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Urban Palate: Ashly Priest, Associate Lingerie Designer, Private Label Victoria’s Secret

Ashly Priest for Laura Zukaite knitwear. Photography credit; Marc Hall. Jewelry by Pearl Naidoo

 While she spends her 9-5 at Victoria’s Secret, Ashly Priest dedicates the rest of her time to meaningful PR projects, charitable organizations and publications, and is also the author of the hip and budget friendly newsletter “The A-List.” Though insanely busy saving the world, Ashly ( also a savagely witty writer) took the time to craft some of her own responses to some deep, burning (okay some of them were superficial) questions I had for her.

Jacob Paul: What is your FAVORITE NYC Hotspot and why?

Ashly Priest : That one is actually a difficult one, I have a couple preferred venues, but mainly for the events they hold, not the ambiance of the place.  What makes a great party isn’t just the space, its also the people attending and the atmosphere that they create.  Haha, but that is the event planner in me talking!  I really love The Bell House in Park Slope Brooklyn because they host such fantastic events, lots of theme dances, food contests and move screenings, but they’re also a great local bar with a chill vibe.  And then seasonally speaking, the parks in NYC are just beautiful.  A blanket picnic at sunset in any green space of the city is a magical evening with your friends around. 

JP:Where are you from originally?

AP: I grew up in a small town in Ohio.  I went to the same elementary, middle and high school as my Mother and all of her siblings.  But I totally broke out of the mold by moving to NYC for college. 

JP: Where did you go to college? 

AP: I went to Parsons School of Design and received a BFA in Fashion Design.  It was the only college I applied to, it was the only place I wanted to go! 

JP:  Who do you regard as a significant mentor in your educational career?

AP: The reason I even knew Parsons existed was due to my amazing Senior Thesis teacher in the high school art department, Mrs. McComb.  She polled all of the art teachers and they made a Top 10 list of the best art/design universities in the country.  She really pushed me to develop my portfolio to apply to Parsons.  I owe a lot to her drive to make us better artists and designers and always push the boundaries of what we knew. 

A piece from Ashly Priest's senior thesis at Parsons- Undercover. Outerwear As "Inner Wear" Photography credit: Jonathan O'Hea, Model; Laura

JP: Who do you look up to in the fashion industry?

AP: Can’t go wrong with Karl Lagerfeld!  He is so creative, he works on so many lines and he has countless collections every year and each one is stunning and original, simply breathtaking. I look forward to couture season every year because it always reminds me of the power of vision and presence, all in the cut of your dress.  I do also admire some of the “new breed” of fashion designers doing things with a minimalist bent, take for example Olivier Theyskens. His Spring 2006 collection for Rochas; simple, chic, classic and modern all at once.  He cuts pants like a dream! I still have a newspaper clipping from that collection, beautiful simplicity in a pantsuit. I would do horrible things to a person to obtain it!

JP: In your private life?

AP: My Mother.  She is amazing, she is such a strong person.  She had my brother and I very young, and then she divorced, she raised us as basically a single mother.  Education was always a priority for her, she worked nights and put herself through nursing college.  I get all of my determination, drive and sassy attitude from her.  She seems like a tough cookie, but honestly she is the most caring person and would give you the shirt off her back without even knowing you.  I don’t know where I would be without her and all of my wonderful family.

JP: Why did you start the A-List Newsletter?

AP: When The A-List first started it was just an activities email that I sent out to my close friends.  The ethos of The A-List is comprised of three virtues; 1.Things that are awesomely fun, 2.Things that are FREE and wallet friendly, 3.Activities and events that I want to do and you should too!  It began in August 2010 as a way to connect with my close circle of friends, about 20ppl, so we could go to the NYC free concert and film series together.  I sent it out every week, usually Sunday evening, and it covered events from Monday through the following Sunday.  My friends and I would meet up in a big group for whatever was going on, and sometimes they would invite other friends.  It turned into, “Well I forward your A-List to So-n-So all the time any way, why don’t you just add them to the email chain?”  That group of 20 people grew to 138!  Haha, and yes, I do know each and every one of them, either through close friends, business or acquaintances.  I attend at least 80% of the events each week, I may have developed the reputation of quite the party animal!

JP: Tell me about your job; what goes into your day to day experience?

AP: I bring sexy back!  LOL  No really, I work in the category called “Fashion and Glamour,” meaning I design pieces that are for “special occasions.”  Think wedding, Valentine’s Day and Christmas.  Its a constantly changing dynamic because of the brands under Victoria’s Secret.  Each brand, i.e. Very Sexy, Pink, Angels, etc. has a different target customer, a different kind of sexy.  With Angels its a softer more feminine/romantic kind of sexy, and well Very Sexy pretty much speaks for itself!  We start with an overall concept for the company as a whole and then tailor that to the look of the brand.  I am so lucky to literally sit down at my desk, draw out an idea and then work directly with our sampling team in China to finalize the fit, fabric, trims and color.  This is all done with over sight from the Design Director and my bosses of course, but I can actually walk into any VS store and buy something I have designed!  If the novelty of that feeling ever wears off it’ll be time to find a new job, but I don’t see that happening any time soon!

JP: What is the aesthetic you strive to uphold?

