Simone Ashley, creator and designer of BySimoneA, which is a luxury womenswear brand, has 10 years of design experience on her resume. Simone practiced from high school up until college, where she went to school for Business. She continued on with her passion for women’s evening wear.
This is the first of two interviews for RISE NYFW, where Simone’s designs will grace the catwalk. I talked to the budding designer about how her grandmother, mother, and sister are the support system she needed, her inspirations, and her rise from high school fashion shows to gracing the center stage at this year’s NYFW—all without fashion school behind her.
What drew you into the fashion world?
I started at 8 or 9 years old when my grandma taught me how to make a shirt. Of course, it wasn’t wearable at the time, but I was still in love with the idea of having something that no one else had. That inspired me to get more interested up until college.
So you credit your grandmother for some of the success?
Yes! She inspired me to sew. She’s very creative. My mom also inspired me because she helped me with drawing, helped me get my first sewing machine, and sewing table. My sister, my best friend, has been there through there the whole thing. That unit is what really kept me motivated.
You started in high school with fashion showcases. Can you tell me more?
It became more of a public hobby in high school. They had a fashion design program. I started in my sophomore year.
You expanded to the national level scene in Baltimore and D.C. shortly afterwards.
The producer of Baltimore fashion week was amazing and had so much support. I learned about casting calls, fittings, make up looks, and accessorizing and giving the guests an experience that was completely surrounded by your actual inspirations. Thus, they would get a feel as to why you would make a certain collection. I got more of an industry feel for it when I did independent shows.
Do you feel like you made it or got your foot in the door?
When I know, I’ll let you know. It’s such a hobby for me. I’m learning through my faith that it’s much bigger than that. I do believe my designs and name are starting to enter rooms that I’m not in, which I consider a blessing. This upcoming show is a blessing for me. It’s a hobby that I love, and I love translating and communicating that to other people. It’s a passion for me.
Did you know you have a keen eye for women’s evening attire?
My mom is my most recurring customer. She’s had important events for her line of work that I have dressed and styled her for. I was inspired by Carolina Herrera. Her elegance and classic silhouettes inspired me as well. Although it’s so saturated right now, I still think there’s room for new designers and new takes. That’s why I am still interested in that elegant and classic look.
On your Instagram you stated, “I want to be a fashion designer but didn’t go to fashion school”. Do you think your business degree or sewing machine helped you?
I believe both to honest with you because I feel like if you’ve never touched a sewing machine, fashion school is amazing. I think even now I can say I’d may go in the future just to get some skills I haven’t got from trial and error. I also believe, in the era of social media the business degree helped to know what to post and when to post it.
I think just being authentic. I think people gravitate towards me because I’m open about not going to fashion school and not knowing all the lingo but still able to make a very nice shirt and dress. So, I think they go hand-in-hand.
Any other accomplishments you’d like to share that occurred on your journey thus far?
Another great question! The first fashion show I had in Baltimore Fashion Week, I had a segment on being an emerging fashion designer on Fox 45, which was very surreal. I showcased my designs on television alongside another designer as well. It was fun!
You said Carolina Herrera was an inspiration for you in the fashion world. Who else?
Kenzo is a new inspiration for me for his recent Spring collection. This is how I want people to feel when they see my clothing. Each of the pieces were different. Classic silhouettes but still something fresh. Kenzo is my new favorite.
One personality I would love to design for is Sarah Jakes Roberts. She looks gorgeous everywhere I see her. Loud presence with bold colors and prints with classic silhouettes is something I’m always interested in.
Is this your first NYFW and RISE showcase? Are you looking forward to it?
Yes. Absolutely. This has been such a surreal experience for me and excited to getting a taste of the New York fashion scene and be a part of an organization for emerging designers. I’m looking forward to seeing the other designer’s collections as well.
Any last thoughts?
If I can say anything to anyone to who’s interested in doing what I am doing, this is a hobby turned something else. Put your all into it. Don’t try to be perfect but try to make everything on purpose. If you have a little bit of faith, then you’ll go as far as your faith takes you.
You can catch the designs of Simone A. at this year’s RISE NYFW.