It all started as a blog post that reviewed Ashley Paige’s Spring 2006 fashion show. A month later, having viewed our review, Paige left a message on our blog messageboard. At first we weren’t sure if it was indeed the designer, as the language used in the rebuttal was very strong. We sent an e-mail confirming her identity. Confirmed, it was definitely Ashley. At the last minute, we decided we couldn’t pass up the chance to interview her. As evidenced by her comments on our blog, Ashley Paige never minces words. She’s not the typical fashion designer. She grew up in less than stellar conditions, persevered and is now looking forward to the future. In her exclusive interview with Papierdoll, she talks about designing, stripping and her recent lash-out at us. Read below.
PD: What are you doing right now?
AP:I’ve just lit a candle and I’m making coffee. I love to burn candles all the time.
PD: Why do you burn candles all the time?
AP:I am a very spiritual person. I’m a witch. A good witch. To me, burning candles signify startng life. I burn candles in my store, all different kinds of candles. Right now I have my scented candles going.
PD: Where did you get this spirituality?
AP:I’ve always had premonitions. I had a boyfriend die and I had dreamt earlier that he died. And the night that he actually died I dreamt I was going to his funeral. I got into the whole psychic, clairvoyancy thing. I felt like I have a gift. Normally some people call it intution and I call it psychic ability.
PD:Have you always designed in Hollywood?
AP:I started in my house in Brooklyn and moved to LA for my actor boyfriend. He was an asshole. He left me for an independent film actress, some WB-looking type girl.
PD:So after he left you, you decided to stay in LA?
AP:Yeah, I was in shock. I had no car, little money. The day that he left was the first day that my knitter started. I was outside my house chain smoking and crying. I cried all day. I didn’t do any designing and knitting all day. I was hurt because of this 6-year relationship that just ended. This fucked up shit that happened to me made me strong. I refocused. It was all about knit bikinis. I was determined to try to develop a collection that was a little different. I wanted to create water friendly knit bikins. We worked really hard and designed 8 styles. I went to New York. All the fashion editors looked at my line and they liked what they saw.
I got 8 covers. Including sports Illustrated and the dvd, Teen Vogue, Maxim and Seventeen, among others. For swimwear designers, that’s kind of the most wanted.
PD:Was that where you got your break?
AP:I was working at a bar, Jumbos strip club, dancing at night. Juan (my knitter) would come to my house and I was paying Juan out of my money from dancing at night.
I was pissed at people who had everything fed to them. I realized I had to do what I had to do. I wanted to make money. I never dreamed of fashion shows. I never wanted to struggle when it came to money. This woman who had a lot of money, put in a quarter of a million dollars. She was the check writer, that’s what I liked to call her. I had to remind her I had creative control. She tried to provide creative direction for the line. I had to tell her that the original arrangement was one in which I had creative control and she simply wrote the checks. She was in breach of contract so I kept the money through help from my lawyers. Being a dancer, I met a lot of great lawyers. So I had attorneys to help me.
PD:Have you designed items for celebrities?
AP:I did a lot of stuff for tours like Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. With bikinis it was niche. They needed something sexy and different and that’s what I gave them.
For the past 4 years I was with the same clan. So when it came to designing, things were natural for my team.
PD: Your response to our review of your Spring 2006 fashion show wasn’t exactly Emily Post. Are you mad at us?
AP:Nah. You were doing your job. You felt the way you felt about the line, but I still believed you were wrong.
PD:But you did say that people talk a lot without knowing what they say.
AP:I live in Hollywood with the lips and the boobs and the fakeness and phoniness and all the bullshit and I never cast models with implants. When you guys said diet, I am sorry but I don’t judge models, nor do I go out and explicitly pick them for my shows. I book really, really young girls. Because I think youth is beauty. The world hasn’t beaten them down yet. I book girls that haven’t been on the catwalk yet. I don’t put the young girls in skimpy stuff. My stuff is tasteful I wouldn’t put them in stripper stuff. Even if you are volumptuous.
PD:How do you describe success in terms of your line?
