Whether we like it or not, what we wear sends out a message about who we are. What if these messages were written right on our backs, visible for everyone to see? Denver designer, Ashley OWinter of WINTERASH specializes in patched denim jackets that are full of images and messages in support of female empowerment. This past decade has been huge for women around the globe and social movements have set the tone on how women brand and spread female empowerment. Patches are no strangers to spreading awareness in society.
In the ’70s many wore patches as a way to unconventionally promote peace or counterculture. Now decades later, this fashionable addition is still being used as an eccentric voicebox. The message and precision that is put into every jacket is one that is not meant to be ignored. OWinter keeps herself inspired by surrounding herself with amazing women who are adamant about seeing her succeed. In her brightly decorated in-home showroom, OWinter gave 303 Magazine a tour of her colorful pop art patches while chatting about her design process and plans to advance WINTERASH.
303 Magazine: Tell us about your background, how did you get into fashion?
Ashley OWinter: The first time I felt invigorated by fashion was in LA. I was 10 years old and my mom and (super cool) college-aged sister dressed me in a matching Pucci knockoff suit. I STRUTTED down the streets and eventually picked up some rose-colored sunglasses to top it all off. That was the moment that I became into fashion, I started pairing sparkly sneakers with grass-stained overalls and loud fluffy coats with my soccer uniform. From those formative years came my tomboy meets fancy sparkle queen fashion sense. I guess I’ve always been beckoned by fashion but it took a moment of disinterest as a documentary filmmaker for me to rekindle my love affair. Two years and a few sewing classes later; here I am sharing that 10-year-old inner-child with the world.
303: How do you see your jackets inspiring and moving the women around you?
AO: My goal is for the people who wear my jackets to have that “FUCK YEAH” I feel amazing and empowered feeling when they walk down the street. Or for those who are having a tough time to feel completely confident with who they are in their fabulous safety cloak.
303: What was the toughest part about starting your own business?
AO: I think the toughest part about starting my own business wasn’t the lack of support from my people, but the lack of confidence I had in myself. It’s a big risk and it took me a while to work past my own self-doubt but when I see people wear my jackets with excitement it brings me all of the validation I need.
303: Why do you think it’s important for women to spur one another on?
AO: Without the amazing women in my life cheering me on, I would definitely not be composing answers for an article about my business. Being a woman is like being inducted into an incredible sisterhood with free business, marketing and general life advice. It’s incredible what women have done for me who barely know me, old and young, just because they want to see me succeed. It’s incredible and I am psyched that I get to be a part of the club. So if anyone is having a tough time moving forward or needs some advice, I am here for you and I’ll bet you, so are the many amazing women of Denver and beyond.
303: Can you tell us more about the design process and where your inspiration comes from?
AO: I don’t always know what I’m going to make before I start working on it — I pretty much always have two jackets being pinned, one drying from being painted and one being sewn. The movement from one project to another helps me get a fresh perspective on my work and I will never change my ADD ways (haha)! My main goal for each piece is for it to be inspiring, kickass, usually a little edgy, and something I would happily rock myself. My inspiration comes from the badass people around me, our disappointing political climate, nature and pop art. It’s tough to pin it on just one thing, it’s like a ball of well-inspired energy that needs to get out.
303: Are there any designers that inspire you?
AO: There are SO many designers who inspire me in various fields — from interiors to clothing to landscapes — we’re all just trying to emulate a feeling and share that with people. That in and of itself is inspiring. But if I did have to pin it on someone — I would say Elton John’s various costume designers have absolutely made an impact on my creativity and fabulousness.
303: Will WINTERASH ever have plans to make more garments other than jackets?
AO: I’ve been wanting to work on denim and leather; overalls, pants, skirts and dresses. Right now I have my eyes set on making a rad Canadian tuxedo!
All photography by Madison McMullen