AP: Classy, never trashy.  Sometimes being sexy is as much about what you’re not showing as what you are.  I do this in design and in my daily life.  Confidence is the best accessory a woman can have, and like I always say, its not where you bought it, its how you wear it. 

 

Ashly Priest with yours truly at Pearl Naidoo's Spring 2012 launch, photo credit; Marc Hall

JP: What is your favorite A-List Moment?

AP: I was attending an event for Digital DUMBO, it was on the schedule for The A-List that week and I happened to be alone during the party for while due to several people running late.  As I was waiting in line for a drink I felt the eyes of the man next to me, he was staring at me hard.  To be honest, I was getting a bit freaked out and was debating whether or not to leave the line or look over.  Well, I hazarded a glance at him and there was a glimmer of recognition, suddenly he shouts out, “You’re A-List Ashly!”  Can I just tell you, that was one of the most elated moments of my life!!!  This fellow was a friend twice removed, only through acquaintances did we know each other.  Someone I didn’t even know recognized me from the live Twitter feed at the event that he only attended because it was in my newsletter and he was a loyal subscriber!  It validated everything I was doing with The A-List for me.

JP:  Please share your biggest disaster to date.

AP: The website launch party I planned for jewelry designer Pearl Naidoo was going off without a hitch, until we had to dress the models.  Naidoo had a specific vision in mind for the “look” of the models and insisted on buying the dresses for them.  I had given her all the model sizes/measurements, but the dresses she bought were HUGE!  I was literally safety pinning the models into these dresses in the bathroom, taking out about 5 inches of fabric!  I never travel any where without safety pins any way, but now especially I always have them in abundance.  A little ingenuity and a safety pin can fix your worst dress disaster!

JP: Favorite Vacation spot.

AP: Any where warm with a beach and a view! I haven’t been on a real vacation in years.  I usually use time off to visit my family in the U.S. because I don’t get to see them that often.  I’ve been to Puerto Rico and I lived in Florida when I was younger, but I think I would like to try the Bahamas or really any where in the Caribbean.  Give me sunshine! 

JP: Where are you from?

AP: I grew up in a small town in Ohio that you (and everyone else) has probably never heard of.  Grove City, OH is just a little bit country, but only about 15min south of the capital city Columbus.  My entire family is from that town.  I am not knocking it in the slightest, I love the community and small-town proud we have, but its not somewhere you would stay for a fashion career.  Everyone I care about is still there and I visit often, it will always be my home.

JP: What male celebrities do you find surprisingly sexy? 

AP: Hrmm, this is kind of a hard one. I do love me some beefcake, haha.  Channing Tatum and Josh Hartnett are just gorgeous men and they’ve both had long and loving relationships with their WAGs.  I think that is what makes them sexy, they’re committed men and true to their significant others.  And, Hartnett is a vegetarian too!

JP: What male celebrity do you find surprisingly smart?

AP: Smart, I would definitely say George Clooney.  That man definitely knows what he’s doing on screen, in business, in philanthropy, and presumably, in the bedroom!

JP:  You have a gift for connecting people, whether it be through friendships or business… how do you have such a keen sense of how well others will work together or mesh? It seems you can spot a potential friendship or meaningful partnership from a mile away.

AP: Thank you! That is so flattering!  I think I get that ability from my Mother, she can really read people well.  There is opportunity everywhere, if only you are willing to look for it, the other component of that is also realizing that sometimes that opportunity might take some time to come to fruition.  Making connections is only important if you actually use them, having a good memory of where you met whom and when, can lead to so many possibilities. It seems that the longer I am in NYC as my social circle grows, it becomes even more interconnected and everyone has a link to someone else.  It is utilizing and recognizing these links that makes the connections possible.  All of these elements are also what make a good party, and we all know, I love a good party!

Ashly Priest in Aris Ziagos' music video "Twilight", photography; Yan Shur, body painting; Dyana Aives

JP: Where have you not yet gone in the world that you are dying to visit?

AP: Am I allowed to say everywhere?!  I have been fortunate enough to visit Paris and London for work, but not yet had the time to do major site seeing.  I would love to revisit those places on a true vacation.  There are just so many beautiful and interesting places in the World, I mean, I don’t know how to pick.  I have close friends with either family or homes in other countries so I might start with those places; Finland, New Zealand, Australia, Italy and South Korea.

JP: What are your favorite foods? 

AP: Oh geez, everything!  Well, within a vegetarian realm. I love things that are cheesy, carb-laden and most likely bad for me. 

JP: Drinks?

AP: I love a dry, white wine, like a Sancerre or a Gerwürztraminer.  If we’re talking about spirits then definitely a fine whisky or gin, either on the rocks or a gin sour. And tequila if its going to be “that kind of evening.”  As for dessert, anything with chocolate!

JP: What is your favorite book?

AP: Can I say “books” if we’re talking about a series?  Definitely, although too young for me now, The Chronicles of Narnia because my Grandfather use to read them to me every Summer when I was a child. 

JP:  Movie?

AP: The Princess Bride! I have it on DVD and VHS! And the book, haha!  Its just so fantastic, the humor, the wit, André the Giant! I’ve probably seen it at least 200 times, it never gets old.  I also watched it every Summer while visiting relatives in Colorado, just another fond childhood memory. 

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