Before debuting the internationally recognized women’s ready-to-wear boutique athene on the North Shore in fall 2016, Ashley Quicksilver thought of fashion as a creative outlet, one rooted in childhood shopping trips with her grandmother.
“I would style entire seasonal wardrobes for both of us,” says Quicksilver. “I was good at it, and that gave me a sense of fulfillment. Those are some of my fondest childhood memories.”
Fast forward a few years, and Quicksilver dedicated her time as a new mother to cultivating similar cherished memories for the children she shares with husband Jeff—Noah, 13, and Emme, 10—as a stay-at-home mom. She calls the nine years she spent at home with Noah and Emme as both a “joy” and a “privilege.”
Once Emme reached kindergarten, however, Quicksilver felt the itch to do something but was not yet sure what that would be. That is, until inspiration struck.
“I was talking casually with a friend one day about how great it would be to have a boutique in town that carried all of our favorite designers we were wearing at the time and that weren’t available locally,” she explains. “That’s when the lightbulb went on.”
Soon thereafter, athene was born, named for the Greek goddess Athena of wisdom, war, weaving, and spinning. Quicksilver was drawn to Athena’s sense of discernment and acuity, coupled with her fierceness and creativity.
“To me, that is the embodiment of the athene woman,” says Quicksilver.
Because she also has a background in interior design, she wanted a true partner in the design process for both athene and her family’s Winnetka home situated on Lake Michigan. She met her match in Chicago- based Kara Mann who has worked with brands like goop and CB2 and who has a reputation for juxtaposing formal design elements with unexpected materiality, architecture, and irreverence.
“Working with Kara was a dream,” says Quicksilver. “Her aesthetic is so multifaceted and inspired. And aside from being a creative genius, she is hands down one of the coolest people I have ever come across. I can’t imagine ever working with anyone but her.”
In the family home, Mann grounded the design in classic French style but toned down the effect to convey a restrained elegance. At athene, Mann lets the clothing and accessories shine against a modern and minimalistic backdrop. And like the athene assortment itself, the overarching aesthetic is one best described as edgy yet classic.
The carefully curated selection in the store is one based on what Quicksilver personally likes to wear or on how she would style her closest friends and sister. Designers she loves right now include Nili Lotan, Isabel Marant, and Khaite, and she believes head-to-toe leather, statement sleeves and shoulders, 1970s vintage-inspired pieces, tall boots, and cozy, luxurious sweaters will be ‘in’ this fall/winter season.
“My personal style is more on the casual side,” says Quicksilver. “As an active mom who spends a lot of time on the go, comfort is definitely a priority. You will usually find me wearing jeans, an easy pair of Nili Lotan trousers with sneakers, or a chic but uncomplicated dress. I do enjoy dressing up to go out, though, and I’m a sucker for a great pair of boots.”
Simply put, Quicksilver buys what she likes and believes in introducing new, lesser- known or underrepresented designers to the North Shore, like Paris based Inès & Maréchal and Le Kasha. She often finds inspiration while traveling, discovering new brands in off-the-beaten-path boutiques along the way.
“There are few things that thrill me as much as an eye-catching textile and the craftsmanship of a well-made garment,” notes Quicksilver. “I love the satisfaction you feel when you put on that perfect piece of clothing or that perfect pair of shoes, and you feel that it was made just for you.”
However, Quicksilver still describes athene as a passion project and says when it ceases to be that is when she will call it quits. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, though: The brand is gearing up to launch an e-commerce shop at shopathene.com this month and preparing for the holiday shopping rush.
On Quicksilver’s wish list this year? “Cashmere, cashmere, and more cashmere,” she says, adding whimsical jewelry, too. “I have a fun and stunning collection of jewelry from New York-based designer Brent Neale that makes me giddy like a kid in a candy store.”
Quicksilver unwinds by watching old movies with her family, cuddling up with her pups and reading a book, passing crossword puzzles back and forth with Jeff on a lazy Sunday morning, and catching up with her girlfriends.
“I’m still enjoying every second of my journey with athene—well, almost,” jokes Quicksilver. “It has been challenging beyond my expectations, yet oh so fulfilling. The best part has been getting to know so many of the incredible women in our community. And I believe that so much of athene’s success is due to the commitment and drive of the women who I have been blessed to work alongside.”
athene is located at 837 Elm Street in Winnetka, 847-441-1918, shopathene.com.