Interview with Ashley Mardesic From Australia

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Ashley Mardesic

Ashley Mardesic is the founder and inventor of Peekabras, and is the savior of dancers everywhere. But mostly for women’s fashion!

Interview with the 2022 MUSE Design Awards Winner - Ashley Mardesic

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

My background is in the arts. I have danced professionally, trained elite performers and choreographed around the world for over 35 years. My specialty is movement. I watch the way clothes fall on the body when people are acting authentically. This means that so much in a garment changes once we leave the change-room. This is what I love about fashion and design.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

I became a designer out of necessity. Growing up I would have been considered "perfect" by fashion standards. I did not understand changing and growing bodies since I was always training as a dancer and so my size stayed the same. This all changed when I had my second baby. I had the realisation that my fun wardrobe and cool personality was taking a solid hit from the ups and downs of motherhood. And to put it nicely, IT SUCKED! I have a killer wardrobe and wicked personality but I was stuck wearing t-shirts up to my neck because I couldn't just pop on a cut bralette with a low tank top because no one needed to see my boobs which would graciously make their way out the thin piece of material made for either a super model or 12 year old. I was stuck with a functional bra that made my boobs look great as long as the material was opaque or covered my entire body. So, one day I decided to make it my mission to change the face of fashion. That face is the kick ass women who are too old for games but too young to give up. We are in the prime of our lives and we need clothes to match.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

Peekabras has created a new category of clothing - MIDWEAR. We bridge the fashion gap between clothing and lingerie. Our Head Designer, Lynette Robertson, is a Tony award winning seamstress who is currently working on Moulin Rouge the Broadway show but works exclusively for Peekabras outside of her Broadway endeavours. Our Fashion Technologist, Alice Scott, is a veteran with over 25 years of experience having worked with major brands like M&S. We are selling in 5 countries, have successfully raised funding, patent pending in 46 countries, deemed a Fashion Research Organisation by Aus Industry Australian Government Agency and few other major achievements.

4What does “design” mean to you?

"Design" to me means solutions to celebrate. There are billions of people on this earth and clothing needs to serve us all. Not just standing in a mirror or posing for a camera but actually living in our clothing. I have been on so many photo shoots where clips and pins were used to create a silhouette. Or, editing is used to hide underwear or bras. It's cute when a celebrity nipple falls out or we catch a glimpse of vag on a red carpet. But this isn't life. There are no magic erasers for accidental nip slips and vag exposures. I don't have hours to get ready nor do I exclusively attend VIP events. I pick up my children, go to dinner, shop for groceries. I even like to dance through the isles with my 3 and 13-year-old. I still want to dress fabulous but I want to do it comfortably and respectfully. I want to do it in a way that serves every part of me. And millions of women want the same courtesy from their fashion. People forget that life is to be lived off of social media and I am here to use design to make the world a better place with fashion accessible for women like me; incredible, focused, fashionable, hardworking women who want to live life without compromise. I am using design to create a solution that celebrates celebrate us.

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

I like the kind of design that doesn't exist yet. The kind that I am trying to find. It's taking elements from all of them and piecing together the ones that work for women with changing bodies. Our materials are sustainable; the technical design is as intricate as haute couture, it is made for mass market, but helps you where anything that exists in all the categories. We can print da Vinci paintings on our skins or make the colours plain and accessible. the options are endless. This is not a quality that exists in any fashion design categories in my humble opinion.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?

It has the right balance between function and style. The garment expands a person’s style options and is multi-use. Good design lets you do handstands and cartwheels, run to hug your friends and spin them or even allows you to dance all night long without major fussing. It takes into account real living things without compromising uniqueness and fun concepts. Function should not equal boring and style should not equal elaborate. It can be both. It can be multidimensional. Good design should allow to live authentically.

7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

It is anything I want it to be. The same garment should allow me to be sexy, professional, trendy, conservative or even quirky. I don't box myself in to one thing. Remember, it's based on solutions not preconceived notions of what fashion and design should be but what I need it to accomplish.

8Tell us about your design process.

  • I start by describing what I want to do in the garment.
  • Then I define the problematic areas with the clothes that are associated with that activity.
  • Then we look at how the fashion interacts with different bodies.
  • Then we create solutions for women that want or need to wear undergarments with the clothes they chose.
  • The finished product becomes an accessory/layer that gives freedom of movement and garment options to women who would otherwise not comfortably wear the item of clothing.
  • And repeat :)

