Imagine travelling to the USA for New York Fashion Week to immerse yourself in the energy of the city that never sleeps and enjoying exclusive shows by the world’s best luxury designers… now picture yourself actually being part of such an ultimate fashion experience. This dream has become a reality for South Australian designer Ashlee Kalantarian from Ashlee Lauren Designs.
Ashlee will travel from Mount Gambier, in the South East of South Australia, to New York in September this year to showcase 10 of her stunning pieces in a runway show. Fulfilling a dream doesn’t always come cheap so Ashlee’s friends, family and the wider community have rallied together raising money to help fund her once in a lifetime trip overseas.

Ashlee began designing bridal accessories in 2012 and has gone from hand crafting bouquets made out of brooches and winning national awards to dressing some very famous heads with her crown headpieces for special events like the races, both locally and interstate. She’s definitely one to watch so if you’d like to support Ashlee’s trip or her small business you can donate to her Kickstarter here or even purchase one of her sought after headpieces online here.

We got to know more about the hard working mother of two and where she hopes to take Ashlee Lauren Designs in the future.

Where did it all start? How did you grow your creative talent into a business?

I started designing brooch bouquets and it then just went into bridal hair combs and I eventually started experimenting with millinery. I have done a workshop with Louise McDonald and had some work experience with Marea Bright – both amazingly talented professionals.

I always knew I wanted to do something creative, I studied Visual Comunication at UniSA, so that gave me the advantage to design my own website, print and take my own photos right at the start.

I learnt a lot about how to run a business from another business woman here in Mount Gambier – Grace McNally. I looked up to her and wondered how does she manage all of this. I wanted to be like that, confident, driven and be a boss! I’m not quite there yet but I’m definitely feeling the pressure involved! My husband also taught me a lot about business when it comes to import and export and general management.

What do you love about making headpieces and what inspires you?

I get swept away when I’m designing headpieces, its where hours can go by and I wouldn’t even know. I get so inspired from people’s ideas, outfits and inspiration and I enjoy making really unique pieces.


What can women expect if they purchase one of your headpieces?

I feel my customer is the woman who dares, adventures, and strays outside of the familiar. She is elegant yet wild hearted and she should expect to feel like an empress.


You’ve gone from designing and making bridal pieces (and winning ABIA awards along the way) to now creating racewear headpieces. Do you prefer one over the other?

I love that I can design both, it’s great to be able to change from whites and ivory’s into bold florals!


Your pieces have been popping up on celebrity presenters and social media more frequently, what do you think makes your headpieces so appealing?

I guess it’s because the designs are unique and are unavailable in stores so if you are looking for something that sets you apart from the crowd, my pieces will do that.


Having two little boys can be a juggling act, especially when you are working and running a small business. Do you have any tips to help other Mums balance their work, family and life goals. (What works for you?)

I work whenever I can, I do a lot of work at night time when the kids are in bed, because it’s the only time I’m guaranteed to be able to focus. Zac is in Kindy and Leo is 1 so it’s still very full on at home, but I’ve found activities that allow me to do work while they ‘do work’ as well. Zac makes necklaces with beads and Leo, well he just makes a mess. But it’s all good fun.


How did the New York trip come about?

I was contacted by Fashion Palette, and thought it was a great opportunity to get my products overseas as I already have a market in the US through selling on ETSY. So I will be bringing over 10-15 pieces for the runway on the 12th of September and meeting with a few boutiques to discuss being international stockists which is exciting!


Have you been blown away by the community support? What do you love about living in the South East?

Absolutely blown away! I am stopped by people when grocery shopping asking me how It’s all going as it warms my heart to know how much they are supporting me! While some aspects of living here seem limited through a business perspective, this experience has certainly made it clear that the level of kindness and support that is shown in small communities by far outweighs anything that I would have seen anywhere else. I feel so proud to live here!


What are you most looking forward to during your New York trip?

This will be my first runway experience so that would definitely be the highlight! Also getting to meet other designers and gaining connections will be priceless. I have been fortunate enough to travel to NY before many times when I was working as cabin crew for Emirates. But never thought I’d be lucky enough to go back again for such an event.


What’s in store for A.L designs in the long term future?

I’m pushing forward as of last month with new designs and plans for stocking nation wide and internationally but also keeping my sights set on custom orders as this is what I love the most. You will see my work on a few runway shows domestically as well which is just as exciting as going internationally as I love collaborating with Australian Designers! I’ve also started a crown hire page on Instagram called @designercrownhire.

Follow Ashlee on Instagram @ashleelaurendesigns or check out her Facebook page