Q&A with Project Runway Winner and Designer Ashley Nell Tipton

Designer Ashley Nell Tipton took the plus size fashion world by storm winning season 14 of Project Runway with the first plus size collection in the show’s history. With a colorful aesthetic that’s “always evolving”, we love Ashley’s positive, genuine, and total lady-boss vibe. We got the opportunity to host a Q&A with Ashley Nell Tipton at our pop up GB Flatiron discussing her entrepreneurial adventures as a plus size woman working in fashion. Before her Q&A (streamed live on Facebook!) we got the opportunity to sneak in a few extra questions to pick this vibrant’s designer brain.

IMG_0739 Ashley in the Plenty By Tracy Reese Deconstructed Plaid Off Shoulder Dress

Tell us a bit about your experience with Gwynnie Bee so far!
“I’ve had a wonderful experience with Gwynnie Bee so far. I feel like Gwynnie is a great platform to test things out, really test what works for your body and your style. I know working with you guys closely, as well as being your customer, that I trust you guys. I trust you guys are going to give me great quality clothing that have been tried out by multiple body types and it feels like you give your stamp of approval on all these items and that’s a confirmation that’s comfortable.”

That’s so flattering! So, what’s your favorite style of the moment?
“Off-the-shoulders has been my go-to style right now. I want to be sexy but tasteful, and I want to be in a kind way, and I think showing off your shoulders is a great way to do it. I just want to look over my shoulders. [laughs]”

You’ve said winning Project Runway felt like a win for the plus size community, and it really does feel that way. What do you find to be unique about designing for the plus size customer?
“You get to see women transform into the real woman she wants to be. When you’re given, like, no options [as a plus size woman], we all end up looking the same. I hope that I can show women that you don’t have to stick to just one style, that you can play with styles and try out new things. Whatever fits your mood!”

14360165_190541631351618_671193788_n (1) Ashley wearing the Melissa McCarthy Seven7 Rhythm Blues Maxi Dress

So we can expect a lot more you? Do you consider your aesthetic ever changing?
Of course! I think because growing up, I had to wear clothing that was not age appropriate, and then I went to men’s clothing, I had to be creative with that. It was hard for my mom to dress me, she gave me whatever clothes she could find for me (and that she liked for me). I remember a time where all I wore was collared button down blouses and I hated it! But I have a love for them now, because now I realize I can wear things differently. I’m always trying to wear things the opposite way of how you’re ‘supposed’ to. I like thinking outside of the box.”

You’ve said your outfit can really change your mood, and we agree! On the days you want to feel like your most confident and powerful self, what’s your go-to thing to throw on?
Anything that sparkles. [laughs] Anything that has a print – print excites me. But honestly, it comes down to my hair and makeup. When those are on point, I feel put together.”

In the vein of being confident, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve brought with you into your booming career?
Know what is right for you and to be real with yourself. If you’re not real with yourself, no one else is going to believe you.” 

Okay, ready for some rapid fire questions? Whatever comes to mind first. 

Coffee or tea?
“Tea.”

Tote or clutch?
“Tote! I have to carry a lot of things.”

Favorite fashion rule to break?
“Wearing horizontal stripes.”

If you were a print, which one would you be?
“Polka dots!”

Favorite way to relax after a hectic week?
“Watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and laughing with friends – it’s the most rewarding because we laugh non-stop.”

One item you could never live without?
“Skirts! I love my skirts. But then again, I love my shoes! I don’t know, that’s a hard question – I hope I never have to answer it in real life.”

GB_ANT_0194 Ashley chatting after her Q&A at GB Flatiron

Dream girl squad team?
Adele. Or Beth Ditto. You know, Beth Ditto has it. I love her. Her music has helped me through a lot of things and just seeing how she doesn’t care – she will strip down to a bra and underwear in her shows and she does doesn’t care. I wish I had been old enough to go to those shows when they were happening.”

Go-to lipstick color?
“Taupe.”

Celebrity crush?
“Adam Driver. He has such a unique look that’s so attractive to me. And he’s so tall!”

I know you love drag queens! If you could design for any drag queen, who would it be?
“I have to go with one of my favorites [Valentina], because we both know the underdog situation, we both come from being Hispanic and young… I just feel that connection to design for her. But also Bob the Drag Queen. I will always love Bob.”

Who are the women that inspire you?
The women in my life: my grandmothers, my mother, my sister. Seeing how much hard work they’ve had to go through – especially my mother being an immigrant coming to this country and working her butt off to make a living. She had to drop out of school when she was in the sixth grade and she brought each and every one of her [ten] brothers and sisters and her mother to the United States, got them all citizenships, got them all in school, and she was the first person to have her own house. And my mom does not stop working to this day. She’s my motivation to continue working, so I can support her. My mom has taught me everything. Just seeing how much of a hard worker she was and how determined she was, that’s where I get my determination. No one can ever tell me “no” because I will prove them wrong. And that’s thanks to my mom.

Ashley, thanks so much for sharing with us! Want more Ashley? Check out our Q&A with Ashley Nell Tipton at our pop up, GB Flatiron below: 

This interview has been transcribed, condensed, and edited.