Local ‘Project Runway’ winner discusses the importance of full-­figured women in fashion

Ashley Nell Tipton ready to break the fashion stigma

Lexy Perez, Arts & Entertainment Editor


In the fashion industry, the image of a “normal” body is contrived, making many feel as though they aren’t beautiful or good enough.

‘Project Runway’ season 14 winner Ashley Nell Tipton doesn’t focus on trying to belong, but rather focuses on creating a life unbound by the chains of stereotypes and judgments.

San Diego local and recent ‘Project Runway’ winner, Tipton, 24, made a groundbreaking move by becoming the first designer to present a plus-­size collection during the show’s finale at New York Fashion Week. Her risk resulted in reward, as she also became the first plus-­size winner of the show after its 14­-season run.

With a passion for fashion since a young age, Tipton practiced the art in high school and later at Fashion Careers College in San Diego, with the vision of designing ready-to­-wear clothing for the everyday woman. Her passion was clear, but it wasn’t until the passing of her grandmother when her life truly changed.

“Two days after my grandmother passed away, who taught me how to sew, I received an email from the casting directors of ‘Project Runway’ letting me know that the application is now open to fill out,” Tipton said.

Despite her loss, she felt as though her grandmother was still with her, guiding her to a new journey.

“At that time, I lost what mattered the most to me. There was nothing to lose. I just had to give it a try and see what happens. I don’t think if she were still alive, I would’ve done it. I think her death gave me a push,” Tipton said. “I knew she was going to be there to support me in anything I wanted to do. So, it just felt right to do it and everything worked out. Nothing was pressured or forced.”

It was clear: her talent was needed on the show. Although she won two of the design challenges and received praise from judges, Tipton couldn’t help but feel like she was alienated from other designers.

“I was intimidated because I couldn’t find my place with the other people. No one really questioned my designs before that [first win] and no one really would come up to my table or want to talk to me. I’m not unapproachable, but I wasn’t embraced,” Tipton said.

Despite being ostracized, she pushed through.

“I think that’s good [being an underdog] because it pushes yourself to go further and do better the next challenge. You keep raising the bar every challenge,” said Tipton.

What made Tipton stand out the most was her devotion to what she stood for. Although, she never entered the competition aiming to start a “plus­-size movement,” she realized that she had the power to be a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry.

“I take this win as I did it for all of us. Going into this competition, I didn’t understand that. I didn’t have that mindset. But after coming home for six weeks and watching the show with everyone and listening to their stories, it just made me realize that I am an inspiration to other people and it’s just amazing to know that the true authentic Ashley is an inspiration to people. And it’s not a job, but rather a privilege to do that,” said Tipton.

While the idea of “plus-­size” is slowly beginning to be embraced in society, Tipton said now is the time to fully advocate for the plus-­size community and that anyone struggling with insecurities should remember to never believe in any negativity.

“I feel like now is the time because people are getting educated on different ethnicities, sizes and different genders…I think this is the time that we are educating society on what is around us and how we shouldn’t have a negative attitude towards it, but be more accepting,” said Tipton. “Nothing is wrong with you and you shouldn’t seek out anyone else’s approval but your own. It’s not you, it’s them. Once you overcome that, you’ll be able to project this energy that [tells people] not to mess with you. You have your confidence.”

In a stigmatized society, it can be a challenge to be you when everyone is trying to be like everyone else. But Tipton is ready to be a part of the change that society has been scared to embrace for so long.

With exciting projects ahead, Tipton is working hard to build her fashion empire.

To learn more about Tipton, her designs, upcoming news and projects, check out www.AshleyNellTipton.com.