What I Know About Style

Ashley Pearce


Milliner and designer Ashley Pearce on fairytale fantasy, commissions for Strictly Come Dancing and the power of puppy-dog eyes

How did your journey into the fashion industry start?

My journey must have really begun way back as a toddler, doing the rounds of the local craft fair circuit with my mother. She’s a jewellery designer, so I also decided to design and make things to sell, from fairies in jars and magic wands to full-size puppets.

As I got older my design ambitions also grew, creating weird & wonderful complete looks. A day out in the West End to see The Phantom of the Opera inspired me to experiment with elaborate masks; it was this that set me on my current path, with headwear following hot on its heels.

Have you always been interested in masks, costuming and headwear?

Yes, I’ve always had a strange fascination with elaborate outfits—mostly masks—for as long as I can remember. Something to do with the idea of being able to mask your face to present a different emotional expression adds a kind of alluring mystery.

When did you start designing millinery?

I’m currently only 23, having set up my label, Mystic Magic, aged 19. I’ve always pushed the boundaries in creating headwear, from tea cup headpieces to flamboyant feathered head dresses, but it was only this year that I decided to experiment with some formal millinery aimed at the Ascot and summer events markets. My first collection has proved very successful, generating a lot of interest, and a second is due to be officially launched in time for the Autumn/Winter season.

What inspires you the most for your designs?

One of my biggest inspirations for my work is using nature, from the array of seasonal colours down to textures, shapes and shadows. I’m a very open-minded person and am easily inspired by everything and anything; I just love to imagine and let my mind run wild.

You are a young designer; could you tell us a bit about your path to success?

Having designer ambitions throughout my school years took its toll, as it wasn’t on the curriculum, so the school wasn’t interested—plus it generated bullying, affecting my confidence and self-esteem to this day. These issues only made me more determined to succeed by channelling all of my energy into my designs.

Leaving school, I already knew what I wanted to do, I was self-taught so although I had no funding I set up Mystic Magic, built my own website from scratch and built up a network of amazing photographers, models and fashion professionals. I knocked on every door and hounded all the fashion media I could think of to promote my work, and eventually I started to get big name stylists and photographers wanting to collaborate on shoots.

Then, out of the blue, came a commission from the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, which led to another the following year. My designs have since been on the catwalk for the Clothes Show Live and Energy Fashion Night in Zurich, commissioned for US music artists and featured in Vogue, Tatler and Schon. Most recently my headwear was featured in photographer Rankin’s latest fashion shoot for Hunger magazine and I’ve just designed a mask for the star of The Royals, Elizabeth Hurley.

How does the name Mystic Magic reflect your brand?

Mystic Magic is the perfect reflection of my brand: it sums up the mystery behind my works of art, the special kind of magic that shines out from them, and hints about the aspects of fairytale fantasy entwined in each design.

Who are your clients?

I specialise in bespoke mask and headwear designs, so my clients range from customers going to parties or a special event, celebrities and their stylists looking to accessorise for film/TV or fashion shows, photographers for their editorial work and even a few pop stars wanting something unique for their music videos. I’ve been very lucky with all my clients, who come from all over the world, and hold each of them in high regard.

As well as my bespoke services, I also have a large range of off-the-shelf mask and headwear designs for all occasions at my website shop.

You have some extraordinary designs; what do you think of surrealism?

I love surrealism! It’s my favourite style of art and I think the depth and story that can be interpreted through it is most inspiring.

Who are your favourite designers and why?

I’m mostly drawn to all the work and detailing that goes into a collection, but one of my favourites currently is Chanel for all their beautiful couture style. Looking back, though, my idol for inspiration has to be the great Alexander McQueen. I visited his Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A and was blown away! We share a similar sense of outrageousness and like to court controversy.

How would you describe your personal style?

I would describe my style as an ever-changing evolution, which still incorporates aspects of dark fairytale fantasy. I like to keep things interesting and people guessing about what I’ll do next, as for me there are no limits to what I can achieve through my creations.

What is the must-have in your bag?

A stylish pair of sunglasses! Wearing them I feel like someone special. Funny how wearing something can change the way you present yourself to others and make you feel more confident—it’s almost like a magic charm.

What do you think is most important to look stylish and elegant?

Definitely confidence. No matter how you choose to dress, if you wear it with great confidence and good posture you’ll be able to carry off almost anything with elegance. I’m a great believer in ‘it’s the person that makes the look, not the outfit’.

Are there any brands you would like to collaborate with in the future?

I’d love so much to collaborate with Alexander McQueen one day, or even Walt Disney with costume designing for an upcoming movie. These two are high up on my bucket list, but really I feel blessed to collaborate with any brand who will have me!

What’s next for you?

With my first millinery collection just completed and another in the pipeline, I’ll hopefully start seeing my designs in prestigious stores and luxury boutiques. My mask wear has always been particularly popular with film and TV, so it would be great to design for some of the big West End productions. I’m always open to new and exciting opportunities, so anyone interested in featuring, commissioning or collaborating with me please get in touch!

What is the last book you have read?

Does Vogue count?! I’m not much of a book reader, as I rarely have the time to relax, so prefer to wait for the movie.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Dogs all the way. I’ve grown up with dogs in the family and love the way they respect, protect and are such loyal companions… Plus I love their puppy dog eyes and squishy noses!

What do you think is the most important piece a woman should have in her wardrobe?

I guess the little black dress is always a must-have, as it’s neutral, perfect for all sorts of occasions and can be styled up or down with accessories, depending where you’re wearing it.

What’s your favourite food?

I love healthy foods, fish, seafood and Chinese, so mix that all together in a menu and it will be a match made in heaven—and don’t forget the dessert!


Loading Flickr slideshow...

Founders of Last Yarn, Deborah Lyons and Piarvé Wetshi


The duo behind fabric store Last Yarn talk 'saving precious textiles' and their favourite local hangouts.

Deborah Lyons and Piarvé Wetshi are on a mission to reduce the amount of discarded fabric that goes into landfill. Their latest venture Last Yarn brings great quality textiles back to the marketplace and works with students to help shape the fashion industry of the future.

What inspired Last Yarn? Have

Read more →

Local novelist & travel writer, Lucy Lord


Local novelist & travel writer Lucy Lord chats to us about her new venture with Peruvian Arts

Local novelist and travel writer Lucy Lord, first interviewed by West London Living in January 2015, has now extended her repertoire: together she and her brother Nick run Peruvian Arts, a business they set up to showcase the collection of paintings they inherited from their father.

Do you live or work

Read more →