My sewing room is covered in dirt.”
These are unexpected words coming from the mouth of a fashion designer whose work has appeared in publications like Vogue Italia, Cosmopolitan Australia, Ink Fashion Magazine, Missy Ink and Inked Magazine Australia.
But then, Somerville’s Ashley Rose isn’t like a lot of the designers whose work you’ll see on the pages of Vogue or Cosmo. Many of her dark, couture gowns and gothic corsets and lingerie – often inspired by architecture and nature – are covered in branches, real flowers and, yes, dirt and moss.
“One of the makeup artists I work with, we went out to her parents’ house in Wilmington, and her mom gave me a bunch of Tupperware and boxes to go gather moss and sticks and stuff,” Rose recalls with a laugh. “I’m an adult collecting dirt.”
Her techniques may sound bizarre, but these fantastical designs, which look like they could have been ripped from the pages of a Grimm fairy tale, have earned her a passionate group of fans. With more than 15,000 likes on Facebook and 15,000 Instagram followers, Ashley Rose is sort of a minor celebrity. Fans comment on photos of her work with praises like, “Absolutely stunning,” or, “You’re my all time favorite designer!” and scrolling through her Facebook profile, you’ll find yourself buried in an avalanche of well-wishes and compliments – “beautiful,” “stunning,” “dreamy.” Considering that the Internet is so often a home for negativity and anonymous hate, these sentiments are a testament both to Rose’s immense talent and her warm personality.
Fans believe in her designs so much that they’re even willing to support her work financially. In 2013, when she set up a Kickstarter to fundraise for her first L.A. fashion show, she raised more than three times her goal of $350.
But despite the outpouring of love she receives from the community, and despite the fact that she’s worked with beloved alternative models like Kelly Eden and Amelia Nightmare, Rose’s slightly unorthodox approach to fashion has left her largely excluded from the Boston scene.
“It’s very, you know, obsessed with Chanel,” she says. “Which is fine! But they tend to never invite me to anything or to participate in anything.”
That means that to date, Rose has set up nearly all of her shows on her own. A woman with an innate gift for networking and self-promotion, she’s often responsible for meeting promoters, suggesting a show, finding a venue, inviting models and more. However, Boston may be warming up to Rose’s gorgeous, gothic designs. She was able to debut one of her pieces at the Boston Fashion Awards in November, where several members of the audience came up to her to say how much they loved her work.
“Someone wrote a review saying I was the highlight of the show,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘What, really? That’s awesome!’”
Rose’s new fans in the Greater Boston area are in fabulous (and famous) company. Her admirers include celebs like Kelly Osbourne, who featured some of Rose’s dresses on her blog in November, and experimental singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe, for whom she was able to design a few pieces earlier this year. (She says that she’s never “been obsessed with the celebrity side” of fashion, but admits that these were two moments when she found herself at least a little starstruck.)
Not one to plan too far in advance, Rose isn’t sure what’s ahead in 2015. She does know for sure that she won’t be overbooking herself; there was a time when she did 11 shows in 12 months, which she says she’ll never do again. Still, she has no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“Things just tend to fall in my lap, and I just say yes to everything,” she says of her success so far. “You can’t stop, or it’s done.