The Founders of Haute to Death on Fashion, Music, & More

DJs Ash Nowak and Jon Dones bring all the good vibes to their local dance parties and their own wardrobes
haute to death
DJs Ash Nowak (left) and Jon Dones lounge at The Film Lab in Hamtramck, a spot they both love for its interior.

Since 2007, DJs and husband-and-wife duo Ash Nowak and Jon Dones have created dance parties more akin to penthouse parties for partygoers frequenting nightlife hotspots in and around Detroit, including Temple Bar, The Painted Lady, and poolside at MGM Grand Detroit, to name a few. While they don’t stick to a particular musical genre in their sets, folks can expect disco, house, new wave, post-punk, and anything else deemed dance-worthy. The two have taken their parties to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and Miami over the years — but locally you can find them every third Saturday at Detroit’s Marble Bar, where they’ve hosted monthly since 2018 (minus a 15-month, pandemic-induced hiatus, during which they broadcast live from home).

Here, Nowak and Dones, who recently celebrated Haute to Death’s 14th birthday, talk fashion, music, and more. 

My personal style is …

AN: New wave rodeo, remixed. I love creating themes; I love creating dress codes. I have sort of a wine-and-cheese-art-opening type vibe, but with something really loud that probably shouldn’t be there. [My style is] on the cusp of being reserved. When I get up, it’s like, “Oh, is Molly Ringwald or Ally Sheedy going to decide how I get dressed today?”

JD: Yeah, I really love that you said, “I’m on the cusp of being reserved” — I feel like I’m on the cusp of being loud. I’m a big fan of classics in general and as a philosophy.

Where I shop locally:

AN: I’m always at the Salvation Army by Book Beat [in Oak Park]. Coup D’état is excellent. Spectacles is super cool. And I’ve been going to Lost and Found since I was in high school.

JD: I feel like [Lost and Found is] a really good standby for us.

Do you have any “good luck charms” you wear while DJing?

AD: I have this [Virgo] necklace I always wear. It’s the first piece of adult jewelry I ever bought for myself, so it’s really important to me. It is very much like a part of my uniform, badge, and my qualification.

JD: I always put this one cologne on [for] our party: Artek [Standard by Comme des Garçons Parfums] — it always puts my mind in the right place.

What does New Year’s Eve with Haute to Death look like?

JD: Our Surrealist Ball is in reference to Salvador Dalí and the Rothschild parties that happened in the ’70s. So, you had to bring a surrealist-inspired look, which essentially is the most surrealist, realest version you can bring.

AN: It’s a time to remove the “I’m saving this for a special occasion,” and that works with music, too. That’s the sound policy and the dress code policy for how I think we should be presenting ourselves in December.

If I could only listen to one musician for the rest of my life, it would be …

AN: Oh, Depeche Mode.

JD: New Order. … I’ll stand by that. 

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This story is featured in the December 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition. And click here for more MI Style.