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SPACE Designer Ashley Williams: Sneaking Out of Parties with Kate Bush and a Cowboy Hat

Every season Ashley Williams sends out a small poster in lieu of a more typical show invite, and every season it has something to do with being in a slightly sour state of mind. The poster we unwrapped upon arriving for the first show of London Fashion Week, however, went to new heights—or would that be new lows? In Ashley’s world, they’re sort of the same. The poster said “Genuine Misery”; the image was a teeth-baring guard dog.

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“My business partner and I, we have this thing, ‘Optimistic emo,'” the designer told me backstage. It’s like an unofficial rule that keeps them in line, she explained; they can be real about their bad moods, but they have to be good-natured about them, too. And while misery is definitely next season’s key word—emblazoned as it is on a killer sweatsuit or two—it’s evened out by a British cowgirl thing and a backstory about sneaking out of parties to go sit by yourself in the woods.

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You’ll see it in our slideshow: together those elements—on an urban/outdoor runway—make misery look like good company.

As I chatted with Ashley backstage, her pal the Brit It girl Pixie Geldof hung around in a past-season Ashley Williams tee, chatting with photographers and seeming like the second belle of the ball. You could practically hear their night stretching out til 4am.

So I asked Ashley, “You’ve got all these gorgeous and famous friends who are always DJing and partying. Do you go out with them—is that a big part of your life?”

“Oh my god, I haven’t been going out at all,” she confessed.

“You know the Kate Bush lyrics that were on the press release?” she asked, referring to the lines, “Go into the garden/Go under the ivy/Under the leaves/Away from the party” from the song “Under the Ivy,” which was a bonus track on the 1997 edition of Hounds of Love. They were printed on the one-sheets that sat on the chairs along the runway. “That’s really one of my favorite songs. She’s talking about, like, you don’t have to be having a terrible time to want to go off and just be by yourself for a little while. There doesn’t even have to be a juxtaposition between being social and being antisocial.”

Nor between being miserable in logo tees or carefree in printed ’60s dresses. Nor between being a cowgirl or not a cowgirl.

Put your fringe and hoodie on either way, and just do your thing.

EXPLORE: current-season Ashley Williams | all emerging designers

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—Laura Cassidy