As my career in fashion moves forward one of the best things I’ve experienced is meeting professionals that I get along with so well that the relationship lasts through many projects. In the past few months I’ve had the pleasure to work with a stellar group of women from Rhode Island during Artist’s Closet, StyleWeek and most recently my look book shoot. One of these women is named Mallory Musante. Many of you may know her for her beautiful hand painted shoe line. But most recently she has begun the accessory line AshandWillow.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a Connecticut native that started my fashion career as a designer, hand painting women’s leather shoes and accessories. After designing for a few years, I realized there was a huge market for affordable accessories so I started Ash&Willow, an accessories e-boutique. I’m completely obsessed with accessories and I wholeheartedly believe they make or break an outfit
When did you become interested in fashion?
I’ve always been interested in fashion but I didn’t realize I wanted a career in it until halfway through my sophomore year of college (late I know!). I always thought I would just have a corporate job in marketing, which is what I went to school for.
Did you always know you wanted to get into accessory design?
I realized I wanted a career in the fashion industry while in college. I actually used to joke all the time that I don’t know why I went to a business school since I always painted as a hobby and really enjoyed more creative projects!
The movie PS I love you was actually what inspired me to explore shoe design. I took a 5-day intensive shoemaking course, which really began my fashion career.
What inspired you to start your own company?
Once I realized I wanted to have a career in fashion, I think the business side of me took over and I realized I really wanted to be my own boss. I felt like in order for me to be successful, I had to do it my own way and having my own company would allow me to do that.
It is fun to have both a creative and a business side but I recently realized my business side is much stronger and I enjoy it more which is why I decided to move away from designing my own accessories to starting an e-boutique. I can still be creative and enjoy the fashion part and utilize my business side as well!
If you could describe Ash&Willow in three words what would they be?
Bold, unique and affordable
What are the pros and cons (if any) of running an online boutique?
The major pro of having an online boutique is there is very little overhead. I just have the main expense of my inventory and the website maintenance. Also, I think in the future, we will mainly be purchasing everything online and stores will be very scarce.
However, solely being an online company makes it a little more difficult for new customers to discover you. They don’t just accidentally walk by your storefront and customers do enjoy being able to try merchandise on before they purchase.
What is your favorite accessory and why?
That’s like asking me if I love my mom or dad more…I can’t pick a favorite! I love them all but I definitely love any piece that makes a statement.
Who is your fashion icon and why?
I don’t really have one. I credit my mom and great-grandma for my fashion sense (although theirs is VERY different from mine) but I really draw my fashion inspiration from everyday women. To me, nothing is more inspiring than everyday street style. I love to see how different women mix different things together.
What’s next for Ash&Willow?
My main focus is right now is to continue to get the Ash&Willow brand out there and recognized but I plan on adding more accessory options. I’ll continue to add various jewelry pieces but I’d love to add some belts, more handbags, maybe some iPhone/iPad covers, etc.
I’m also thinking about bringing on some designer collections too and swapping them out monthly!
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