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

I grew up in Toronto, Canada. Hollywood North. I had a fun, adventurous youth. I wore what I wanted and didn't care if anyone saw anything. It was a free place where I could be myself. I felt accepted. Now living in Australia, I want to feel that again. I want to be able to express myself through my fashion without limitations. But I am also aware of my body. I know and understand proportions. I appreciate that I am ageing and feel most comfortable a little more covered up than before. I can be who I am today, yesterday and tomorrow without too much conflict because thankfully I grew up in a free country.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2022 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Inventing is incredibly difficult. Bra skins are the first novel fashion invention since 1935. It has taken every penny, every spare moment and every ounce of energy to create and continue creating this revolutionary new product. Validation is huge for something this new. It helps people understand what you are trying to do. Selling to amazing women is great but many will not appreciate the technical feet we have achieved with this product design. Your esteemed judges will be able to understand the sheer difficulty, creative insight and technical execution required to pull off this crazy idea. I literally said one day "I wish my bra went with everything." That was our start. Me in my room, with a baby attached to me. No design knowledge and basic sewing skills. But I could see it in my head. And with an incredible team of people managed to bring this idea to life. Your judges and award will get us closer to making a more significant environmental, social and fashion impact on women over 35.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2022 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Bra skins change the look and color of our bras without compromising fit. It molds to the breast and a bra which lifts and shapes the breasts but also protect the bra from wear and tear. It has changed the lives of not only myself but tens of thousands of women around the world and so we knew that we had to share it with you.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

The intellectual property. This so new that we prioritized global patents. This has major costs attached. I sold my house and business to make it happen. However, being in the arts I lost my job in the pandemic which meant I didn't work during this time. So major costs out and no money coming in for a long time.

The second was trying to design such a new concept over zoom. Mailing samples was almost impossible and changes to design were terribly slow.

The last would be trying to educate, advertise and sell while locked in the house for 2 years. I am located in Melbourne, Australia. We had to endure a military lockdown which meant I couldn't even create content outside my home. I became the CEO, inventor, marketing professional, model and social media expert.

98 percent of businesses fail. only 1.6 percent of Inventions succeed. Out of those 1.6 percent only .4 percent are women giving me a .00000128% chance of succeeding under normal circumstances.

This scared the shit out of me. But I decided that failure was not an option. So I sold everything to make it happen.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

In dance, I am considered a Master Teacher & Choreographer. One of the best in my field. The hardest thing about pivoting was doing something new. Winning this award shows the people that believed in me that they were right. That what we are doing is revolutionary and worthy of recognition.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

  1. The freedom to be authentic
  2. The endless possibilities for new fabric colors and patterns
  3. The eccentric people that live in this space.
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?

Australia is a wild country with big spiders and a tight community. The support I am receiving from the business side is like no other and is making so much possible. I don't know if I would have made it in another country through this pandemic without the organizations who back women founders.

16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

I see a transfer of power from the young and unreliable to the wealthy, intelligent middle-aged men and women of the world. Companies are seeing how expensive it is to keep youth entertained. The lack of brand loyalty makes this demographic unappealing. the loudest voices with the most discerning tastes is where many will spend their energy.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

Dream it. Then execute it. Your vision will stand out if it truly and authentically makes things better for others.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

If I'm being honest, my biggest strength is that I am not from this industry. I used my unique skills in dance and creative movement to design our revolutionary garments. So I would say don't discount your life experiences when it comes to design. They are what truly lead you to greatness.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

I didn't want children. I pictured my life a certain way, achieving so many things. Instead I have but my mind, health and wellbeing on hold over and over for my children. And I would do it again now that I understand what it is all about.

20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

My mother and father. They were not well off. I watched them build an empire from nothing. From eating the same food 5 days in a row, second hand clothes, never ate out and have never had a family vacation to their real-estate empire and now building their dream home. They made sure we always had our dance lessons though. We were always busy even though we could not afford it. My parents sacrificed every single comfort so that my sister and I could grow up striving for something. My mother dropped out of school in grade 10. Taught herself accounting, how to be a contractor for home building and even how to leverage debt to make millions. My father also dropped out of school. He was a musician and even have a record with Sony. Back then musicians were paid terribly so my dad bought one of the first Apple computers ever made and taught himself how to code. He became his own boss at 40 and his company funded my mother’s real estate endeavours. They are an incredible team.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

I do not stop for anyone.

I only ask "how can I get this done?"

I do not have self-doubt.

No matter what comes of an experience, whether its failure or success I am a better person because of it.

I always do what I say I am going to do. That's why people trust me. And trust in business is everything.

22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

Thank you. I look forward to entering again in the future.

Winning Entries

Bra Skins | 2022

Bra Skins | MUSE Design Awards

The first novel fashion invention since 1935, Peekabras has achieved the impossible: giving bra wearers the fashion flexibility of their braless counterparts. Every aspect of bra skins are new and are a combination of fashion design, technology and movement based principals that have never existed in a single garment. Bra skins are…
(read more at MUSE Design Awards)

Ashley Mardesic

Ashley Mardesic is the founder and inventor of Peekabras, and is the savior of dancers everywhere. But mostly for women’s fashion!

Read how Hong Kong-based Eric Chan racked up a series of wins in the MUSE Design Awards with our exclusive interview with him here!