We caught up with the dream team, Ashley Padmore (right) and Whitney Washington(left), to talk about landing in Memphis during the pandemic and building their custom chainstitch embroidery business.
How did you meet?
We met working as chainstitch embroiderers for a major retailer last year while living in NYC.
Why did you launch We Tight Knit?
We love chainstitch embroidery and enjoy helping tell someone’s story through hand-cranked designs. It’s like a tattoo for your clothes! We Tight Knit’s mission is to build community through collaboration, and with chainstitch embroidery, we literally have a hand in making clients’ vision a reality.
What brought you to Memphis?
Whitney: I’m a native Memphian, and after spending time in NY and studying fashion design at Parsons, I’m excited to bring my new experiences and skills back home. Ashley: Whitney brought me here! As a native New Yorker, I was excited to experience Southern hospitality that I've always heard about. Memphis does not disappoint!
How did you learn your necessary skills?
We picked up our skill sets through studying and working in the fashion industry in various roles. Whitney in graphic design, customization, and styling. Ashley in tailoring, accessory design, and denim construction. At Levi's, we both learned the age old skill of chain stitch embroidery.
Are there specific opportunities or challenges that focused your career?
Whitney: For me, working in both corporate and retail environments for big name companies showed me everything that glitters ain't gold! But, I did gain a ton of experience on each of the maaaany jobs that I had while living in NY, each one leading me to discover a very niche career that I could build a brand around. It's amazing to be able to share a craft I love while connecting with clients' stories. Ashley: Working at flagship retail stores in New York making jeans by hand made me want to explore more than just contruction. When I was introduced to chain stitch embroidery, I realized that I could actually have a hand in creating the textiles. So that made me really excited to explore my own ideas and then connect with customers by making their visions come to life.
Who do you consider as your most influential mentor?
Whitney: My life mentor is a Buddhist philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda. He says, "Our mission is to awaken to our greatest potential, and contribute to the place where we are right now by bringing forth our unique capabilities." His guidance allows me to see all the possibilities that I can cultivate in my own life.
Ashley: I consider my mentor to be my first boss, Dyuna Morgan, who is a Master Tailor at Levi's. I learned a lot while learning how to make tailored jeans under his training. I really respect how we share the same passion for denim.
How do you measure success in your work?
Whitney: Success to me is consistently working on my craft so that I can constantly get better at my technique and learn from the mistakes along the way.
Ashley: When a client gives me a piece, I want it to look exactly like it looks on the picture! So, success is measured by how well I execute their vision.
What artist inspires you the most?
Whitney: There are so many! Right now, I'm really loving the graphic work of @JessiJumanji . She takes impactful images from our African ancestry and creates elaborate pieces that allow you to see them in a new, modern light. Ashley: Can we do designers? haha! I love Project Runway All Star and one of my past mentors, @SonjiaWilliams who is amazing! She designs and makes everything by hand in NY. Style-wise, I like @RearWindowVintage 's authentic vintage, classic looks.
What has been your favorite thing that you've made so far?
Whitney: My friend commissioned me to sew a dragon backpiece for her. It was probably one of the most complex pieces I've done, and I cursed a lot throughout the whole process. But! It turned out beautifully!
Ashley: I love my all-over print skull jeans. Definitely a great conversation starter!
Do you have a creative hour, or a time/ place/ or activity that inspires you?
Whitney: I'm a night owl! The ideas and energy like to come to me between 9-5, (PM to AM!) lol
Ashley: I'm the opposite. As soon as I see the sun, you can find me at my machine! Do you have a ritual or do you set specific assignments for yourself?
We really have to set schedules and write down every order, invoice, tracking number etc. As many "ARTrepreneurs" know, running a business and also being the creative isn't easy. The most important thing is to write down all of tomorrow's to-do's the night before. That way, you're not trying to organize everything the same day.
As a kid what did you see yourself doing as a career?
Ashley: At first, I wanted to be a pilot, because I wanted to see the world. My father was actually a tailor, though, so I like to think this career was in the stars. The goal now is to combine the two, and take We Tight Knit worldwide!
Whitney: I really wanted to be on Broadway as a kid. When I finally made it to NY, I had discovered my passion for fashion and went all in with it. I still have a deep love for singing- not Broadway style so much anymore, but who knows! I might drop some music in 2021 ;)
What told you ‘this is the life for me’?
We both had worked in our "dream jobs", doing what we love for bosses who didn't appreciate the work or effort for so long. Finally, during COVID, after we had gotten laid off, we were like- LET'S DO THIS. We Tight Knit was born!
What compromises have you had to make in order to succeed? Has it been worth all of your effort?
At the beginning of 2020, we didn't expect to be uprooted from NY so abruptly, and the relocation, finding a new home and studio, etc. was definitely a hassle. But, it was definitely a blessing in disguise, and a fresh new start. The pandemic was a scary, but eye-opening "fast-forward-to-the-life-you've-always-wanted-to-build" moment.
What do you love about being a creative in Memphis?
It's an amazing time to be an artist in Memphis. We love being able to collaborate with new people and hear their stories behind the pieces they customize. Everyone is so warm and excited to work with us that it creates an environment where work doesn't actually feel like work!
How can someone commission you for custom embroidery?
or follow and DM us on Instagram @WeTightKnit or e-mail us GetPersonal@WeTightKnit.com
Ashley and Whitney will be at Arrow this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10am-6pm for custom embroidery! Bring your denim jackets, stockings, Christmas pajamas...you name it...and make it extra special!