Ashley Williams’ designs aren’t for wallflowers. ‘BAD MOOD’, ‘PLASTIC SURGERY’ and ‘LAST CHANCE TO ESCAPE PLANET EARTH’ are just some of the tongue-in-cheek slogans emblazoned across her pieces – created with a little help from fashion’s favourite graphic designer, Fergus Purcell.
The London-based Williams has been championing 80s and 90s subcultures (along with all things kitsch) since her first collection in 2013, helping to define a look that’s sort of a mainstay now – one where fur, PVC, graphics and a healthy dose of sparkle come together in a ‘so wrong it’s right’ tribute to twisted girlhood.
Then there are her references – from Elvis-crazed Americana to real-life doomsday cults. “Spending time really seeking something out, and the reward of being inspired by what I found, feels more gratifying,” she says of taking her research offline. “But change is inevitable, bad and good. I’d say that the advent of the interconnected new world of the internet is supremely exciting in a fashion context.”
When it comes to casting for a show, the UAE-raised designer chooses girls who possess the same daring spirit that’s sewn into her garments, like Grace Neutral, the tattoo-covered artist, model and self-professed alien who walked for SS16. For Williams, runways are a chance to inspire self-belief and self-confidence – and it’s vital that the models also embrace those ideals. “With the casting we just wanted to have strong personalities, because it’s about celebrating girls for just being themselves and not like anyone else – that’s what’s going to make you the happiest.”
Text Monique Todd