Ashley Nell Tipton was much more than just another contestant when season 14 of Project Runway premiered. I could tell right from the very first episode—as could many others, obviously—that she was a rising fashion nova who was going to pave the way for plus-size designers to come. And boy, did she do just that.
After weeks of impressing the judges with her top-notch design skills (I’ll never forget the unconventional challenge when she made an entire dress just from Polaroid photographs), Ashley made it to the finale and had the opportunity to present a collection at New York Fashion Week. And, in a Project Runway first, she presented a plus-size collection that was bright, exuberant, fun, and, most important, game-changing.
For Ashley and the entire fashion community, this marked a huge step towards inclusion of diverse body types on the runway.
“[Growing up], I was very limited on what I could wear/buy so I used to create my own clothing. This was my motivation to become a designer,” Ashley told Hard at #Werk in an exclusive interview. “I wanted to create clothing/choices for those of us whose choices were limited!”
And create choices she sure did! After winning the season (which, TBH, was no surprise to me), she’s worked on a plus-size collection for J.C. Penney, created a jewelry line for K&M Accessories, and even released an eyewear line in 2017. Needless to say, she’s #SlayingIt and, through it all, she’s never stopped fighting for the plus-size community. But as all full-figured fashionistas know, this has never been an easy task. For Ashley, it’s been difficult even when she was on Project Runway winning the show.
When asked if she ever felt pushed aside or looked down upon for being a plus-size designer on the show, Ashley said, “Of course. Just look at some of the comments Tim Gunn has made. No-one really understands this market and what we are dealing with. It’s time for that to change…The curvy/plus-size community needs choices…”
She added, “Not only am I creating for those of us who have not had choices but I also am working to overcome bias in the perception of the market. ‘It’s none of your business what I choose to wear’ is the number one bias [I face].”
But through the trials and troubling moments, Ashley has pushed through and stayed dedicated to her mission of representing plus-size women in the industry. Her ANT Premier Clothing Line includes items that are so hard to find in plus-sizes or designed in ways that complement larger body types including suspender pants, bodysuits, and more. It’s super cute and pretty affordable as well.
And although Ashley has designed primarily women’s clothes up until now, I have some great news for all you guys out there: an Ashley Nell Tipton menswear line may not be too far off!
“I would love to [design a menswear line]! Any companies out there? I am ready!!”
Um, yes, please!
So what advice does Ashley have for aspiring designers? Get educated, stay humble, and never stop improving your skills.
“Find a niche—get an education!” she said. “I am tired of people trying to shortcut the process. You must learn how to design before you can become a designer. Sorry—that’s reality. It’s competitive out there and you must have the skills necessary to become successful!”
Ashley certainly has the skills #skillz and we’re so excited to see what’s next for this game-changing designer.