Up Close with O’More Alumni Designer Ashley Balding

O'More College of Design

By Jamie Atlas, Chair of Fashion, O’More College of Design
Photo Credits: Brett Warren

Ashley Balding earned a BFA in Fashion Design at O’More College of Design and immediately jumped into launching her line Ona Rex which was recently featured at 2016 Nashville Fashion Week.

Ashley has also worked with Otis James in Nashville, and is the lead designer for Ceri Hoover Bags. Needless to say, Ashley loves staying busy and one of her other passions is education. We are excited to announce that Ashley will be joining the fashion department at O’More this Fall as an adjunct instructor sharing her knowledge with our talented students.

Ashley always makes time for others and was more than happy to answer some questions about her journey as a designer.

O'More College of Design

What most influenced your desire to design?

I have always been inspired by the grand runway presentations of Prada, Chanel, Marc Jacobs (the list goes on). That’s where my imagination first began to go crazy. Slowly but surely I started to translate that inspiration into garments.  I loved working with texture and color to tell a story.

Where do you find creative stimulation?

Everywhere! A lot of times it is the tiniest detail on the side of the street, or a random song I get stuck in my head that sparks an imaginary tale. Just getting outside of my head and looking at my world is the greatest way to find inspiration. Finding quiet time is absolutely necessary to let my creative juices flow.

What turns off your creative juices?

Worrying about what people are thinking, and what other people are doing.

What has most surprised you in your career as a designer in the field of fashion?

I think one thing about running my own business that I didn’t realize was the solitude involved. And even beyond that, following what you consider to be your dream and passion has so many ups and downs associated with it. I think just understanding that there is an ebb and flow to both designing and the fashion industry — it can be quite complicated. I’m learning to not let the highs and lows define what I am producing, but to just keep producing and pushing forward.

Who is your design hero/ine and why?

I have a deep deep love for Prada, Miu Miu, and Marni.  All embody the whimsical, yet modern aesthetic that I strive for.  They also truly believe that you must create a world for people to experience through their clothes.  It’s not just a business for them.  It’s a way to let people escape into a story.

What is one thing we can do to become better designers?

Listen to each other. Remember that we are all going through similar issues, and it makes a huge impact to maintain community and communication with each other. Also, BE A NICE PERSON. It will take you a lot further than you think.

What’s the glimpse of wisdom you can offer about the future of design? 

Remember that it’s not just about making money and making more and more garments faster and faster.  There is an art form to it. There is delicacy and practice. This whole transition to seasonless fashion worries me because people are becoming more demanding and want even more for less.  And instead of the industry teaching consumers that good things come to those who wait, they are feeding this bottomless pit of want. I just want us to remember the magic behind fashion and remember that it’s about feeling and story telling. We should work to preserve that, not forget it.

What is the one thing you would tell anyone who wants to be a designer?

Take your time. And remember that you are in it for the long haul. It takes so much time to develop your design aesthetic.  And you will have a million people and a million circumstances try and sway you.  Always work to seek your vision. Don’t be afraid to listen to advice, but listen to what feels right for you and don’t stop!

What is a story that you like to tell about design, the state of design or your life as a designer?

What it all comes down to for me is that design is a dream. Everyday I get to translate an imaginary world into a wearable world for someone else. This is my passion.   I want to work to keep the story of fashion alive and to help people see that they can feel something extraordinary in the right garments. It’s not just about appeasing a consumer world.  It’s about drawing a picture for those who may not have the ability to pick up a pencil.

What headline would you use for life?

Be kind. Take Risks.

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  1. Thank you so much for this. It’s so nice hear the perspective of a former graduate and industry professional. There is a really beautiful line between listening to people but not being too influenced by what others think. I’ve found that genuine kindness is an important price of any successful puzzle. I’m glad I waited until I was 30 to really start my career in fashion– the last 20 years have brought me enough self knowledge to really pour myself into it. Thank you so much!

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