I have never met the marvelously talented Ashley Rose of Ashley Rose Couture, though I genuinely hope to do so one day. And yet, a small part of me feels like I know a small part of her. If you can tear your eyes from her ravishing, fantastical fairy tale creations and gaze beyond her opulent, avant-garde styling (though why would you want to look away from these resplendent ensembles? but bear with me for a moment), and get to the core of what she seems to be all about, there’s a big, beautiful non-conformist heart beating an exquisitely strange, but undeniably powerful song. Ashley Rose wants us to embrace our weirdness and all of the things that make us peculiar or odd or eccentric; our unorthodox attitudes and the unconventional art we proudly create that makes people stare in wonder or horror, or even–and especially–look down their noses at us. “There’s a new day coming,” she wrote in a piece last year for Vogue Magazine — and the dark, the strange, and the unusual, all have a place here.
Last August, Ashley Rose debuted her Shadows of the Realm collection at Black Veil Studio of Tattoo and Art; an enthralling display of wraiths and phantasmal creatures swathed in black lace and veils, and embellished with antlers, wings, jawbones, and teeth, it was a shadowy spectacle three feverish months in the making. But what manner of extraordinary fantasies has this fanciful visionary and innovator been conjuring as of late? Haute Macabre recently caught up with the eternally bustling Ashley Rose, who filled us in on her upcoming show “My Dearest Dust”, as well as, offered us insights into some of her other recent projects and passions.
Haute Macabre: You are a whirling dervish! You always seem to be in the midst of finishing a collection, or starting a new one! Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on right now?
Ashley Rose: Currently I am working on my newest collection, “My Dearest Dust” which will be a continuation from “Shadows of the Realm” My previous collection was heavily inspired by the Void. In the void you are stuck in darkness with your own thoughts. Therefore, I broke up the collection into two groups- white gowns vs black gowns. I showcased the collection in a presentation format so the viewers could interact more with the models and view it as a story with emotion than what you would feel with just a model walking down a runway then leaving. In the center of the show was a massive black gown with a headpiece that was so large, the poor model had to be seated. Darkness rules the void– which is what I wanted that specific piece to represent. For my new collection, I will be following the same format as I loved how intimate the setting was. I knew that my new collection had to be a continuation of my last one. I want to continue the story with the models heading to the light or stuck in the darkness. To give the models even more of a background I wanted to give one a story. I spent this past winter reading a lot of mourning poetry one poem in particular stuck with me. “My Dearest Dust” an epitaph by Lady Catherine Dyer to her husband whom she had lost. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read. It is written by her, a new widow hoping to be taken in her sleep, as she wishes rather to be dead than live without her husband. I spent a lot of time reading the history of the poem where a lot of people were not sure if she wrote it or commissioned it, but people believe that because of its intimacy and [the widow] never remarrying, that she did write it herself. She ended up living another thirty-three years alone after his death. Since love is what heavily inspired the poem, I wanted the gowns to be enormous white gowns. I have a lot of work to do on this new collection but I’m excited to be working on it.
On your facebook page and website you note that Ashley Rose Couture turns “everything obscure into wearable art”–what sorts of obscure items and discoveries did you find yourself working with lately? I also love how you collaborate with beautifully unusual models. What do you look for in the humans you wish to see draped in your creations?
When I had created the Facebook page several years ago I had been making pieces out of mirrors, shower curtains and doll parts to just name a few. I was trying to discover what my niche was as a designer, but knew these weird abstract pieces were my favorite to make. The weirder the object was the more I wanted to incorporate it onto a piece. I remember watching True Detective and later working on a stick piece inspired by the show for a shoulder piece. I always laugh thinking about what my neighbors think of me cutting branches and tying them together. Working on those pieces helped shape me into who I am now. Most recently I have been working on pieces out of bark, baby’s breath sewn into vinyl and skulls.
I have learned over the years that it is far more enjoyable to work with your friends. Some of my friends happen to be models but most of them are my friends I’ve peer pressured into modeling for me. It makes the whole experience more exciting when it’s with people you care about.
Your work last year on the Converge – “Jane Live” – Album cover was gorgeous. I see you have an extensive album collection…how important is music to your work, how does it inspire and inform you? Are there any musicians you dream of collaborating with?
Working with Converge still doesn’t feel real. My boyfriend and I almost have their complete discography on vinyl so the fact that i’m now apart of that is pretty surreal. I remember showing him the record and saying “Can you believe this?” and him laughing replying “nope!” It was the most important project I’ve been apart of. That band has been with me musically through so much and I’ll always be grateful to have been included in that dream line up of artists. Music in general has always been important to me. Whether I’m working on a piece in my studio or shopping for materials I have music playing. It definitely plays into the mood of the piece I am working on. I got into hardcore and punk music in my early teens. Through going to shows I’ve met some of the most influential and inspiring people. The shows I went to while growing up (and still am) are by musicians who are also these incredible and hard working artists. It was mesmerizing to me how these artists were capable of doing so much and doing it themselves. Since music has had such a powerful impact on my life – any opportunity i get to work with a musician is incredible. From going to shows for so long (and working at a record store for 6+ years) my record collection is taking over my house a little bit. Let’s say I’m not looking forward to moving again anytime soon.
You recently, along with photographer Karen Jerzyk and a team of magic & mischief makers, took over a defunct mansion and turned it into a dark fairy tale. I get the feeling these types of shoots in derelict spaces and ruined places and are not at all foreign to you and that you in fact, relish these opportunities.. Can you tell us about the experience and perhaps about the allure of decay and the appeal of the abandoned and forgotten as it relates to your work?
I remember years ago writing to Karen Jerzyk begging to work with her. She had these haunting images and knew that was the work I was trying to do. A mutual friend introduced us years later and that was the start of our friendship. All of the locations are 100% her idea, not mine but she trusts me to design wardrobe for these amazing locations. When working on my own collections I tend to stay towards black & white. Yet working with Karen I find myself working with bold and bright colors as they can make powerful statements in these beautiful locations. She has really shaped me as a designer and she is one of the most inspiring artists I know.
Many, many thanks to Ashley Rose for catching us up on her splendid creations and extraordinary adventures over the past year, and, as a special peek for Haute Macabre readers, she has shared a generous glimpse of imagery from the forthcoming “My Dearest Dust”, below.
Photo credit: Jesse Korman
Models: Aviv, Amber & Karla
Hair: Stephanie Bartley
Set Design: Karen Jerzyk