The mission of Designow’s debut monthly design challenge was to create a “New Boho” style that reimagined the spirit of the 70’s with a modern twist. 21-year-old fashion designer Ashley Gonzalez, who recently completed her junior year at F.I.T., talked to us about the process, her winning designs and more.
Tell us a little about yourself and your fashion aspirations.
I grew up in the small, country town of Tomball, Texas and knew at 10-years-old that I wanted to be a fashion designer. So far, I have an A.A.S. degree in fashion illustration and I’m working on a bachelor’s degree in fabric styling, with a minor in art history. I would like to design either for a company or for myself. Ultimately, I would like to have my own e-commerce site and sell both home and fashion products that carry my prints and designs on them.
Since you focus on illustration and fabric, have you also been designing clothing?
No! This was my first time. Well, I actually had a small fashion show for my 15th birthday. I haven’t had the patience to sew as much as I thought, but the creativity and ideas are still there for collections. I’ve had ideas for all sorts of garments, from T-shirts to eveningwear. Essentially, I would just like to produce the patterns and textiles, and then have a team I work with do the actual manufacturing and product development for me. I can render garments very well; I just can’t sew. That’s the sad truth. But I’d love to have my own clothing label.
So your two winning Designow pieces, a peasant blouse and kimono, were some of the first you’ve created?
Yes. The kimono was the first time I have ever machine-sewn chiffon and I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since high school. When I heard about the challenge, I thought of the festival goer—what kind of girl she is and what she would wear to Coachella. I was home for spring break, so I went to Houston and picked out a gauze material for the peasant blouse and thought, ‘I’ll just see if I can do this.’ When I got on the sewing machine, I realized that I still had a knack for designing clothes. Then I went to Mood Fabrics in New York and found some paisley-print silk chiffon and I worked on the kimono. On the bottom, it has beads that imitate a tie-dye color and mock suede tassels that I handmade myself and hand-stitched onto the garment. I still can’t believe to this day that I won; it’s really crazy. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I could win something like this!
How would you describe your style or aesthetic?
For the customer, I like anything that is easy to wear, very marketable and trend-based. As far as my own personal style goes, I like heavily romanticized motifs and embellishments, from florals to animals. French rococo-themed anything is my style. Things that are very pretty, very beautiful, handcrafted and ornate in detail. I love to take ideas like a three-dimensional embellishment on a couture gown and translate that to a print on a T-shirt— capturing the ultimate feel or essence of something higher-up and putting it on something wearable.
So after you won the challenge, what happened?
Well, I won $500. And I just had my first Product Development Meeting with the Designow team. We went over the price point of the garments, where and when they will be selling, how many units will be made, and a little bit more about the whole manufacturing process. It was exciting to see the sample garments I submitted photographed on a professional model. This was my first time talking to a company about production development and I feel I already learned a lot. I’ve never had anything done at this scale before. We decided that my peasant top will sell for $80 and the kimono top will be sold for $100. And now I will go out and promote Designow to try to get people to buy my garments. If 30 people pre-order a garment within 21 days, they will go on with production.
How do you feel this concept can most benefit young designers like yourself?
I believe in Designow’s idea to find new talent by reaching out to students and having them submit their design ideas for a chance to have their own garments produced without it costing an arm and a leg. It’s very expensive for students to make one garment, let alone multiple units, and then have the time to sell it. It also gives people like me, who don’t get to sew all the time, a chance to actually see their vision created. So I think it’s a really smart idea. There’s nothing else like it out there!