Karolyne Ashley: Fashion Designer, Kidney Donor and American Success Story

Raisa Dress Blue and Paradise lace gown with waterfall train/Courtesy KA

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

For clothing designer and entrepreneur Karolyne Ashley, it all begins and ends with love.

The Drexel University graduate, who has been featured in Fashion Week events in New York, the Bahamas and Nigeria, said she has a passion for people and believes that the ultimate quality of life is created by loving each other “as deeply as we love ourselves.”

That importance, she said, reigns supreme as a core company value and acts as a guide in the process of planning the pieces she creates.

“We are excited to share our love and creativity with every woman that wants to tap into their inner goddess. Love is truly the key,” said Ashley, whose company, The Karolyne Ashley Atelier, has created “fantasy” evening wear pieces she says exude the most dreamy types of elegance and glamour.

Ashley’s designs are known for exuberant color palettes and innovative silhouettes, all which serve to capture the hearts of women globally.

“We pride ourselves in creating timeless pieces that will stand out within any crowd and turn heads on every red carpet. At the Karolyne Ashley Atelier we create custom evening wear pieces made-to-measure for each of our beautiful clients,” she said.

The company works within a community of sustainable design entrepreneurs whose vision is to re-shape the impact that fashion has on the world from negative to positive, Ashley said.

With a strong focus on glamorous evening wear and millinery, Karolyne Ashley brings holistic values to the special occasion and evening wear markets. “We are committed to produce our garments through sustainable means by utilizing transparent supply chains, producing locally in small curated production houses, and ensuring fair wages throughout our entire production pipeline,” Ashley said.

Karolyne Ashley/Courtesy KA

“We believe that beauty shouldn’t compromise our value nor is overindulgence exclusively equal to luxury fashion. With that, all of our products are either made-to-measure in our Karolyne Ashley Atelier or sold pre-sale via our website and at exclusive events.

“This model allows us to eliminate excess waste while supplying consciously fabulous fashionistas globally.”

Born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., Ashley and her family later moved to Richmond, Va., where she spent her high school years before relocating to Philadelphia for college.

Eventually, she opened a shop in Brooklyn and then re-located to Houston after providing a kidney for her brother who needed a transplant – something Ashley called a simple act of obedience to God.

“It was my immediate reaction to offer my kidney and I felt strongly that it was something God wanted me to do,” she said.

“I knew that I was taking a drastic physical action but had no comprehension of the sacrifices that I would have to make with my business, personal life and mental health.”

The Jan. 2018 surgery proved successful and her brother is doing exceptionally well, Ashley said.

In Houston, Ashley has opened a studio where she creates some of the most stunning lines of evening wear, bridal, millinery and custom designs.

Last month, Ashley attended the NNPA Mid-Winter Training Conference in Orlando, Florida, where she wore a stunning black ensemble – one of her signature designs. “This dress is actually a two-piece garment made of a black satin wrap skirt with an exaggerated hi-low hem and a textured bodysuit,” she said.

The pieces can be worn separately or together with other items.

“The skirt is called Roxie and was inspired by the need of having evening wear pieces that can grow and transform with the women that wear them,” Ashley said

Both pieces are a part of her “Rebirth” Collection that she premiered at Arise fashion week last March. “The overall collection was inspired by my journey through my brother’s surgery and recovery,” Ashley said.

“The mixture of dark colors and static brights are the expression of my many stages of healing and finding wholeness.”

The outfit is available for purchase at “The Pop-Up Co-Op” boutique in Houston and will soon be available for custom orders on her website.

Recently, Ashley was appointed as the head of the Style Shop at Workshop Houston, a nonprofit that focuses on community building through the creative arts.

The Style Shop at Workshop Houston has fashion, music production, STEM, and tutoring programs. Students perform hands-on projects within each discipline.

“As the coordinator of the Style Shop, I am building fashion curriculum that teaches both industry techniques as well as goal-centric frameworks to build the students’ social and emotional attributes,” Ashley said.

Scarlett Gown Hand painted/Courtesy KA

She also serves on the board of the AU Diaspora African Forum based in Accra, Ghana, where she’s developing programming and collaborations that ultimately will be formed into camps, schools, and training platforms with a primary focus on building up young ones through the creative arts, entrepreneurship, and economic development.

When asked where she gets her inspiration, Ashley said it comes from her parents.

“I would say that I am constantly driven and inspired by my family and mixed cultural heritage. My father is Bahamian and my mother grew up in Brooklyn, NY but has roots deep in the south,” she said.

“So, I am drawn to the color and nature of the islands, the charm of the south, and the bustling energy of the city.

“This shows up in the layered colors and textures of my work. I have also always maintained a strong spiritual connection which guides me through various life experiences.”

“This deep sense of connection allows me to move fluidly through life’s journey. In ways, fashion becomes my therapy and allows me to speak through situations of turmoil and bliss. This shows up in my mood boards and silhouettes. I try to keep my eyes and heart open while creating so that each collection tells as deeper story.”

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