It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. In just one week, the Project Runway Season 14 winner has had a groundbreaking NYFW show with a collection collaboration with a major retailer and, a few days later, was publicly trashed for her season winning collection by none other than Project Runway's esteemed mentor Tim Gunn, who called her clothes "hideous." Plus-size fashion designer Ashley Tipton has certainly experienced the fashion rollercoaster. So, what actually happened?Just a week ago, the designer had a coveted NYFW show unveiling her new plus-size line with JCPenney. In her interview with Mic, Ashley Nell Tipton reveals she is blown away that she has the opportunity to showcase her plus-size fashion line, giving real women, who are not a size 0, some fresh fashionista looks to make them look and feel fabulous. To get this sort of exposure is priceless for an emerging designer.
"It feels amazing. I just think it's crazy. It blows me away that I am here once again. Because honestly it's very touching to me to be able to showcase at New York Fashion Week and to be able to do it again and to have a major retailer behind me to allow me to put my voice out there and my designs and for them to fully believe in me."Perhaps what is also fabulous is that her fashion line is now so accessible as it is sold at JCPenney, a retailer with stores all over the United States, with many pieces available for sale online. The JCPenney line is called Ashley Nell Tipton for Boutique+. This is quite an honor as historically, many Project Runway winners often vanish from the public eye after their hard earned win. Too often, their post-win collection has limited availability for fans of the show. Tipton understands this and is quite grateful that her collection is now made available to her many plus-size fans seeking real fashion, not just some big thing to hide their flaws. Now anyone can wear her fabulous new collection.
"I'm super excited to be collaborating with JCPenney to create my first-ever capsule collection for that plus-size woman who needs that confidence and wants to be fabulous every day."Since Ashley's big show at NYFW, her Project Runway mentor, Tim Gunn, has made his own waves in the industry. In a recent headline grabbing Washington Post editorial, the famed Project Runway mentor wrote a scathing piece about the lack of fashion for "real" American women puts the blame right at the core of the "disgraceful" fashion industry. What inspired this piece? Real women who want to be fashionable yet are unable to find clothes that do not look like they are playing linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. These women have approached him and expressed their frustration at the limited fashionable options that also flatter their less than perfect shape.
"'Tim, look at me. I'm a box on top, a big, square box. How can I dress this shape and not look like a fullback?' It was a question I'd heard over and over during the tour: Women who were larger than a size 12 always wanted to know, How can I look good, and why do designers ignore me?"After justifiably ranting about the industry itself, Gunn talks about the very show that he is famous for and admits that catering to "real" women is a shortfall for the Emmy-winning reality show. Every season, there is a variation on the "real women" challenge. Tim groans as he recalls how the fashion designers on the show are literally crippled by their inability to design for women that are not human giraffes: impossibly tall and super-skinny.
"Project Runway the design competition show on which I'm a mentor, has not been a leader on this issue. Every season we have the 'real women' challenge (a title I hate), in which the designers create looks for non-models. The designers audibly groan, though I'm not sure why; in the real world, they won't be dressing a seven-foot-tall glamazon."Then, Tim continues on his Project Runway rampage by trashing Tipton's Project Runway Season 14 collection by calling her clothes "hideous." Perhaps more importantly, he called Tipton's win a "tokenism" and pointed out that one of the judges told him that they voted for this collection based on the "symbol" not the actual fashion collection, as Project Runway judges are allegedly supposed to be evaluating in their final decision.
"This season, something different happened: Ashley Nell Tipton won the contest with the show's first plus-size collection. But even this achievement managed to come off as condescending. I've never seen such hideous clothes in my life: bare midriffs; skirts over crinoline, which give the clothes, and the wearer, more volume; see-through skirts that reveal panties; pastels, which tend to make the wearer look juvenile; and large-scale floral embellishments that shout 'prom.' Her victory reeked of tokenism. One judge told me that she was 'voting for the symbol" and that these were clothes for a certain population.' I said they should be clothes all women want to wear. I wouldn't dream of letting any woman, whether she's a size 6 or a 16, wear them. A nod toward inclusiveness is not enough."One tweet succinctly commented on the Tim Gunn piece and diss of Tipton.She is absolutely right.
While Tipton's winning collection was not meant for everyone, her garments, all worn by plus-size models, appeared to be quite inspired by 80s Madonna, before she lost the weight. This Desperately Seeking Susan Madonna homage included revealing lace crop tops in frothy pastel and soft sherbet colors along with fantasy lace crinoline skirts, sheer jackets, and shorts. The colors were modern. Pantone's colors of the year for 2016 were Serenity and Rose Quartz, thus Tipton's choice of colors was fashion forward. These looks were hardly meant for the office but instead demonstrated that fleshy women could still look sexy and alluring. These models were not women eating pizza alone at home on a Friday night. These women walked with pride and confidence and other women wanted to be them! Nowhere in Tim Gunn's piece did he acknowledge the empowering message that Tipton presented.Obviously, Tim did not see Ashley's new JCPenney collection at NYFW. Had he seen it, we would assume he would acknowledge that in this new collection, there is not a crinoline in sight! Her color palate is more sedate and appropriate for work and leisure.
It does make sense that he mentioned Tipton's season-winning plus-size collection as it is so fresh in the minds of Project Runway fans. Yet, calling out a contestant from Project Runway in this very public forum is really mean. He could have worded his opinion of her winning work in a far more neutral way. Instead, he essentially told fans of the popular Lifetime show that the judges did not choose the winner on the merits of their design. This is published just a week before the new season begins. Will this boost ratings? Odds are, no. Those who are still mad at Gretchen Jones beating out Mondo many seasons ago,and accusing the judges of bias could add fuel to the fire that the show does not base wins on talent, but instead on other, not so honorable merits. Many fans have believed that the reason Mondo did not win that season is because he did not cut off the sleeves of his long polka dotted dress, as the judges asked him to do. Mondo used his own designer instincts and kept them in tact. Instead, Jones followed the instructions of the judges implicitly and she won.
To his credit, Tim Gunn may still just be crabby from last season. He was famously unhappy with the season, complaining about the lack of motivation and energy in the designers. As the Inquisitr recently reported, Tim Gunn was very frustrated with all of the designers, "especially Swapnil Shinde." He really pushed to get that designer eliminated to send a message to other contestants. But, this took the most talented designer of the season out of the competition way before NYFW. By tampering with the season, he hurt viewers of the show. Shinde created some incredible pieces. If this was his work when he was lazy, fans of the show could only imagine how great his pieces could have been had he put in more effort.
Ashley Tipton has not said anything publicly about Tim's piece. Odds are, she will not. Her mantra with JCPenney says it all. She is strong and confident in who she is and what she represents. Ashley Nell Tipton has been dealing with negativity about her weight all of her life, and this seems to fuel her to move on and continue to create beautiful plus-size fashion.
"I am enough. We are enough. We are all enough. #HereIAm"Do you think Tim Gunn was too harsh with Ashley Nell Tipton's winning designs? Do you think he should apologize to Ashley?
[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for NYFW- The Shows]