay in accessories because I like to throw them with different outfits and different styles that people have. I want to have something that’s really versatile.
- How does your spiritual life guide you professionally?
To be honest, I think it really grounds me more than anything else. I think with the industry you can see how pervasive media is in our culture. My faith grounds me in realizing that this is a tool, this is an avenue, this is a lane, but this is not my everything, this is not my life. It reminds me that everything that I do is for a purpose. Everything that I do is done within a season. So perhaps, for this season it’s time for me to sow and also to reap a harvest in other things to do with helping others in higher education and really seeing a breakthrough in those dark areas that we have within our culture. I want to bring things to light and then provide higher education to those that don’t have it. Those are somethings that are laid upon my heart for Onyx and Pearl.
- With New York fashion week just ending what designers have inspired you and who is currently inspiring you the most?
Historically, I would say Phillip Lim has been one designer that I’ve really always watched. His style is so masterful and so refined and the materials that he uses are just phenomenal. Even though I didn’t get see his show this time around he’s always one that I look to. But for this past fashion week, the fabrics that were used for Marc Jacobs collection I thought.. What did this man do? The shine, the color, and the boldness that was absolutely amazing. Also, Victoria Beckham she’s always one that is very refined. She’s really kind of cultured and classic and still screams femininity at the same time. Those are the ones that stuck out for New York fashion week.
- What's the one thing you feel a woman shouldn't leave home without as it pertains to fashion and beauty?
Fashion items I would say a lipstick or a lip gloss something to keep you fresh and supple.
Guest Contributor, ShaTonya
ShaTonya has always had a love for fashion though with today's culture it is so essential to have balance in life. It has always been essential for ShaTonya to showcase her love for fashion but always put her love for the Lord first in all things that she does. Though her background has been in the higher education industry and she has a strong desire to encourage and help others dreams come true it had been a long time desire for her to get more involved with missionary work. In 2012 she decided to commit herself full time to being educated in ministry and missionary work though The Global Leadership Training Program based in North Carolina. Through this experience she was able to give back to humanity and provide help for third world countries such as Haiti. In the future, ShaTonya hopes to continue with her missionary work both localally and internationally. She has plans to continue her love for fashion and beauty by creating her own blog and many more special things to come.