Ciriaco Founder, Ashley, on Starting Her Namesake Brand

Among our new offerings for women, atmos introduces Ciriaco, a handbag & accessory brand taking the industry by storm. Based in the Bronx, founder Ashley is the one woman show producing the iconic label, best known for architectural, instantly-recognizable handbags.

Shop exclusive colorways of Ciriaco handbags, available only at atmos, in-stores & online.

We got to hear more about her design process, her influence from sneakers, and what's next for her namesake brand.

Who is Ashley Ciriaco?

I was originally born in Atlanta but moved to The Bronx for college at Berkeley College Midtown. My mother would literally drive from Atlanta to The Bronx every single weekend since all of our family are from and live in in the BX so it was easier for me to adapt to living here and decided to pursue my career here because I was always told New York is the it place for fashion.

What inspired you to start designing?

I started getting into designing from watching shows like That’s So Raven, Sex & the City, and plenty more. I love the originality of the characters’ outfits or just the confidence they had wearing their own or an original piece that was made for them. It showed me that in most cases you won’t be able to find pieces that you’d want to wear to an event or an everyday wear, but you can make it yourself! And of course as a little girl, I wanted to dress up as a princess all the time, so I started off by sketching princess dresses and wedding dresses.

Walk us through your creative process when designing a bag.

The first thing I think of when designing is what color/print I want to the bag to be. From there it goes to which silhouette would fit the best since that’s what my brand is mainly about and how it can gravitate to being worn from an everyday bag to a night-out bag while still being practical and sustainable.

How important is storytelling in your design process?

It's very important! Due to social media and likes some people assume I’m like this big company like a Ralph Lauren or Chanel, which I still very much appreciate, they just don't or understand I’m still doing all this by myself at a storage unit in The Bronx. The designing, the pitching, the marketing, the packaging, you name it I’m doing it all alone right now until I have a team.

It’s also the show that you don't have to be born into money, go to school or even have to have millions of followers and likes to start your dreams. I started with just $1000 from a refund I got from school in 2020 during the pandemic and 15 Ashley Minimalist Baguettes and never stopped.

What does a typical Monday look like for you?

A typical Monday for me is waking up at 7-8 AM and heading towards my storage unit whether it’s packing orders or receiving more merchandise and just organizing everything to be able to be found easily when packaging different items. My day in the unit usually ends around 5 or 6 just about when the storage unit is about to close. But my actual work day doesn't usually end until 1 or 2 in the morning because I stay up working and designing with my manufacturers.

What role did sneakers play in finding your creative style? How did you relate to sneakers growing up and how has that changed in comparison to now?

Sneakers play a huge roll in finding my creativity because I'm a huge tomboy and just always prefer to be comfortable but stylish.

That's why I aimed towards making my bags for everyone to wear. Whether you're a sneakerhead or wear heels, Ciriaco is the perfect bag to pair it with.

Based on your Instagram you seem to be heavily into runners. What is your favorite Air Max silhouette?

Yes! My two current favorites are the Silver Bullets 97’s and the Skepta’s Tailwind, they’re super comfortable and completes a fit whether you’re dressing up or down.

You've been previewing different items on social media recently. What are some plans (that you can share) for the brand in the future?

I will finally deep into clothing and shoes more in 2023 and will launch card holders, fanny packs and duffles.