As the designer, creative director and CEO of A Renee Fashion, Ashleigh Holmes has not only gained a huge amount of attention in the US, she's gone on to make her mark in the UK with her second feature during London Fashion Week. Here, she takes us through her empowering journey, some of the early challenges she's faced in the industry, plus more.
Osazeme Osaghae: How does A Renee Fashion differ from other fashion brands?
Ashleigh Holmes: I’ve built a luxury custom-designed line and we’re trying to bring back the old way of fashion built for you so it’s not mass-marketed, it’s not for everyone, you won’t see 15 million people with the same outfit, it was custom built for you, for you to look good and for you to stand out. It was made for you to show your personality and to grow you as an individual.
We are luxury and we are custom, it’s built for you, by us. We want all of our customers to be happy, to be satisfied and to love the feel of their clothes, the way it makes them feel, the way they look. It’s all about your inner beauty outwards, whether it’s men, women, it doesn’t matter. We want your clothes to stand out as much as your personality does. We build clothes especially for our customers.
Osaghae: Would you say being a fashion designer was always the end goal?
Holmes: About until 8 years old I wanted to be a paediatrician, and then that changed to wanting to be a psychologist, which directly links into fashion because
"psychology is the way you feel about yourself,
the way you think about things
also affects the way you choose your clothes and how you feel in the clothes."
By the age of 15, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. First thing was to show my artistic talent and once I got a glimpse of how happy people were when they wore my clothes that became my passion. My goal is to make you light up, not just smile but glow.
Osaghae: Can you tell us about some of the early challenges you faced starting out in the fashion industry?
Holmes: Because I do luxury custom designs, it isn’t a widespread market, a lot of people don’t understand it as much as they do mass market or wholesale. It’s a limited group of people, who understand and look for it. I would say that reaching out to the people who are not in my target market is my greatest challenge so far.
Osaghae: How has A Renee Fashion been influenced by your personal experiences?
Holmes: It’s 100% inspired by my own experiences.
"As an artist, you're influenced by everything in life,
therefore every collection shows
a different side of me,
a different thought in my head, a different process."
If I’m sad, the emotion will reflect in my collections and if I’m mad, well you might just see that in my next collection!
Osaghae: What’s been your most favourite 'fashion designer' moment so far?
Holmes: I can pinpoint one. It’s the same thing that happens at every show where your models line up before they go out, you see them all in a row, then the first one takes the first step onto the runway. It’s the most amazing boost of energy you can imagine. All your emotion dies down and you’re like ‘this is it, the world is about to see my baby’. It’s like freedom and there’s nothing else to be done. Just go. That’s the best moment.
Osaghae: Many designers gain inspiration by looking to others. Which designers do you look up to?
Holmes: My favourite designer of all time is Charles James. I absolutely adore him. Of those still living, I would say Michael Costello, I love his designs.
Osaghae: And, how about your style inspirations?
Holmes: I love Zendaya, and Gabrielle Union. Zendaya’s collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger was amazing!
Osaghae: When you're not working, what can we find you doing?
Holmes: There’s no taking my mind off the business, off fashion, away from designing. That is my life! As it’s my passion and something that I’ve always wanted to do, I don’t consider it as work. When I’m not sewing, I’m drawing. When I’m not drawing, I’m thinking. When I’m not thinking, I’m in a fabric store. When I’m not in a fabric store, I’m thinking of buttons. It’s a continuous cycle in my mind. It doesn’t stress me out. If I get tired of sewing, I’m like ‘Oh let’s look at buttons. If I get tired of buttons, I’ll look at other things. Let’s learn a new skill’. There’s a never-ending motion and when you’re tired of one thing, you just work on another. There’s always so many options and variables that my mind is always a task. I bleed fashion. It’s second nature to me. I’m working but it doesn’t feel like work.
Osaghae: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Holmes: In 5 years, I’m hoping to grow A Renee Fashion to be a fashion house. To be in a position where I have a staple location, a brick in water, where I have established my house.
Osaghae: And, how about the fashion industry? How do you see it evolving?
Holmes: The fashion industry changes every day. In the next few years, I think we would go back to certain styles. Right now, baggy styles are back in. We could even go back to the Victorian days with even bigger styles, formal gowns, bigger looks. We’ll see more classic silhouettes because fashion always changes, it changes in cycles and motions, so we have got to go somewhere but I feel like that is where we are going to next.
Osaghae: If you were to thank someone for where you are today, who would that special someone be?
Holmes: My Grandma, who passed away in March. She supported me through thick and thin. Even when she didn’t know how to support me, she still supported me. Whether it was buying me sewing needles or beads it didn’t matter, my Grandma was there no matter what, up until the day she went home. She was my number one fan. And this collection is dedicated to her. The collection is hers, which is why it is named ‘Inspired’. She really did inspire me.
Osaghae: Do you have any advice for those wanting to take the plunge into the fashion industry to start their own entrepreneurial adventure?
Holmes: Never give up! No matter how much you want to, how hard it seems, how many things don’t seem to be going your way. You never know what’s coming around the corner.
You never know what opportunities are coming down the line. You never know when that
one thing that you thought would never work happens to turn out for you. You just never know. Always put one foot in front of the other.
"Just keep your head up, keep going, keep pushing.
Keep having fun. Keep loving what you do.
And don’t let anyone else discourage you, or make you think any other way. Do what you do, do your own style, run your own race, stay on your own path."
No one else has to look like you, no one else has to be you. Just do it.
Osaghae: At the Davi Magazine, we love to ask our guests, if you had an opportunity to speak with your old self to save yourself heartache and pain, what would you tell yourself and why?
Holmes: The heartache and pain make you who you are today. If I didn’t go through the rough patches, then I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today. I definitely wouldn’t appreciate my ups because I never had my downs. I would probably just say ‘Don’t let hard times discourage you. You’re guaranteed to have hard times, but they won’t last forever.’ Make sure you buckle down when the storm comes and you enjoy the sunshine when it happens.
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