I had the honor of interviewing Ashley-Victoria Smith, a serial Entrepreneur, bikini loving, dog mom, coffee addict, self-proclaimed nerd.
Can you tell us about your background?
I grew up in the fashion and entertainment industries; I’ve modeled and even held a Pageant title. My mother is the Queen of Style in our family so up until middle school, I was the best-dressed kid – then Emo happened; no it wasn’t a phase, as I love still a vintage shirt, old jeans, and converse chucks.
Every time we walked past Victoria’s Secret, my mother would nudge me and whisper, “that’s our store” as we share the name Victoria. The truth is, I actually hate clothes. I was a camp counselor back in 2003 and during our award ceremony, I was voted “most likely to be president of a nudist colony”. It’s true though – but I do love lingerie and bikinis, I could wear a bikini all day and just lounge in SoBe.
Before Voglia, I owned a production company that focused on women empowerment showcasing luxury lingerie and swimwear at New York Fashion Week and Miami Swim Week. I started the company in 2013 with 100 percent pure passion, however by 2017, the drive was decreasing, I was getting burnt out. I knew I wanted to stay in this industry but the question was “how”.
In late 2017, I was going through a breakup with my then-boyfriend, I was devasted. We lived together and nearly half of the furniture in the house was his – he wanted to part ways, but I was still in love. I ended up taking a day trip to NYC to clear my head. I find traveling solo liberating and allows me to seek answers that I couldn’t find elsewhere; it allows me to hear the Universe speak to me. And she did. I literally dreamt of Voglia. I heard Nikki Minaj’s song “Starships” in the background as models walked down the runway in galaxy, space, NASA inspired swimsuits and bikinis. I even smelled the coconut oil. Ever since that dream, four years ago, it’s still a dream that I get high off of.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
What makes Voglia stand out is that we’re not just a swimwear brand – we’re a platform to help educate consumers on the reality of our fashion and plastic waste. We want to encourage individuals to say “no” to that straw or bagging up the groceries. We’re a slow fashion brand as well so opening up the conversation to saying “no” to buying new clothes every week or “what’s trending” and learning how to repurpose your wardrobe.
What are your burnout prevention tips?
Stop comparing yourself to others. This was the biggest take I received from a photographer in NYC back when I was producing shows. He said to me “Do you think NYFW cares what London Fashion Week is doing? Do you think London Fashion Week cares what Paris Fashion Week is doing? No, they don’t – they do what works for their market, their audience” Also, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
How are you helping your community?
Giving back – it’s that simple. Voglia means “wish” in Italian so being someone else Genie is where it is. They say “a candle never loses its light by lighting another” – I share my story of homelessness, living in my car, being jobless to remind women that things happen, life happens – but it’s what you decide to do that makes all the difference.
What’s your favorite quote?
“The poorest of all men, is not the man without a cent. It’s the man without a dream”. I have been homeless and jobless, living out of my suitcase and crashing on friends’ couches. But I had a dream, running my own business, bringing my visions to life. We truly create our lives.
What do you think someone needs to have to excel in the fashion industry?
1. Business Mindset | I have worked with amazing designers, truly creative individuals, however, they lacked business skills – no plan of action, no clear goal or vision.
2. Focus on one thing first | You want to have your own brand, perfect. Master selling that ONE thing first. Whether it be a handbag, t-shirt, or bikini – master that first. Kate Spade started with handbags, she mastered the handbag before going into shoes and dresses.
3. Put yourself out there | Build connections and your network, let people know what you’re doing.
4. Educate yourself on the Greats! | Please, read about Edith Head, Louis Reard, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Alexander McQueen – these are just a few who’ve paved the way – it’s so inspiring to read about their upbringing and how they conquered what was said ‘couldn’t be done’.
5. Take time to be alone | As creative individuals, our minds are always spinning, constantly thinking of our next move. However, we need to take one day every week in my opinion to just be alone and space out, do nothing – take a long hot bubble bath with essential oils, a glass of red wine, soothing music, turn off the phone and just be alone with number one, you.
How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself?
The fashion industry can improve itself by the following;
1. Going eco-friendly and sustainable – using regenerated materials, cutting back on one-time-use plastics, hang tags, and other miscellaneous tags/tapes on clothes.
2. Paying their workers a LIVING wage.
3. Having a real Sustainable Department embedded within the company that shows how to incorporate previous styles, collections, and even vintage into their everyday wear participates in trash pickups and encourage their employees to live a more sustainable lifestyle even if the brand itself isn’t 100% sustainable.
4. Exclusive brand consignment/giveback – For instance let’s say Chanel has a week-long pop-up in NYC where you can drop off your gently worn (or unopened) Chanel items AND shop Chanel only consignment at the same time – really stressing the reducing and reusing concept here.
Do you have any other thoughts?
Clean-Up the environment! Love, Your Momma (Earth) – “Earth does not belong to Man. Man belongs to Earth” – that quote is real, considering what we saw during quarantine due to Covid-19.
Italy saw crystal clear canals, swans came back. China’s smog was at an all-time low, ozone holes were decreasing; just imagine if we kept this up (not the quarantine) but scaling back from our massive, overproduction. We do not own anything, everything we have we are borrowing from Mother Earth and we need to keep her clean and healthy – we’ve got to acknowledge that we have a problem, a different virus; us. Our pollution is careless, we’re so caught up in materialistic things that we forget what matters most – our rivers, our lakes, our oceans, our forest, our animals and marine life – we’re not losing anything by cutting back and cleaning up.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Personal IG & Twitter: avluvsu
Business IG: vogliaswimwear
Twitter IG: SwimwearVoglia