AP:Financial stability is how I judge my point of success. I have a niche product that’s also seasonal. Everything is made by hand in my studio. I haven’t really reached the point [I want to reach]. I still am small underground. I am meeting with manufacturers to give me the freedom to design as opposed to dealing with all the administrative aspects.
PD: When we talked yesterday, you said the shit hit the fan, what did that mean?
AP:I have a lot of people that come in saying they can do all this stuff for me but if I don’t make $2 million they pull everything. I still want to maintain a certain amount of control over what we do. In my store we still bake cookies, play loud music and burn candles. That’s the freedom of the line.
I had a PA who tried to cross me. She tried to steal my customer lists and was doing shady shit behind my back. MY background is one where I grew up on my own. I took a greyhound to get away from a crazy mother and a crazy life. I didn’t have any upbringing to create fashion. My mother, my friends from the bar are my friends from life. A lot of my friends are now stylists. People like Sharon Gault. I have friends and people on my team, I will do anything for. I am really loyal. When some new player tries to come in and play me it hurts me. I’ve worked hard for everything. I am a hustler.
The people I give stuff for free to is my stripper girlfriends because they are like my family. We’ve been through a lot together and I keep that company for a reason. I don’t have a lot of money. I mean, I am poor, I am basically poor. I still dance. I dance at a biker bar. I’m not like people who say (in a mimicky voice) ‘I went to India and found this great woven textile.’
PD:What do you consider as your inspiration for design?
AP:I use memories of good times with my mom as my inspriation. I was born and raised in Florida. The part that they call The Redneck Riviera. I spent 90% of my life in a bikini. I was born in 1970.
PD:How do you approach design?
AP:I just knock off evertything I see (just kidding). I hate that question because I can’t pinpoint one thing. I go in a bad mood and everything is black that day and I end up with a goth leaning. I go to work and see legwarmers and kind of put together an outfit like that. I do what I think is sexy. I get really excited about sexy stuff. One outfit at my show came directly from my dance floor. I was drinking that night and I didn’t want to forget it so I kind of drew it out on a napkin.
When I was in college I sold a line of bikinis called sexpots to strippers.
There’s a strong stripper design influence in a classy seventi
es way. I put a thong in this year because no one was doing a thong.
PD:How many people work in your office?
AP:Eight people. Actually, now seven people. (she had just fired her personal assisant)
PD: Which designers inspire you?
AP:I am such a Marc Jacobs whore. I can’t really afford it though. He encompasses that American style that I love. He’s great. Sonia Riquel, her hair sticks out, she chain smokes … I get the feeling about her. She does a lot of stripes and knit. I also love Vivienne Westwood. I like designers that make wearable stuff. I am not into this avant-guard shit. It’s like, who can wear it?
It’s mostly New York designers. In New York, you can do ugly clothes and make a career out of it.
PD: Do you have a thing against Chloe?
AP: No, no, no. I like Phoebe Philo. I used to have issues with Stella McCartney because I was jealous. It seemed like she had everything handed to her, but now I love her. I’ve been through periods of my life where I would be bitter.
PD:What was with the missing teeth on the models at this past show?
AP: Those were girls, but in the photographs they looked weird. I hang out with bikers. I just love the contrast between hard-edged biker and the sexiness of the models.
PD: Why not show your line in NY?
AP:You know what, I don’t think I am going to show again in Los Angeles. If I could find backing and a same spiritual philosophy, I would like to do a collection of beautiful couture dresses. The fashion week people want me back in LA, but I had a repuation as a party girl. Somtimes things get out of hand at my shows and parties.
I had a VIP party after my show. I had DJ MUGGS from Cypress Gills spinning. I had some real bikers and a fight broke out. One of the bikers supposedly pulled out a knife. Things get kind of crazy at my parties and shows.
PD: What can we can expect from your next line?
AP:I don’t know, my administrative person left. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I am not quitting.
PD: And after that?
AP: I wrote a book with random house, It’s called Sexy Little Knits. Comes out May 2nd.