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Photo Gallery | Little Rock's Gunkel named Fashion Week New Orleans Top Designer

Emerging Designer Brings the Midas Touch and Takes Top Design Honor

It was the climax of Fashion Week New Orleans five-day fashion celebration that included parties, runway shows, daytime shopping events, and celebrity appearances. And Ashley Gunkel pulled out all the stops in presenting an incredible collection that garnering her the title of FWNOLA Top Designer ’13!

What has quickly become Fashion Week New Orleans signature event; Gunkel was one of twelve emerging designers debuted their collection on the runway opening night.  The designers wowed the audience – filled with industry professionals, media, fashion aficionadas and an esteem panel of judges – with an array of fashion genres from daywear to tribal.  So much so, that the judges opted to selected four designers (instead of 3) to move on to the final round of judging. Finalists include emerging designers, Kallen Forster, Brooke Lynn Wright, Katherine Louise Faust all from New Orleans and Ashley Gunkel; a Mississippi native.

The judging panel included Ross Bennett of NBC’s Fashion Star, Dr. Courtney Hammonds from the Art Institute of Atlanta, Dr. Lisa McRoberts, chair of the Design Jury for the International Textiles and Apparel Association and LSU Professor, and Audra Elizabeth, a world-renowned milliner and designer from Chicago.

Winning designer Ashley Gunkel grew up in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Her coastal upbringing helped to foster her love for color, design, and form, which she cultivated into an enthusiasm for fashion. She obtained a degree in Apparel, Textiles, and Merchandising from Mississippi State University.  She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas and is Assistant Product Coordinator for Dillard’s Department Store, where she has been employed for 3 ½ years.

For this collection she drew inspiration when referring to her college historical costume books. This led her to creating a collection that would have an edgy, yet elegant and relatable to ready-to-wear apparel. “Sell-ability is very important.  I think about the average woman, and how it will appeal to her.  I’d describe this collection as interesting, edgy, but not over-the-top,” explains Gunkel.  Her collection is affectionately referred to as the “Midas Collection” by her models because of the rich gold and silver brocade fabrics, vibrant shimmering sheer touches and the goddess influence silhouettes.

This was Gunkel’s second time competing in Fashion Week New Orleans Top Design Competition, as she was part of its inaugural event three years ago. Returning two years later, Gunkel said she felt more prepared and focused.  Her aesthetic style had developed, was more defined and she came ready to win!

And win she did! The Top Designer will receive a prize package valued over $2500 including retail placement at Hemline Metairie, a manufacturing package from NOLA Sewn, a Brother Sewing Machine compliments of AllBrands.com, a gift certificate from Promenade Fabrics, a professional photo shoot with Photographer Gustavo Escanelle, a feature fashion story in national magazine Amelie G., business mentoring/consultation with IDEA Village, and featured designer placement at FWNOLA 2014.

Since its inception in 2011, FWNOLA has had a number of designer success stories, including 2011 Top Design competitor Anthony Ryan Auld, who went on to compete in Project Runway Season 9, followed by his recent win on Project Runway All-Stars!

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