Ashley Longshore is in a back room at The Strand ahead of a public event promoting her book, I Do Not Cook, I Do Not Clean, I Do Not Fly Commercial, available now through Rizzoli. She stands out against the drab walls and floor thanks to an elaborate, custom rainbow cape designed by Tomo Koizumi. “I’m [also] doing this big kimono,” she says, referencing a sketch Koizumi has created for her. Longshore’s love for fashion is more than reciprocated by the industry. This year alone she has been commissioned for a project by Diane von Furstenberg, collaborated with Maybelline, and crafted the runway for Christian Siriano’s Spring 2020 show (he also moderated her Strand conversation). Below, Longshore geeks out on fashion, and explains why New Orleans is so much fun.
You’re wearing Tomo Koizumi! Have you been following his work for the past two seasons?
The first time I laid eyes on his work was two years ago when he had the exhibition at Marc Jacobs, and I was like, “Oh my god.” Because I am so campy, I like to have fun. I don’t like pretentiousness. I just was like, “I’ve got to get my hands on that.” And I had messaged with him throughout the year, but this past fashion week we sat down and hung out. We met. I didn’t think he would be able to make something in time for the book tour, but he was like, “No, I want to make you something!” He’s so delightful and so talented. I like authenticity. Even though somebody on team got black paint on my Tomo…
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What’s it been like working with designers to get custom pieces?
It’s awesome. The people that I’ve worked with — Christian, and Tomo, and of course Dennis Basso made me something incredible. Johnson [Hartig] at Libertine. I feel like they want me to wear their clothes. They like it, I like to have fun. It’s not all stodgy uptown girl. [The Blonds are] making me custom pieces and also Brandon Maxwell.
How are you taking care of all these custom fashion pieces?
I’ve got a really pretty closet. But I think I need a bigger closet.
What other designers are you into?
I’m really into Ashish. I love Manish Aurora. I’m so inspired by my friend Lynn Ban. She’s a jeweler, but talk about a fashion peacock! She is a fucking goddess and she just goes for it. And she’s glamorous, and fabulous, and campy, and edgy. Major poontang all the way. And I love her jewelry.
What are some of your earliest memories of fashion?
My mother had me in monogramed underwear, French hand sewn dresses, and fucking bonnets. I hated it. On Easter morning she would be like, “Don’t touch anything! Don’t touch anything!” And I would be out in the flowerbed picking flowers and finding bugs. I literally had a monogram on my underwear until I started my period. And I was like, “This is insanity.” Then I went into full-on fashion rebellion. I wore cut-offs, Patagonia, and hiking boots. I went to college out in Montana and found myself.
Do you and your mom still talk about fashion?
We’re very different, we’re not close at all. But that’s ok. I’m very close to my father, and I have a great stepmother. I’ve surrounded myself with amazing female mentors.
Most recently, Diane von Furstenberg. She’s been curating me. My friend Fran Hauser, my good friend Wendy Wurtzburger, who used to be the CEO of Anthropologie. My friend Jan Singer, who is formerly the CEO of Victoria’s Secret. She stepped down after they made those horrible comments. She and I text all the time. I love these women in business who are in my life because they advise me, and they’re all like moms.
Tell me about the book!
Isn’t it awesome? It’s so funny, 15 years ago when I had no money and this little rat hole studio I started making sure that I had high-res images of all my artwork. Because I was like, one day I’m going to have a goddamn Rizzoli book. So today is kind of a big day for me. But also, I don’t make prints, I don’t make giclée’s, I don’t make iPhone covers. I do limited-edition product, but this is just such a great price point for my collectors to get a full-blown Ashley bomb. And I love the handwritten pages, and the contributions. It’s crazy for me to look through that and know where all those paintings are, and know what I was thinking when I was painting them. It’s pretty fucking crazy.
How did you decide what would make it in?
I left out certain things because I was thinking about the second book. Not to be not enjoying the moment right now. But I wanted this one to be a lot of the icons that I paint. My champagne pieces, my jewels, my wild statement pieces — just a nice collection from the last 15 years of my work.
What was the design process like?
I worked with this incredible designer, Gio, who helped do the whole book. They showed me tons of books when I was deciding what I wanted mine to look like. And he was just such a maximalist, like me. And I was like, “More color! No, layer it with more pattern!” I wanted it to be a full-blown color bomb. Luckily they had really great people that knew how to execute that vision.
I love the title, specifically the “I Do Not Cook, I Do Not Clean” part. What is the most glamorous my-fridge-is-bare snack?
