Marijuana is more mainstream than ever these days: Currently, 28 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized weed for medicinal usage, and it's now legal in eight states to use it recreationally. As legislation has loosened up, stoner stigmas have gradually depleted in recent years, particularly for women. The beauty market is fairly fruitful when it comes to weed-imbued products, but the fashion offerings still aren't nearly up to par. Some designers, including Alexander Wang and Baja, have dabbled with pot paraphernalia motifs on the runway, but there isn't much, if any, smoking functionality involved. There are a couple of niche options on the market, like AnnaBi s (pronounced anna- bee for a slightly less stoner touch, mind you), which makes a small collection of odor-proof handbags.
Another option, Asche Industries, also has a tight edit of goods catering to cannabis usage. But the aesthetic is pretty damn chic. Plus, it's not limited to reek-free carryalls; the three-year-old line, started by former model Molly Kavanagh, also includes gold-plated pendants that do double duty as, uh, highly functional weed accessories. Yes, along the lines of that $750 Vetements "Grinder" necklace that's a functional grinder, which caught our attention back in November 2016. Except Kavanagh's version is a fraction of the price, and, oh, it actually predates the Demna Gvesalia-designed pendant by a year. (There are a few cleverly-concealed roach clip necklaces, too.)
This week, Asche rolled out a verdantly-hued version of its odor-evading leather pouch, just in time for 4/20, dubbed the Green Kush Pouchette. It's got all the trappings of a status-y luxury accessory: tiny, sans-serif, gold-stamped logo; minimalist shape; rich-lady-looking leather. But, unlike other fancy leather wares, it's got a scent-controlled compartment inside for stashing weed. (Though it could just as easily house some jewelry, a couple hair things, lipsticks, et al., but that's not nearly as fun as its intended usage.) And while the triple-digit price points might make you balk, the brand has plans to roll out lower-priced down the line. Ahead, Cavanagh fills us in on what she's trying to accomplish with Asche, and how attitudes towards weed (both in the fashion industry and beyond) are shifting.
What was the impetus for launching Asche?
"Asche came to fruition in January 2014 after a very fragrant Christmas mass with my family. There I was, sitting in mass; I opened my vintage Chanel bag at the offering, and my mother looked over wide-eyed as the whole pew was smacked in the face with potent cannabis fragrance. There hadn't been joints in my bag for a week, so I was shocked and had to do something about it! I didn't want to damage my vintage bags any longer, and I also didn't want to smell like half-smoked J's anymore. After endless research on smell-proof, odorless bags, the only thing that came up was a plastic turkey baster bag or plastic and Velcro bags called 'd-bags' — better than the Tulum souvenir bag I had been using, but far from chic. So, I enlisted a friend that was designing for major designers to help me with a pattern, and I started researching durable, functional fabrics. We started having samples made and giving them to friends — and my dealer to wear-test."
How have you grown the line since its debut?
"The scent-controlled pouchettes came first, and the accessories followed shortly after. The whole brand and idea turned into the concept of good, quality, fashionable designs first and foremost, with their unique secondary function. Asche isn't about hundreds or thousands of SKUs. It's not about 'fast fashion,' or replacing your Gucci or Cartier, either. It's always been about timeless designs that we add to [functionally]; we are here to protect your fashion investments from fragrant odors, and add some reefer chicness to your classic jewelry collection."
What can we expect next from Asche?
"This summer we're introducing the Safari collection, including the 'white elephant' pouchette, and also the elephant joint clip which will feature emeralds; a portion of the proceeds are going to the African Wildlife Foundation. We also have three pretty major collaborations coming up this year working with a major pro-weed media platform, the artist Virginia Sin for a holiday collection, and also with an up-and-coming Brooklyn designer specializing in 3-D printing. We also are getting involved with other friends in the cannabis industry here on the East Coast, to host exclusive underground infused dinner parties and concerts. Everything is about experience right now."
What functional concerns come into play when designing cannabis accessories?
"We mostly have to take flame and clumsiness into consideration when designing. Heat, dancing — and sweating — jumping in the pool with your jewelry on happens when using our designs, so we have to create really durable pieces."
Have you encountered any negative feedback regarding the more-than-a-head-shop price points?
"It's funny, we've mostly had people say we aren't charging enough! People have also asked if they can get jewelry pieces covered entirely in diamonds. On the flip side, we've had a few younger followers on Instagram mention the price being too steep for them, so we are working on a collaboration with an up-and-coming Brooklyn designer on a limited-edition jewelry piece so everyone can get a piece of Asche."
Do you think the fashion industry has been receptive to cannabis usage?
"In my view, creatives and the fashion-forward [community] have always been toking up and have been pretty open about it. It's just getting more press now because I feel it's the next creative and industrial revolution in the U.S. and Canada."
How do you think stigmas about cannabis usage have changed in recent years?
"When I started Asche, I couldn't get a PR agency, because they thought it would bring down their appeal to the other brands they repped. Now, whole creative agencies are devoted to the industry. That's just one example of how normalized it's become.
"I also think it's generational. For my generation, I don't think it was ever a huge deal to smoke pot, or that it was frowned upon. I was always invited to the party because I baked the best pot brownies and had kind bud. My mom just got back into consuming cannabis, and she's still a little shy and discreet about it with her girlfriends. It's cute when she shows me her efforts at rolling a joint or asks what a vape pen is."
Have general cultural attitudes toward cannabis — and legislative changes regarding it — impacted how the fashion industry views weed and cannabis-centric designs?
"I'm sure the loosening of laws has helped designers that have to deal with corporate politics on a daily basis and don't have complete creative freedom. It's definitely more acceptable for them to design around the flower now."
Did you decide to launch the Green Kush Pouchette, just in time for 4/20?
" The Green Kush pouchette was designed and introduced this week specifically for the 4/20 holiday! Green is Pantone's color of the year, and also very on trend right now so it made sense. The only difference between the Blue Haze and Green Kush is the color combination and the leather. They both hold the same quality and function."
You carry a couple of jewelry items also intended for cannabis usage — and we've seen other luxury takes on wearable weed baubles, like Vetements' grinder necklace. Why do you think there's a demand for this?
"We are happy that Vetements is now collaborating with brands instead of copying. When they copied our locket mill, which we introduced in 2015, we were very flattered. This is just the beginning of couture and cannabis colliding."
Do you have plans to offer larger leather goods eventually?
" The Ounce (OZ) clutch bag is waiting on the sidelines for the right collaboration...cue Rihanna."
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?