Describing her own style as ‘part future retro-goth, part Glenda the Good Witch from Wizard of Oz, it is clear that NY-based hatmaker Ashley Ruprecht is a vision of style. Just don’t go to the movies with her.
interview: Grant Fell photo: Alex Forsey styling: Sara Dunn at Clicks & Contacts
Grant Fell: Where were you born and where did you grow up?Ashley Ruprecht: I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. What was the very first thing you remember? Sneaking into my parents bedroom on a cold winter morning and climbing into bed with them. You have fabulous personal style. How would you describe your look? Why, thank you! I don’t know if I can really describe my personal style. It’s always evolving and I tend to be a walking contradiction. A few constants for me are my black hair with blunt bangs, red lips, nails and always wearing a hat and heels. I’ve always worn quite a bit of black but have been trying to change that lately. I think that the world needs more color and I think it softens up my appearance a bit. I guess I would describe my style as part future-retro goth, part Glenda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz. You attended the prestigious Cooper Union art college in New York, where you completed a triple major in painting, drawing and photography. We hear you paint hyperreal animals, do you still paint? I did attend The Cooper Union and did a triple major. I don’t paint much anymore because I no longer have a studio. I still draw occasionally and making hats has become my new creative outlet. You are a woman of many hats, excuse the pun. During the day you work for the International Creative Council of MTV, what does that job entail? I work in the World Design Studio at MTV International. We create all of the promotional and marketing campaigns for all of the shows on MTV internationally; everything from on-air promos, to print, to graphics. You have also been a model and have shot with Mario Testino several times and the late, incomparable Isabella Blow. Tell us more about those shoots… That was an amazing experience. I shot V Magazine and French Vogue with Mr. Testino. The V shoot was styled by Isabella Blow. I still remember Isabella wearing this amazing Philip Treacy white feather veil and reading Harry Potter while smoking a cigarette. She brought a trunk with these incredible neon painted porcupine headpieces that Mr. Treacy had just created. I unfortunately didn’t end up wearing one for the shoot, but Isabella absolutely sparked my interest in millinery. She had such an amazing sense of style and was one of the most interesting and smart women I have had the pleasure of working with. You also appeared in one of the finest ad campaigns for a major fashion house this year, Lanvin’s Fall/Winter 2013 campaign by Steven Meisel, although you were cast more as Ashley Ruprecht than as model. That was such an incredible honour. Mostly because I stopped modelling professionally about ten years ago so never imagined being shot by Steven Meisel. Even when I was working as a model years ago I never met Steven or went on a casting for any of his shoots, so when the casting director contacted me telling me that Steven Meisel wanted to see me for a Lanvin campaign I thought it must have been a mistake. It was one of the best shoots I have ever been involved in and the entire team was brilliant and so sweet. It was a dream to be able to shoot with Steven while wearing creations by Alber Elbaz and listening to a soundtrack selected by me. Steven kept yelling for me to “have fun” which instantly made me smile. I was so happy that he picked the smiling shot for the campaign because I truly was having an amazing time and was honoured to be included in such a fantastic campaign. Millinery is a relatively new pursuit for you but obviously something you have a natural flair for. Faeth Millinery is named after your grandmother, correct? Did she initiate your interest in hats? Absolutely. My grandmother’s maiden name is Faeth. She and her sister, my great aunt, had amazing style and were huge inspirations on my personal style and also piqued my interest in hats. I actually have many of their hats and pieces from their wardrobe in my personal collection. Describe your hat-making process from initial design to completion…I truthfully hate sketching and always have. I usually have a general idea of a shape and the materials I want to use then just let the process happen organically. I really enjoy making mistakes and learning new techniques with each hat I make. I create mainly custom hats so it’s always fun working with a client and collaborating to make a unique piece for each person. Who, or what are you inspired by in a creative sense? Steven Jones, Philip Treacy, Heather Huey, Piers Atkinson, Irene Bussemaker. We know that you love music, if you were the lead singer in a band, who would be playing guitar? Bass? Drums? No one would want me as a lead singer in their band. I have a horrific singing voice. If you were living in another era, which era would it be? If we are talking about style, I think it would have to be the 1940’s. It was a time when men and women put effort into dressing and their appearance. Men wore suits and hats, women wore stockings, heels and didn’t leave the house without their hair and make-up done. There wasn’t laziness in dressing the way there is now. If you could have any designer in the world make something amazing, especially for you, who would it be? And what would it be? I would absolutely have Philip Treacy make me an enormous hat. You are posing for a painting, who is painting it? Francisco Goya. What characteristic do you envy most in others? The ability to speak in public. If you weren’t creating wonderful hats what would you be doing? Working on a farm. What are you listening to at the moment? My musical taste is all over the map. Right now I am listening to The XX, Crystal Castles, Death Grips, Nicolas Jaar, Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar. What are you reading? Always reading the New York Times. Just finished a book called The People Who Eat Darkness about a serial rapist and killer in Japan. Not sure I would recommend it though. It was one of the most disturbing and scary things I have read in quite some time, but I couldn’t put it down. Do you have a favourite TV series? Well I work in television, so I actually watch quite a bit of TV. Right now I have to say I am obsessed with American Horror Story on FX. It is a series that has done everything right. From their incredible promotional and marketing campaign, to social media integration, to the opening titles, to the actual content and storylines of the episodes. It is TV perfection to me. It is the first series that I can remember where I was so intrigued and impressed by the marketing campaign for the second season that it caused me to go back and watch the first season. Film? I fall asleep to every film I watch. My friends joke that I have cinema narcolepsy. So I am the worst person to ask about film recommendations. The last film I stayed awake for (mostly) was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” Fashion designer? Ricardo Tisci. Footwear brand? Alexander McQueen. City in the world? New York. It is a love-hate relationship. Other than that I would have to say Stockholm, Sweden or Barcelona, Spain. Restaurant? Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg. Art gallery? Gagosian. Beach or place to watch the sunset? Anywhere in the Mediteranean. The Greek Islands are always great for a sunset.