You may not be familiar with the name Michael Asendio Jr. yet, but he is one of America’s leading accessories and apparel designers. And chances are you may have some of his designs already hanging in your closet. Throughout his career, he has designed for the likes of Nautica, Diane Von Furstenberg, Jones of New York, DKNY, Ted Baker of London and many other global brands.
His designs have been and continue to sell out by the thousands, per minute, on venues like HSN and QVC, and in global department stores and shopping websites. High-end international firms that license designer brands seek out his expertise from forecasting trends to global sourcing and production, delightedly so for the past thirty years.
An alumni of Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Michael’s prolific sketching abilities caught the eye of Ralph Lauren’s Women’s Polo Division in 1988, who hired him as the first African-American artist on staff. “This was before they had computer assisted designs (CAD),” he stated. “You had to hand sketch before computer CAD designs came into existence.”
A decade later, Michael got his first taste of the licensing side of the fashion industry when he was invited to join Wathne Limited. The Wathne sisters are international manufacturers of custom-made private label handbags, luggage, accessories, and packaging. As such, they held licensing agreements for Via Spiga, O by Oscar De La Renta and Ralph Lauren, just to name a few, according to Michael.
“Wathne had 8 divisions on QVC and 8 on HSN,” he stated. In fact, if you’ve ever shopped for purses and handbags on either network, chances are you already have one of his fabulous designs. Its corporate headquarters were located in the tony 57th street shopping district in NYC where Michael says under his leadership; the company’s over thirty brands ranging from cosmetics GWP’s to retail for various stores brought in 75 million annually.
“We were one of the first companies on television producing and selling celebrity handbags like Susan Lucci and Blaine Trump. We were ahead of that trend many years ago,” he declared. After four years with Wathne, Michael Asendio parted amicably and was chosen as Vice President at Rocawear.
Once on board at Rocawear, Michael Asendio pitched an idea to Michael B., Rocawear’s potential licensor to do licensing for the business, thus creating a line of belts, handbags, and accessories. “We went to Italy, did our research, came back and put together a presentation. That’s how I launched Rocawear accessories for the company back in 2002, working with Rachel Roy & Damon Dash.” Rocawear did not produce any accessories prior to his arrival, according to Michael.
In its first year, Michael said: “We made several million dollars.” By the time he departed, Rocawear accessories were doing an estimated 20 million. With such stellar credentials, and success upon success, one would expect a bit of aloofness; however, Michael is very much down to earth and shuns the limelight. He prefers quiet evenings and ocean side chats with his long-term friends and family and his cat named Isabella Friska.
He also credits his old-school Chicago upbringing by his mother Irma Jean Zenteno and his grandmother, Mamie Mitchell, who both encouraged him to be creative and to pursue his passion for fashion illustration. “Growing up in Chicago was an incredible time in my life,” he said in a phone interview with the Chicago Defender. “The 80’s was a turning point in our society where we saw a defining moment when traditional values began to erode with the emergence of house music coming out of Chicago and New York and punk out of London. We saw a merging of the two in Chicago and that exposure has influenced me to this day,” he says.
As Design Director for Peraseo Footwear Couture, Michael has launched a collection of shoes & handbags which are sold at several specialty boutiques in Chicago & New York. In his luxe python boot, you can see an elegant punk influence with a mixture of chain link, metallic python, and suede. An instant classic some would say. Stopping for a sidecar cocktail, then the fur trimmed, quilted high heel is yet another design that’ll last you for seasons to come.
For more information, visit his website http://peraseo-footwear.myshopify.com/