About a week ago, I got to interview the beautiful and intelligent Ashley Dunn, a Houston native, LA based stylist that I had the privilege of interning with. We had a deep discussion about her personal style and a few challenges she faces in her industry. Below was our conversation, in essence.
Tell me a little about how you started out as a stylist and got to where you are now:
I started at Praire View A&M University. I was a sophomore, around 2002. I knew I wanted to be an actress or something, but didn't know what yet. I wanted to do something non-traditional, so I started tapping into celebrity style and news, and what they were wearing. Like Nicole Richie, she went from a mess to super chic. Her whole look evolved. And Lindsey Lohan too. I started researching and found about Rachel Zoe. She is a stylist, and started divining into it. By my junior year, I got an opportunity to help shoot a movie, so I interned steaming clothes. That was my first big thing. When I graduated in 2006, I got my DBA and started working as a stylist. I got cards made and passed them out. In Texas, no one wanted a stylist. It sounded very foreign, but I wanted to take a risk. I mean, here I am in LA taking a risk as always. I was in corporate America, so I'd style my boss and coworkers. Then it evolved into a collaboration with a guy friend, called Fashion Revolution. He targeted men, and I women. The collab didn't work because it didn't make sense, but we learned a lot. A partnership with styling is not ideal. I did that from 2006-2013. I quit my corporate job and pursued styling full time. Then I had a collection put out in 2014. Styling was the catalyst the opened the door or everything else. I started working Television, with BET, FOX, ABC. There is a misconception that you can't do several different things, but you can. You can be on TV and be stylist. I feel like in all of this, I made a lot of mistakes, but did a lot of things right. I'm in the place where I need to be now. I knew I needed to be in entertainment. We as women should not limit ourselves.
Describe your style and why you dress the way you do.
For the most part, I'd say simple, but that simple can be different in different things. I can wear a plain suit, but it can be bright red, paired with a white tee and sneakers. When I wake up, I know I need to represent Ashley in the best way. I don't dress the way I feel, personally. My style is simple and it makes a bold statement. I know when I walk out the door, I want to impact someone and myself.
Were you ever, at any point racially profiled? Would you say there is inequality in your industry?
Yes, once back in 2006 in TX, when I was saying I wanted to pull clothing at a store for styling segment. I knew what to say, had my lingo down, and they said no. I know they thought, "who is this black girl trying to take our stuff." Even now in LA, my husband and I are looked at a certain way. It makes me upset, but I don't want to make a scene. Think what you want. As long as you don't say something or touch me, we're good. Even during fashion week, it was very white. We'd be the only black people in the show. And that was in 2014. Now, its more diverse, but they'd look at us like "what are you doing." It was female and male influencers. you know, we'd save up to get there and connect and they'd look at me like "why are you here?" I also think about how Black, Latino, and Asian people don't get cast during fashion week.
Did that stop you from pursuing any opportunities?
If anything, no. It makes you go harder. That's not gonna stop me, that's what it taught me. It didn't stop me to go to shows. I don't think the industry has caught up. To me, it's like whites over there and blacks over here. The beauty industry is very diverse, unlike the fashion industry. They need to tighten up before people shift. Now a days, people don't have to time to discriminate. You need to get with the program. If you're looking at someone because of their background, its like really? In general, people need to catch up.
Were you ever denied an opportunity because you're a woman?
I wouldn't have known. But now that I'm in LA, I setup my own meetings, with no manager, but I go into these meetings prepared. I try to make sure I appeal to that demographic. I feel a sense of uncertainty because I'm an African American woman going into these meeting saying "Hi, would you consider me?" I think its more of my skin color that's looked at first and last.
Does your background have anything to do with the way you dress?
I feel like I'm a representation of my mom, sister and my people. I hold that on my shoulders when I create a look. For the most part, I try to make a statement of confidence. With confidence you can do anything. Confidence has helped me to get in the door. That's the overall message I send. Democrat or Republican, a woman is woman. We should be able to navigate whatever is thrown our way.
First hand, I can tell you that Ashley Dunn means what she says. She is all business and love. It's evident, that when you speak to her, you can see all she's overcome in her eyes alone. Now that she is in LA, she is taking on a new journey, that she will surely conquer, because let's face it, Ashley is major super boss that not only has the right tools, but the right mindset.