Ashley Charles Tamuno Burr is a fashion design student and model based in London. Growing up, Ashley used fashion as an escape from reality, but felt underrepresented as a queer person of colour, fast forward to the present day, and Ashley now creates the beautiful and unique pieces he wanted to see in fashion magazines throughout his youth.
“I didn’t see queer, mixed people represented in a way they were confident in their sexuality, let alone people from other marginalized groups. My earliest memories were watching movies about princesses and falling in love with the outfits (but mainly wanting to be the princess). I sort of fell into modelling, it’s something I wanted to try but didn’t think I could do, I remember filling in a form thinking it was a joke. That was 2 years ago, and looking back I probably wouldn’t have believed my confidence could multiply so much. I feel that working as a creative, although there are challenges, provides the best form of fulfillment. Sometimes it can almost seem like there are barriers to keep the industry pristine and untouchable. I want to break those barriers, not as a form of political resistance; I just want to do it for myself.”
We invited Ashley to take part in the Noctis x Garment Streak slow fashion week, challenging creatives to style and wear one item of clothing for a week. Ashley chose a pair of staple pair of flared jeans and created five stunning looks which were shared each day of the week. As a fashion designer and model, we were keen to hear Ashley’s thoughts on promoting slow fashion and experiences wearing the same item for a week on social media.
Do you remember when or how you first became conscious of the connection between fast fashion and climate change?
As a teenager I never found high fashion accessible, that’s one of the things that made luxury fashion seem so alluring. I thought it was amazing that I had such a breadth of clothing at the reach of a high street. As I began to consume more I also started to question why it was so easy, and what cost my obsession with clothing had. I realised that simplicity is something I want to live by. Slowing down gave me a chance to evolve my image and it also enabled me to reflect on how thoroughly unsustainable fast fashion is. There’s power in finding out what kinds of garments make me feel fulfilled. I opened doors to ways of buying that made me feel good, and made me feel good about the environment. The garments I adore the most are often the threadbare ones that have a charm mass production can’t supply. Others are pieces that I cherish without thinking about how my taste was at the detriment of lives or nature, this helped me invest in pieces that I love and treat with respect.
2What positive role do you think public figures and influencers could have in the fight against fast fashion and climate change generally?
I think a lot of people dismiss the amount of influence celebrity culture has in our lives, when public figures and big names endorse a product it’s something you soon see in high demand. Trends are simply marketing schemes, they’re meant to be shortlived and unsustainable, which was why greenwashing was such an issue; anyone could purchase 1 ‘green’ outfit out of 10 and feel like that was their job done.
Influencers have the power to change how consumers buy, the beauty of clothing is how it can be interpreted in so many ways. I hope to see more public figures celebrating that instead of endorsing throw-away fashion. We’re beginning to wake up to what kinds of people or brand ethics we support with our money, I want to see more brand transparency. There needs to be less shame in having a favourite investment piece we can reuse with charity shop finds and support for small boutiques that don’t cave into untenable demands.
What has it felt like for you to be seen on Instagram wearing one item of clothing multiple times?
I’ve definitely found myself second-guessing an outfit because I’ve worn it once before. Now I take pride in being able to wear an item of clothing in multiple different ways, it’s a resourceful flex. I’ve found clothing I enjoy wearing and I love that there may be a few people who follow me who can see my style reflected in my favourite garments.
Besides performing in the Garment Streak, what else should we know about you or what you are doing? Any new work or projects coming up?
With half of my degree in fashion design complete, I’m intent on working my way into the industry. I’d never let my idea of success get overtaken with hubris and have my values compromised, my intention was always to form a biosphere I can create in. Fashion doesn’t just mirror and influence politics, it does the same with our environment. I want to make sure my designs work with the constraints of the real world, that’s what makes challenging boundaries possible and it’s even more exciting when you have to push to make the impossible work.