Though you may know her entrepreneurial side best, Ashley Merrill’s love of art has run strong her whole life and has become an increasingly important part of her career. We sat down with our Lunya founder to learn more about the role art plays in her work, life, and rest.
Tell us a little bit about your relationship with the art world.
My mom, aunt, grandma, and great grandpa were all artists, so I grew up completely immersed. I dabbled a lot in the creative arts as a young person and even ended up majoring in art history, but wasn't quite sure the form this passion would take in my life. Recently, as Lunya has become more mature, I've reignited that passion a bit and have been lucky enough to be a part of MOCA and join the LACMA board. It’s an amazing source of exposure, education and inspiration that has enhanced all the other facets of my life. More recently I’ve taken up woodworking — I fantasize that one day after I retire I’ll rededicate myself to actually creating. I get so much joy from using my hands.
It seems like your love of art and your desire for continual discovery are intertwined.
Yes, I love going to shows or finding artist upstarts when I’m traveling. My first meaningful art purchase was a set of bizarre ceramic spikes I found while wandering France with my husband. We thought they were playful and weird and loved the idea of bringing that energy to our home. I think the shipping ended up costing more than the piece itself but the memory of our adventure made it so worth it.
I’m attracted to art that is big on narrative — I love something that makes you second guess its layered meaning, challenges your perspective, or reveals a contradiction. I’m medium-agnostic but care deeply about how art makes me think or feel.
And what does art have to do with your business? Can a person rest more artfully?
Well, the process of studying art is meditative and reflective, so it has a natural relationship with our mission to elevate rest. Many daily activities have ceremony to them — take eating sushi, for example. Lots of little plates to give pause on each type of fish, little sauces, beautiful creations, the right drinks, chopsticks. The details reinforce the specialness of eating this delicacy. Sleep is the foundation of our life experience, therefore it must also be a source of ceremony, art, and inspiration. Sleep dictates your mood and perspective. Personally I bring ritual to rest — many of us do even unknowingly. I brush my teeth, put on lotion and sleep face oil, pour myself tea, put on my Lunya, dim the lights, go into a bedroom which I’ve designed to be minimal but beautiful to try to get myself in the right mindset for my best sleep. That philosophy has actually inspired how we approach all of our stores, which we call Bedrooms. Our Bedrooms are all unique, developed in partnership with individual artists, and intended to inspire how we think about our most personal spaces.
Tell us about the Lunya design process.
Fashion is wearable art — it changes with the times and reflects the values of the moment. If you zoom out and think about this on a macro level — pants in women’s fashion were a huge shift, signaling movement and liberated activity for women. They enabled her to ride a horse, walk easily and swiftly… pants were freedom. The popularity of Lunya and Lahgo signal a shifting embrace of comfort in a broader context. Our brands are often informed by high artistic fashion — a new hemline from a trouser style or a cropped fit from a runway, as a sign of how much we value this rest state. We all deserve to put our rest on a pedestal, to treat our bodies with love and care, and to find inspiration when we’re not performing for the outside world. We are pulling artistic inspiration from everywhere.