Woodbury businesswoman making her fashion splash
When Ashley Ostrowski marks a major step in her career this weekend, her mother won't be far from her mind.
The 28-year-old launches her own clothing line in Washington County during an event that's been years in the making. But when Ostrowski - co-owner of a Woodbury insurance agency - reflects on the impetus behind the show, one person immediately springs to mind: her mother, the late Kathy Ostrowski.
"I just keep thinking this is for her," Ashley said.
She is using the show to honor her mother, who died in April 2008, and to raise money to research the disease that killed her - breast cancer.
"It's a deeper passion than just trying to sell my outfits," Ashley said, noting that all proceeds from the fashion show will go to the University of Minnesota's Masonic Cancer Center.
The fashion show will debut Ashley's own Dollia clothing line. The event, which begins at 7:30 p.m., at the Stillwater VFW, will be hosted by radio personality Danni Starr.
When the models take the stage wearing Ashley's designs, it will represent the culmination of years spent honing her craft.
She attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where she studied apparel design and development. During her time in college, Ashley interned in London and New York City, at one point working alongside noted designers Anna Sui and David Rodriguez.
"Those experiences completely molded where I am now," Ashley said.
After graduating in 2008, she went on to Target, where she was eventually hired on full-time as an assistant designer for the company's line of clothes for young boys.
But in March 2011, Ashley decided she needed a change. Lingering grief over her mother's death left her looking for a change of pace, so she ended up going to work with her father, John, at the family's insurance agency in Woodbury.
A few months later, she consulted with her father and boyfriend about a possible return to the fashion world.
"They said, 'Why don't you start your own fashion line?'" she said.
At first Ashley was hesitant since she had originally envisioned a grand venture. Eventually, however, she became comfortable starting with a small and local approach. And after some convincing from her loved ones, she decided to pursue a runway show.
Then came the hard work. In the run-up to the runway, Ashley has sketched out her ideas, sewed half of the nearly 30 outfits and wrangled up models who were later photographed at Afton State Park in her designs. Next, she created a "look book" to be distributed at the show, where her designs will be featured for purchase.
At its heart, Saturday's event is a memoir to her mother, Ashley said.
She said it was Kathy's influence that paved the way for her foray into the fashion world.
Ashley said her mother was the first person to teach her to sew. And when crunch time hit during a critical college project, it was Kathy who helped out sewing buttons and giving pep talks.
"I will never forget that night," Ashley said, calling her mother "a diamond in the rough."
The name of Ashley's clothing line also is a tribute to her mother. Kathy's favorite flower was the dahlia, so that was the name Ashley first turned to. But when she found out that name was already used by another company in the fashion world, Ashley opted for the phonetic version of the word, which became the name: Dollia.
And when it came time to organize the runway show, Ashley said she knew right away where she wanted the money to go - toward cancer research.
She said she chose the U of M's cancer center over the Susan G. Komen Fund, only because she wants the dollars going exclusively to research.
Reflecting on what her mother might think if she was around for the event, Ashley fought back tears.
"She'd be overly excited and proud," she said.