Designer Ashley Nell Tipton wants plus size women to have a lot more fun when they get dressed in the morning.
“I was forced as a kid to wear black because it was slimming. I wanted to wear bright colors so I could feel happy and alive,” she says.
Viewers can peep the vibrant collection, which includes items like a dusty pink scuba skirt and a lipstick print blouse, at three fashion shows today at noon, 1 and 5:30 p.m. at Greeley Square in Manhattan. The shows, which feature plus size influencers like Tess Holliday on the runway, will also stream live at JCPenney.com
We spoke with Tipton about her fashion inspiration for her debut line and the challenges she encounters as a plus size designer today.
You got into fashion at a young age. When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
I knew I wanted to be a designer when I wasn’t able to find clothing that fit me or my style. Growing up I had a real struggle trying to find clothing. There weren’t that many options out there. I remember being in my room, draping fabric over myself, just having an imagination about what it would look like. It wasn’t until I was in high school when I started taking theater classes and I got really interested in doing costume designing. Anything that had to do with sewing, I was there.
Can you tell us a little bit about the collection you’re launching today?
I wanted to create a collection with JCPenney, something that they haven’t done and something that we plus size women have not seen in the industry. I wanted to bring them fun choices and things that can go with whatever is in their closet and that is just a great add-on. With the pink pleated skirt, it’s something that we haven’t seen but it’s something that’s going to add a different element to their wardrobe, to be able to get them out of just wearing a black skirt, you know, being able to allow them to show their personality through their clothing and be confident in what they’re wearing. These are all the things that I had in my head when I was designing this line, and what I wanted the customer to walk away feeling like.
What’s one of your favorite pieces you’ve designed?
One of my favorite pieces has to be the motorcycle jacket with the chiffon bottom. When I tried it on I absolutely fell in love with it, the silhouette and the shape of the garment when it hits your body, it gives you that waistline that you want.
You’ve had a lot of success at only 24 years old, winning Project Runway last year and now launching this line. What challenges have you faced as a plus size designer?
It is tough being a designer that people sometimes think that you’re promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. I’m not promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, I’m promoting that the place that women are at now, they need a variety of clothing and that’s what I want to do. It has nothing to do with their health or the size that they’re at. I believe, it doesn’t matter where you’re at, you still deserve to feel good and look good and find clothing that fits you. It’s tough to hear all the comments, but it’s the same thing every time. But it pushes me to continue what I’m doing, and I’m never going to give up.
Scroll through the slideshow at the top to preview a selection of pieces from Tipton's collection.