If you are a fashion lover or sewing addict like me, you probably know of the famous reality TV Show Project Runway. In case you are not familiar with the show, it’s an American Reality TV show focused on Fashion Design. It was a very popular show that lasted 19 seasons. I particularly remember Ashley’s season, because she was the first plus size designer I have seen on the show. Her journey though project runway was groundbreaking, controversial and a very much needed representation.
Project Runway showcased quite a few designers who were not exactly pleased to be provided with a sample model that was considered “plus”, which really meant they were over a size 4. Therefore, imagine how different and exciting it was for the show and the audience when they see a plus woman fight through the stigma and win the competition.
For this very reason, I immediately thought of Ashley for this month’s theme. Her entire journey is a self love journey, and she was so kind to take time out of her busy schedule to share with us her experience. Let’s meet her!
Ashley, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and perspective on how sewing can help your mental health and wellbeing. Let's go back to your first interactions with a sewing machine. What paved the way for your interest in the world of sewing and fashion design?
My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was a child and I fell in love with it. Anything “crafty” we would do together. As a “big girl” I didn’t have a lot of clothing choices, so I made my own!!
I like to say that sewing is a love language. Would you agree?
For me it’s a love language only because I love doing it. I feel like anytime you are passionate about something and love to do it, it shows in the end results.
When you decided fashion design was going to be your career, what was one of the hardest things to overcome?
The stigma attached to being a plus size designer in a world that didn’t accept me.
Aside from winning Project Runway season 14, what is one memory that you absolutely treasure, in your sewing journey?
Wow there are quite a few. I have had the opportunity to Design costumes for a Major Motion Picture, I made a dress made out of Color Boxes for Sally’s Beauty, and of course the 100,000 of Masks we made during the pandemic.
How has sewing helped your mental health and in different stages of your life?
It’s my constant. It’s that thing in my life I can rely on. Sitting in front of my Machine is my zen zone!
You currently have a section on your YouTube Channel called "Love YOU show". Tell us a little bit more about that and how It came to fruition.
I have been on a Journey of Self Love, Self-Acceptance and Self Care. Those three aspects of development are the foundation of the Love You Show. I have a great mentor and manager and together we were able to express my journey in a way that is compelling and understandable.
You faced a lot of rejection and ugly comments before and after your season in Project Runway from other contestants and from Tim Gun himself. How did you internalize this and eventually overcome it?
At the beginning it literally killed me. My soul, my confidence, my self-concept. I overcame it through expressing it all on my “Love You’ show.
Sirena Elite has an audience that has used the practice of sewing as a way to cope with anxiety and mental health. As an advocate, what message do you have for these people?
Get a machine, get a needle and thread, take a couple classes, and CREATE. Find your zen space.
Now it's time for some fun questions! What is your favorite sewing tool?
Of course the tape measurer!
Anything in particular you don't like to sew?
Have you ever been to Puerto Rico?
No, but I would love to visit!!!
Article written by
Karla Menendez, member of the Sirena Elite community