Designer Spotlight: Ashley Williams

With celebrity fans like Rihanna and Cara Delevingne, meet fashion’s newest brit pack leader 

Words: Laura Smith

Described by the doyenne of fashion journalism Hilary Alexander as one of this season’s “must-see designers”, we were very excited to meet fashion designer Ashley Williams. Famed for innovative collections featuring Coca-Cola, 80s graphics and Minnie Mouse, Ashley was in Birmingham as part of Selfridge’s ‘Live and Loud’ festival this October. So what did she make of the city?

“It’s been good, I’ve had a nice experience of it,” Ashley says. “I like the old industrial look of parts of the city and there’s one building that really reminds me of the London School of Science and Technology.”

The designer’s festival installation was inspired by her forthcoming collection – for which she managed to persuade Georgia May Jagger to open her AW15 show in a strapless LBD emblazoned with badges that read ‘Plastic Surgery’ and ‘Last Chance to Escape Planet Earth’. Ashley describes her most recent collection as darker and referencing things that she liked as a teenager. This is quite apt for someone who only realised she wanted to be a fashion designer “when I went to sixth form and I thought what am I going to do?!”. As she goes on to explain, “I knew I liked clothes and liked to make things. I would customise things and staple things together which actually looked really nice now I think about it”.

Now 27, Ashley first hit the fashion scene with her University of Westminster graduation show in 2012 – where celebrity friends Alice Dellal (who was the face of Chanel at the time) and Pixie Geldof modelled the collection. After this, she debuted with Fashion East in 2013 (whose alumni include Jonathan Saunders and J.W. Anderson) and won the British Fashion Council’s New Gen sponsorship. The celebrity fans quickly came knocking. Her design aesthetic has proved irresistible for the likes of Rita Ora, Rihanna and Harry Styles. After showing her now-iconic teddy bear bags for Fall 2013, model Cara Delevingne was spotted carrying one, making them a must-have.

Her designs are now stocked internationally in top end stores including Browns in London and Selfridges in Birmingham, and she’s also produced a jewellery collection – ‘Funky Offish’ – with Pixie Geldof, but what does the future hold for the young designer? “I really enjoy doing accessories and this season was the first time I have done jewellery, so I’d like to expand that.” Ashley reckons she might also venture into furniture and homeware at some point, as long as it is “dark with lots of prints and paint”. From the designer Dazed & Confused described as “the queen of kitsch”, we wouldn’t expect anything less.

As the Editor of Style Birmingham magazine you will most often catch me on the go, running around the city looking out for the hottest spots in town to tell you all about.