‘Project Runway’ Season 14 Winner Ashley Nell Tipton: Being A Plus-Size Designer Is A ‘Constant Battle’

Project Runway Season 14 winner Ashley Nell Tipton has been non-stop since her groundbreaking collection stunned the audience two years ago at New York Fashion Week. She is now the top plus-size influencer.

She boldly walked plus-size models in frothy pastel looks. Her designs demonstrated to women, larger than a size 12, that they could still rock a midriff, wear lace skirts and even wear something besides the ubiquitous black, the color that rarely achieves the promise that the wearer will look 10 pounds lighter.

This beautiful collection was inspired by Ashley’s own personal need to find clothes.

“I saw how much I struggled finding clothing that fit me and my personality.”

Now, two years later, it has become more commonplace for fashion designers to include plus-size models wearing their looks at NYFW, and plus-size models even gracing swimsuit issues and fashion magazine covers.

Ashley Nell Tipton recently spoke to Yahoo Style about her initial motivation to get into fashion design for plus-size women.

“There was just not enough effort put into this industry, so it motivated me to keep going, seeing how much need there was and knowing how much passion I had.”

Did Tipton plan on becoming a plus-size crusader? Not really. She didn’t believe she had the right qualifications to become the influencer that she is now.

“At the time, I didn’t see myself as the solution. Who’s going to believe me, this kid from San Diego? I didn’t come from a fashion capital; I just knew what I liked and what I didn’t like, and was working retail at a plus-size clothing store.”

Working in retail is when she realized she could solve a problem for millions of people. She saw customers come in, look for something comfortable and just “settle” for a garment that really wasn’t right.

Before Tipton’s groundbreaking Project Runway-winning collection, the idea of plus-size models walking the runway wearing midriffs and revealing lace skirts was unheard of. What Tipton achieved was astounding.

Although the road to the plus-size runway did not start out smoothly, Ashley is still battling it out with the fashion establishment.

Yet, no matter the negative press about her design aesthetic, which could certainly include Tim Gunn’s “hideous” remark in the Washington Post about Ashley’s winning designs, she insists that she is creating what the people want: options.

“It’s a constant battle being a plus-size designer. There are a lot of people in the fashion industry who could give two s****s about what I do or think I should change how I design because they think it’s ‘unflattering’ — and those are exactly the people I’m trying to tell that none of this matters. We have to give clothing to the [plus-size] community and give them options. Let us show you what a plus-size person can do when there is clothing available for them to wear. We are stylish. But if you give us nothing, we have nothing to play off of.”

Yet, some fans may believe that Tipton’s instant success after her landmark Project Runway win has influenced the show’s current plus-size themed season.

This season, Project Runway has included a plus-size twist. The designers now have to work with models in a variety of sizes, up to size 22. The models are rotated weekly.

This diversity twist has been enthusiastically received by all fashion media and plus-size women who want to wear fashion-forward designs.

Although the showrunners for the Lifetime program may never acknowledge Tipton’s influence on the current diversity theme, most regular viewers of the show can admit a few similarities.

For example, Ashley had plus-size model Liris Crosse walk the catwalk in her winning runway show. One of the very first plus-size models on the show, Crosse is also one of the most popular models with designers and fans alike in this current season of Project Runway.

Crosse, like other models this season, are not afraid to speak their mind to the designers. They are interested in showing off their body, not covering up “flaws.”

Could it be called a coincidence that Ashley Nell Tipton designed a plus-size collection for J.C.Penney after her groundbreaking win?

Obviously, J.C.Penney realized that they had a winning collaboration with Project Runway when Tipton’s line became such a success. For the next three seasons, the winner of Project Runway will design a capsule collection.

This is a fabulous experience that will give the up-and-coming designer great exposure. There are hundreds of J.C.Penney stores throughout the country, and fashionistas can buy the merchandise online.

Most of all, Ashley is all about the fashion and expressing herself, and she just wants to wear something that makes her “feel good.” Yet, what has changed is that she no longer wants to seek approval from anyone else.

“And if I look good to someone else, I hope they take me as inspiration or whatever they want. But I know now that always trying to get approval from other people is a full-time job and I no longer want that job.”

Have you been following the career of Ashley Nell Tipton since her Project Runway Season 14 win? Do you believe that the plus-size designer was the catalyst for change in the fashion industry and the reality show with her Project Runway Season 14 winning collection? Please share your thoughts below!

[Featured Image by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Curvy Events, LLC]

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