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Port Charlotte fashion visionary shares his story during Pride Month

Port Charlotte fashion visionary shares his story during Pride Month
Port Charlotte fashion visionary shares his story during Pride Month

 


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. For Asher Levine, Pride Month means taking pride in who you are and your success in the fashion industry on the world's biggest stages.

Levine grew up in Port Charlotte and discovered his passion for design there at an early age.

In fact, Southwest Florida was a great place to grow up, there was access to art education in schools, and I always loved making anything with my hands. There was an opportunity for a sewing class when I was ten, and I took this sewing class and totally found an area that I really love working in. So I joined a local 4-H club called Silly Stitchers and that was kind of like my secret. back then because you didn't necessarily want to be the boy who sewed in Port Charlotte

ASHER LEVINE

Alex Orenczuk.

Asher Levine spoke with Alex Orenczuk, Fox 4's Charlotte County community correspondent, on Zoom from his Los Angeles studio.

By the time Levine was a senior at Port Charlotte High School in 2005-2006, he had come out of the closet and began fighting anti-LGBTQ culture by pioneering the city's first gay-straight alliance. school.

I was kind of forced out, and once I got out, I asked myself, why should anyone feel like they can't be themselves? And how can we foster an environment, especially when we come of age like in high school, how can we foster an environment where people can be free to be themselves? So I did some research and discovered gay-straight alliances. It was difficult trying to start it, even though there was legislation that required students to create a gay-straight alliance. To my surprise, over 75 people showed up at the first meeting and many of them stayed there afterward.

Despite broad participation in the alliance, Levine faced protests from classmates and the extreme anti-LGBTQ Westboro Baptist Church.

I was 16 at the time and the first wave of hate was a student-led organization TAG, Teens Against Gays. It was crazy, and they started making TAG shirts, and what was crazier was seeing people wearing these shirts and the teachers not doing anything about it. So there were levels of hatred expressed, and then when Westboro Baptist Church came along, that really helped amplify our message that we wanted to bridge the gap between misunderstandings. It was great actually, that day I said we were all going to wear white, we were going to do a silent protest and we were going to do it peacefully.

Port Charlotte High School

Alex Orenczuk.

Levine graduated from Port Charlotte High School in 2006.

Asher said coming to terms with his identity during his youth helped him regain his confidence, which helped him develop his creativity and lay the foundation for his visionary fashion designs that would come later.

I feel lucky that I was able to build my confidence and show that being a queer person isn't just about your sexuality, being a queer person is inherently about non-conformity. It's about being on the fringes of society, questioning it and asking why do we do the things we do? I see queer identity as being about questioning the foundations of society and that’s where the creativity lies.

After graduating from PCHS in 2006, Levine went to New York to study business and get closer to the fashion industry.

Since I already knew how to sew pretty well, I received a phenomenal scholarship to Pace University for business. So I said “let me develop my business skills while I develop my fashion skills, and New York is a great place to really let your style explode and test your styles.”

Before graduating from Pace, Asher launched his first menswear catalog that would ultimately propel his designs to the forefront of innovative fashion.

I was very focused, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was very focused. I said that when I graduated from college, I wanted to get busy right away. So to do that, I'm like, let me launch a capsule for men. So, I launched this collection with a really cool punk grunge aesthetic, and I'm not kidding, a month later I was doing Lady Gaga's Poker Face leather jackets.

Asher Levine Design

Asher Levine

Levine is working on a design.

Levine has since used his experience to define his style and create designs using futuristic elements and unique materials. Her designs have been worn and sought after by superstars such as Taylor Swift, Lil Nas X and Doja Cat.

I am very honored when, for example, Christina Aguilera contacts me to make the final outfit for her residency in Vegas. I was that kid from Port Charlotte playing with Christina Aguilera, and now she's looking to me to bring her image and herself into the future. I mean, it still gives me chills when I say it like that. I feel so honored and humbled when these pop stars reached out to me to catapult them into the future.

ASHER LEVINE DIGITAL 4.jpg

Asher Levine.

Levine poses with a design he created for Doja Cat's performance at the 2020 VMAs.

Asher Levine has said that at the root of his success and creative expression is the freedom to be himself, which he recommends to everyone. Especially during Pride Month.

Be yourself. We don't have to live by labels. Now, if being yourself rubs someone the wrong way, it's not your fault, it's their fault. What I do and my quirk are completely linked. Jumping into the unknown, being outside of the frame, and rearranging what that frame can look like. I'm not saying that all queers are fashion designers, or that all fashion designers are queer, or gay, or LGBTQ, or any of that. It's just my journey and what I've been through, and it's something to reflect on because it's Pride Month.

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