An ice-cold bottle of vodka in the freezer and then a big old tin of caviar is where it’s at. You’re starving to death or hungover… you could even have a baked potato in there and throw all that on top with a little bit of crème fraiche, done. You’re ready to roll again.
What are some of your top dinner spots?
Where I live in New Orleans there’s a place called Saffron right down from my studio that is one of my most favorite restaurants in the whole world. It’s a blend of Indian and New Orleans cuisine. The family that runs it is unbelievable, the service is impeccable, the wine list is great, the menu is always changing. I love them. In New York I always find myself at Blue Ribbon Sushi in the Lower East Side. I just went to The Monkey Room which is in Midtown. [But] I always go to Blue Ribbon Sushi. We have no Japanese culture in New Orleans at all, so we do not have great sushi. So whenever I come up here and can have sushi, I think they’re great.
What’s something New York can learn from New Orleans?
New Orleans is a lot how New York was back in the ‘70s. We are not polished. We’re like an uncut diamond. There ain’t no valet. Our fine dining isn’t the same as fine dining in New York. It’s a city that celebrates the arts 100 percent. We are about food, music, poetry, painting, sculptures. It’s not a city of entrepreneurs. It’s not a city that’s based around that type of money, like the business in NYC. Which I love, and that’s why I’m here all the time. New Orleans is a place where you can go lose yourself. The bars don’t close, you can walk down the street with a fucking cocktail. Mardi Gras — you let it rip for two weeks. It’s a place where you can let all your inhibitions go. It’s like a riptide of wildness, you just kind of get caught up in it.
What was it like working with Christian Siriano on his fashion show?
C’mon! I’m a self-taught artist form Montgomery, Alabama — that was one of the biggest rushes of my life. When I walked out there and got to the easel and that music started pumping… And then hearing him in interviews saying, “My collection is inspired by Ashley Longshore, I love her work!” Wow. It’s a huge compliment. And he’s such a nice person, and he’s so talented. You know, I’m on Project Runway this season as well. I’m one of the challenges, as well as one of the judges. That was crazy too.
Can you talk about it?
I don’t think I can talk too much about it, but they announced who the guests are. I’m a whole episode. Wait ‘til you see, there’s a bunch of exciting stuff that I’ve never done before on there.
Were you friends with Christian before doing his show?
Yeah, for like three or four years. He was doing this great show with this magazine, Vie. He walked up to me and I said something really sassy to him. And he was like, “[Makes face] Ok.” We had drinks that night, and I ended up texting him filthy things. The next thing you know I’m painting in the middle of his fashion show. He’s really cool, nice, kind, talented person. He’s the kind of person I want around me for sure.
He told me this summer that he unwinds by watching action movies. How do you unwind?
I just finished watching Pose. I completely binge-watched all of it. Totally obsessed with Succession. The Righteous Gemstones, I love them. I love to play guitar, to travel, to be in nature. I was just in Iceland for 10 days, just snowmobiling on glaciers and thinking about all the madness and insanity that is American society.
How do you pick the women you paint portraits of?
Diane has taught me so much about these outstanding women in the world. Like Marie Curie. I didn’t know that much about her. Months ago, she was the first person to tell me about Greta Thunberg. I looked her up and was like, “My god, this young woman is unbelievable.” The next thing you know, Greta’s reaming out everybody at the UN. Like, wow, the future looks bright. My female mentors have inspired a lot of that. But as far as the women I’ve been painting, Frida Kahlo — everybody’s bohemian goddess. Audrey Hepburn, this philanthropic, stunning woman who was not only a movie star but made her own money. And literally starved to death and ate tulip bulbs. And then everything she did through UNICEF. How can somebody like that not be a role model?
When I get all those images around me super big, it almost feels like when you go out to lunch with all your best friends. And it’s like, “I’ve got all my girls around me I’m going to be sassy as hell.” Like I’m building a fort and I’m living inside of it. The more I paint and the more these thoughts come around me, the stronger I feel, the braver I am. Because it’s empowering to have tangible thoughts around you. It’s like you’re making your own world. Which, when you look at fashion designers (this is what I love about fashion) — they’re creating their own world. Look at Tomo! That is the kind of world I want to live in. I want to see a colorful, fun, non-pretentious, exciting, happy world.
Any parting advice?
Anybody that’s out there with a creative thought, that thinks they’ve got something to say and they’ve got the gumption to go out there and do it, don’t fucking wait. They ain’t going to line up at the door. Get busy, because the world really fucking needs you. I mean, the chocolate chip cooking was created during the Great Depression. Get out there and do something.