At first glance the life and times of Ashley Williams (2014 edition) are distinctively London centric; the designer shares an office with Bleach London and The Book Agency – the pastel hair people and a fashion management agency respectively – and via the wonders of social media has a well documented friendship with several of the city’s most sought after.
Identified as HappyAshleyland following her Westminster graduation show (primarily the result of one merry slogan graphic), her fashion label is today distinguished as Ashley Williams London, further cementing her place within the capital’s grasp.
But her collections – the aforementioned BA show, the three that followed under Fashion East, and her most recent FunkyOffish capsule line with Pixie Geldof – all present a different story, embodying in part at least, a mammoth interest in American culture.
“The second one actually wasn’t inspired by Miami,” she informs Clash, referring to SS14’s ‘Dream Boat’ collection of denim pleats, snake print bikinis and bright yellow large brimmed hats.
“No, but loads of people said it and I guess it was quite Americany, like quite ‘80s ish.” Nike pool slides – the one time reserve of American dudes and current hero of the fashion industry – finished the look, ensuring its translation as transatlantic.
Both its predecessor and that which trailed it however, were outright tributes to Americana. AW13 let the world know ‘My Heart Belongs to Elvis’ (literally, in the case of an embroidered silk top), while AW14 provided a Texas state of mind with horses, fringing and a leather bag the shape of the state occupying the role formerly given to fluffy sharks.
Both too, subscribed to the accidental icons-of-American-footwear trend, with Elvis marching on Converse Chuck Taylors and the south sampled via cowboy boots.
“Because I am part American, and I’ve never lived there but I have been there a lot,” considers Williams of her reaction to the expansive country, “it’s maybe just a part of me that I haven’t really been able to identify with that much. ‘Cause I’m not very American, like my personality’s not very American, I don’t sound American, so it’s maybe a way of exploring that part of my family and that part of my life really,” she says, ensuring us it’s completely accidental and could well be overturned come SS15.
Of her associations with The Dream itself she picks on Coca Cola, “through the ages of America” (said with phony commercial voice) and Juicy Couture, both kitsch in appeal and contradictory in the arenas of class and taste, like much of the nation’s ideas she observes.
“I love America but it does contradict itself constantly, like it says one thing and then does another. I do find that interesting, not that I agree with it, but thinking about why it is like that.”
Such thoughts are evident across Instagram, with both hers and FunkyOffish’s accounts a hotbed of kitsch imagery, a world in which Kate Moss and Cilla Black share digital space with Nick and Aaron Carter, the Olsen twins and Kardashian quotes.
Unintentionally or otherwise, the selection makes for a fully embracive statement on an area of American culture. Much like her clothes though, and more specifically The Dream, it’s open to interpretation.
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photo: Lucia O’Connor-McCarthy