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winter 2018

Promoting sustainability in fashion

Borders uses influence as a platform to inspire change.

Ashley Borders ’04 shops at Goodwill. Where some would flip right past a 1980s-era double-breasted blazer with bulky shoulder pads, she sees the basis for a dress or a hip new vest. 

“Remove the shoulder pads, taper the waist ... I love to make something old new again. It’s cost effective, socially responsible and eco-friendly,” says Borders. “Unfortunately society fosters this mindset that if we are successful, we need to buy something new. I think second-hand is more interesting.”

Borders, the fashion editor of South magazine and an international fashion designer, stylist, artistic director, costumer and image consultant, wants to show the world that fashion and sustainability can be a part of the same discussions, and she’s using her designs, styling and editorial choices as a platform to express concerns of waste and overproduction in the industry. 

“I do workshops for Goodwill Industries showing people how to repurpose clothes so they will have the confidence to go back into the workforce,” says Borders. “I show them that you don’t have to spend a lot of money or stay current on the latest trends to be professional.”

In addition to her work with Goodwill, Borders also does styling for OurSkinny. She has blogged for them and has helped women learn to dress their new bodies.

“Fashion can give people confidence ... make them feel beautiful. It’s a way to create the reality you want and be the best version of yourself,” says Borders. 

Borders taught herself to sew so that she could make clothes for her Barbie dolls. At Wofford she helped cut a path for future student-artists to follow, which included showing her designs at a charity fashion show at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Kate Middleton, who was a student at the time, modeled Borders’ evening dresses.

“Grant Peacock, a Wofford trustee who recently passed away, taught me how to write a proposal to get funding for my ideas. He introduced me to manufacturers in China,” says Borders. “He and others spent a lot of time mentoring me. I’m not sure I would have gotten that somewhere else.”

Her adventures in the industry have taken her to Europe to work in high fashion with Jil Sanders; to Dubai, where she developed her own Bedouin line of clothing and branched out into the television and film industry; to Los Angeles to continue her work in film and now back home to Savannah, Ga., where she is working to establish the area as a mecca for all types of artistic expression.

While in Dubai, Borders was a part of the first television documentary about the abuse of women in the Middle East. She also was involved in the region's first breast cancer awareness marketing campaign. 

"That's when I realized that I can make a difference as a stylist and art director," says Borders. "Clothes and fashion choices help people tell their story, and I like being a part of that."

by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89

Spring 2016