Ash not only has a beautiful home and looks great in her undies, she is also the force behind sustainability blog Shift.
NICO founder Lis sat down with Ash post photoshoot to talk sustainability, body image and what it’s like to have photos taken in your undies!
Lis: So, Ash, we’ve just finished the photoshoot...
Ash: Which was lovely, it felt a bit awkward at first, but I was comfortable.
Lis: Ok, because a big part of NICO – part of the reason we do these shoots and what I love about them – is this idea of being comfortable in your own skin, of self-love and confidence and being cool with who you are. So I thought it would be an interesting time to delve into that having just confronted a photoshoot in underwear which is a terrifying prospect for anybody! So, how are you feeling about it?
Ash: Pretty good. I was looking forward to it but was also like, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before!’ With my job in PR I’ve often arranged photoshoots where you’d be behind the camera watching how it’s going and making sure the other person is feeling comfortable, so it’s foreign in that sense. And you know that’s probably why I went down that career path, so I wouldn’t have to be in front of the camera!
Lis: Yeah, it’s not a space that many people crave is it! But I think that raises an interesting point in that the idea of a photoshoot and taking photos of people is often about this idea of perfection. Things have to be polished and perfect and showing people on their best day and their best look, and real is unacceptable. And that’s kind of like the default isn’t it. But that being said I’ve noticed a bit of a new trend towards realism and a bit of a backlash in advertising. I think people realise that what’s often being presented is really fake and not something that we can realistically aspire to. I think that’s really interesting and that kind of realism is something we really aspire to with NICO.
Ash: I guess I’ve always been able to tune into that and recognise what’s photoshopped and fake, but I think you do notice things in others that you may be self-conscious about in yourself. Say if we’re talking about body image, you see someone and think, ‘they’re so lucky to have that great skin’, and ‘oh wouldn’t it be great to have skin like that’ or whatever it is about your body you’re less comfortable with. But I think you’ve just got to be able to let it go, and you’ve got to find that clothing that makes you feel good when you wear it. These days I tend to wear more loose-fitting clothing, just because it makes me comfortable.
Lis: I think that’s an interesting point actually that comfort is the root of a lot of this idea of being confident.
Ash: It’s becoming more of a thing, I like to think. Particularly with the kind of community that I’m delving into with Shift, I think comfort is a big thing, especially when you’re using natural fabrics.
Lis: It was really great watching you today, I think in the beginning you were a bit nervous, and I completely get that - I would be as well! But it was nice, as you were kind of like ‘I feel so comfortable in these pieces’ I really felt you warming up, and it was nice to see how that helped you through the process.
Ash: Yeah, I really did love wearing all the pieces. They are so soft and easy to wear.
Lis: So, tell me a little bit more about Shift.
Ash: It began as a creative outlet for me – something I needed. I enjoy writing and talking to people and finding out their story, what led them to where they are now and where they see themselves going. I like finding people that have found what they’re really good at and they’re making a good go of it. They might make something with their hands and they’ve thrown themselves into their passion. I really admire that in people. I play around a bit in making things – I’ve started to learn how to sew, so I like to dabble in things but I’ve never really committed to one art, so I really admire people who’ve been able to do that.
I originally had a few different concepts for the blog, I was looking at DIY or upcycling because I had all these ideas floating around my head. But then it was actually the word ‘Shift’ that popped into my mind, because I believe and hope that it is a shift, in every industry, towards doing things with a conscience.
Things like knowing supply chains, who makes what we buy, and consumers being aware and knowing these things when they shop – from technology to fashion to furniture, anything. So when the word ‘shift’ popped into my head I thought that really works. I was starting to learn a lot more about ethics and sustainability in fashion particularly as my sister was working on Undress Runways. I was like so many others who had never actually thought about it before. But once you know, you can’t un-know! I was so curious and I couldn’t let it go.
Lis: That curiosity is so important isn’t it, because it’s such a complex issue. I really like the title Shift because in a way it kind of sums up a complex issue. A shift is really at the centre of it isn't it and what’s needed. It’s like the way that we’ve been doing things is no longer viable.
Ash: Exactly, and the word ‘shift’ shows that it is a work in progress, it’s a moving word.
Lis: It’s true, so much of the discussion that I’ve heard around sustainability a is around this idea of a journey. Nobody is really perfect, but it’s about being on that journey and moving forward.
Ash: Yes, definitely. I have a cousin who told me recently that she had bought a top from a well-known sportswear brand, but then read one of the recent reports into ethical fashion which named the brand as not doing good things. She felt really bad that she owned it, and didn’t know what to do. It was actually my Mum who was there with us at the time who said, “no, don’t get rid of it. What you have to do now is wear it, just wear it to death.” And that’s so true. There’s no need for anyone to throw things away and start again. It doesn’t need to be a big shift; you can make small changes in your life. What started as a fashion thing for me has really rolled out into the rest of my life now.