“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” — Coco Chanel
Fashion is an art form. Fashion is self expression. Fashion is a business. But most importantly, fashion is one of the biggest evolving constants in the world. In some way or another, everyone contributes to the world of fashion. However, only a remarkable few are the ones who are the creators of the garments – the artists in the fashion industry. Today, INSPIRE@BTHS explores one such person – fashion designer, Ashleigh Verrier.
In a bright and spacious studio on Seventh Avenue, sit the whimsical and romantic designs of Ashleigh Verrier, a 28 year old designer from San Francisco. The walls are covered with cut outs of designs and sketches waiting to come to life. With wide windows and beaming rays of light, the studio overlooks an array of office buildings and apartments. It is the very heart of New York City. Here is where this master of her craft creates the next “it” look.
Verrier moved to New York City at the age of 20 to attend Parsons The New School of Design, where she graduated as “Designer of the Year.” However, it didn’t stop there. She then sold her senior thesis collection to Saks Fifth Avenue. Verrier says “It was amazing. The fashion program at Parsons provides an entree` to being successful in the industry. You have to have what it takes to put together a collection that is going to be commercially viable. You have to get people excited in terms of what you are doing. I think it was sort of this wave where I would intern for other designers who sold their senior thesis collection to Barneys , which really gave way to this idea that I could actually have this opportunity to sell my collection to a major department store. So, it was incredibly exciting. I think when you have an opportunity like that, it is definitely worth taking advantage of so you can correlate that into a business. In saying that, there is obviously a significant amount of things that need to happen in order to run a business beyond just doing a fantastic senior thesis collection. I think there is sort of that balance of being able to link what you do as a student and having that lead into a successful business.”
Nevertheless, it wasn’t all success when Verrier first started up her line. There were certain obstacles that Ashleigh Verrier had to overcome before becoming the incredible success that she is. “There are so many moving parts to running a fashion business. I think people from the outside perspective think of it as this glamorous, very creative field. You’re making pretty dresses and looking at beautiful fabrics and you’re drawing fashion sketches. There is a certain element of that, but I really would say it is kind of more rolling up your sleeves and getting it done—whether it is production on orders that you’re receiving or even just dealing with factories to translate your patterns into actual garments, which isn’t terribly glamorous. I don’t know if I have a biggest challenge. I think everything combined represented a challenge in itself of just trying to balance everything. It really took me a while to kind of get the ebb and flow of fashion, when things are more busy versus when things would calm down a bit. There is so much that goes into timing. I would say that the biggest challenge in fashion is staying on top of your game. Because you are really only as good as your latest collection, and, when it comes to stores, you are only as good as your latest delivery. ”
With so many opportunities coming from so many different directions, Verrier learned to prioritize her time in such a way to make it all work for her. She states “As a designer, you are constantly pushing, constantly trying to create something that is different, and it took me a while to get used to that pace. I think the way I overcame that is just putting things into perspective and saying ‘Okay, let me only take on what I can handle.’ So when I first started showing my collections, I decided not to do a full-on runway show but do more of a fashion presentation. Also, when it came to stores, I wanted to be very strategic with what stores I would align with and how I would distribute the garments. So, there is definitely that balancing that I had to consider.”
Furthermore, Ashleigh Verrier is a strong believer in hard work and perseverance. When asked what advice she had for other aspiring designers, she said “I think it has a lot to do with following your intuition. I recently read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, and, in the book, Pausch says ‘Success is when luck meets opportunity.’ It‘s this idea of being ready for luck when it comes. So, I think my advice for anybody going into any field, pursuing whatever dream they want to pursue, is to firstly, never ever give up. You are going to face challenges. You are going to hit these brick walls that you are going to have to get through. Second, you always have to be ready for this idea of luck. It’s putting in the work, so that when those opportunities come, you are ready. I think that is the definition of success. I think, going into this industry, you have to definitely have a more realistic perspective that it is not all about a glamorous lifestyle. There is a lot of hard work that goes into it. For me and Jude (Verrier’s mother as well as her business partner), we face challenges every day that put us to the test of whether or not we really want to do all of this. So, I would say have discipline, do what you want to do, and be ready for luck.”
The INSPIRE@BTHS Team then went on to ask Ashleigh Verrier a few questions out of the Marcel Proust Questionnaire. We believe that this is a great way to get to know our interviewee. Here is a bit of what Verrier had to tell us.
Favorite Fictional Character: Holden Caulfield from Catcher in Rye by J.D. Salinger.
Most treasured possession: Pictures of family.
When and where you happiest: Probably when I was a child. I grew up in Mill Valley, just outside of San Francisco, and it was this picturesque, chalet type of house on an acre of land. It was just really a happy time. Looking back, I have a lot of fond memories. However, I wouldn’t say that it isn’t the only happy time, because I experience happy times right now, but that definitely would be a happy moment.
Greatest Extravagance: My boyfriend and I go to a lot of restaurants, so that can be an extravagance. I think New York is just an amazing place to go out and indulge.
Favorite Journey: When I graduated from high school, my mom took me to London and Paris. I think that kind of the first time that I opened my eyes to fashion. London was so different from Paris because they both had their own personalities. London was very boho-chic and boutique oriented while Paris was very grand scale with all the chic Parisian fashion.
Greatest Achievement: It is hard to point specifics on “a greatest achievement.” Obviously, selling my thesis collection to Saks was a big push. When I did my first presentation, I had this spread in W Magazine which was really exciting. I’ve had celebrities, who I really admire, where my clothes like Christina Hendricks and Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men. I’ve done charity work that I am proud of like participated in the Red Heart Truth Campaign where I designed a custom dress to benefit women’s heart health for Natasha Henstridge. It is such a challenge because you can say “I’ve done this, and I’ve done that,” but because you need to reinvent yourself everyday type of industry, you can’t rest on those laurels. When you look back you are like “Oh, I’ve done this and that,” but , at the same time, I feel like I have so much more to prove and so much more to show. You constantly have to be looking ahead.
Greatest Influence: Obviously working with my mom, I think we have a great influence on each other. Having her in my life and us both being able to learn and grow from each other, has made doing this business a journey of sorts. She has been an incredible influence on my life.
Motto for life: Never ever ever give up.
Ashleigh Verrier is a strong-willed, determined and inspiring woman. She is never afraid to keep push the boundaries in the world of fashion as well as in real life. She is a true artist, a true visionary, and the INSPIRE@BTHS Team truly commends her for that. With the help of her mother and business partner, Jude, there are no limits for what Ashleigh Verrier could do. We cannot wait to see what this brilliant,dynamic duo will be up to next.
So everyone, never ever ever give up and constantly look ahead. Be assertive. Be curious and most importantly, be inspired.
Adieu and Arrivaderci everyone! Until next time on INSPIRE@BTHS.