News & Runway

Ashley Haydock: A Very Young Designer

After the two-hundreth Marc Jacobs fashion show, do you think Marc starts getting bored? At a certain point, does it all become, like, “Oh, right, another collection”?

This is why I spoke with a very young designer – Ashley Haydock, age 22, who graduated from Syracuse University’s fashion design program just a couple weeks ago.

I wanted to know what it feels like to be a brand-new designer, putting together your first-ever fashion show for your first-ever collection.

The Fashion Spot: What did it feel like to do your first show?

Ashley Haydock: I hadn’t slept for days before my Syracuse show, and all of the backstage prep was very stressful, especially since I was doing all of the make-up myself (I had someone else do the hair).

Watching my models step out onto the runway for the first time was extremely emotional for me. And then, within what seemed like a split second, it was over. For about a week after my show, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to relax or spend my downtime at first; I felt like I needed to be working on another collection.

tFS: What was the concept for this collection?

AH: At school we studied Theatre de la Mode, which was an exhibit from 1945 that featured dolls wearing miniature couture outfits.

It was meant to reintroduce couture to the public, since WWII put a damper on the industry.

From the doll exhibit, I moved on to Barbie.

From Barbie, I decided I would build a dollhouse to feature my designs, so I researched interiors that I felt would complement Barbie’s aesthetic.

I found rooms designed by Tricia Guild, and was inspired by her color palette and patterns. So ultimately my collection was inspired by Barbie and Tricia Guild interiors.

tFS: How long did you spend working on the outfits for this show?

AH: The collection I designed consisted of 25 looks, and from those 25 looks I picked six to construct for the show. I can’t even begin to estimate how many hours I spent working on these dresses.

The most time-consuming aspect of the whole thing was getting the fit right.

For each garment I make, I start with a muslin version, which is essentially a rough draft made using inexpensive fabric. After I drape my first muslin, I make a pattern from it, cut it from new muslin, and fit the muslin to my model.

My blue tweed dress with the pleated layered skirt took countless fittings. In fittings, you isolate certain problems, and then make the necessary adjustments on paper with your patterns. Every time I would fix one thing on this dress, something else would be horribly affected. I made nine muslins until I got the bodice to fit right. That was the most frustrating part for me. When you’re averaging five muslins for each garment before you get the fit right, that means you are making six dresses for every one dress, so I actually made 36 garments.

If I slept at all at night, it was for one hour max on the couch we have in our studio, and I would nap between my studios during the day. I was only at my apartment if I had to shower or change my clothes.

tFS: Who actually stitched together the outfits you designed?

AH: Tailors put in all the zippers and did the hemming. Aside from that, I made everything myself.

The flowers on my pink and white dress are completely hand-made; each one took a half hour, and I used 25 yards of organza to achieve the look. I even designed the pattern for the printed fabric used on my coat color and zipper dress, and had the fabric custom-printed in China.

tFS: Because the NYC show [a show for the top collections from SU fashion grads] was a group show, I assume you had less control over some aesthetic aspects than a designer would have in a professional show. Can you talk about that?

AH: All of my accessories and shoes shown in New York were selected without my input. The hair and make-up was pretty clean and basic, since the models’ look had to agree with all of our collections. But we did each get to choose the music that played while our models walked.

tFS: What are you going to do with the clothes now?

AH: A couple of people have asked to buy my dresses, but I’m not sure I am ready to part with them. It’s my first collection, and I think that I want to keep it forever.