Designer Ashalee Thompson empowers with The Monarchy

Stephanie Lyew

February 14, 2022

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Jamaican designer Ashalee Thompson is big on self-empowerment.

What do you love? What is your heart’s desire? Jamaican designer Ashalee Thompson dared to answer that she desired to create a monarchy – not the type that only had a single person wearing the crown – one that empowered every individual to be bold and expressive. While the saying goes, ‘give people their flowers while they are still alive’, Thompson’s interpretation is to “give people their crowns while they are still alive”, and this became the inspiration for The Monarchy.

“It was a wild conception,” she told Flair. “A cousin of mine who loves to come up with stage designs and ideas for photo shoots, had seen a headpiece on Pinterest and wanted it. Being the creative I am, I decided to make it; it looked pretty easy for me, and I went to a craft store, purchased the materials I needed and put my hands to work.”

What started out as skewers and potpourri on a bandoo (a wooden headband) was, once spray-painted gold, transformed into an avant-garde crown fit for a royal, she said. Though it fell apart a week later, it was the beginning of Thompson’s research into designing functional and durable headpieces for all occasions. She said, “That was two years ago. I can confidently say that my headpieces have evolved. The materials I use are different – stronger – and of better quality. The mode and technique used in constructing them, I’d like to think, was an inborn talent, and, overall, just passion and my love for fashion and making something look pretty.”

Thompson attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts to pursue her previous goal to become an interior decorator, but with the demand for her crowns, the 28-year-old made a detour.

“There is really a market for headpieces and crowns. I have seen them start out as small props for photo shoots, to becoming a trend. With the absence of the entertainment industry and, also, the lack of freedom to go out to celebrate a pregnancy, birthdays, engagements, for weddings and other milestones, photo shoots took a spike or became the focal point,” she said. “People have delved deep into their creative selves and found out that when it comes to dressing up, there are little things that can [be] added that allows for the imagination to meet reality. Everyone wants to stand out; we’re in an era where people don’t want to be traditional, and the crowns or headpieces I make [aren’t] that. Depending on the materials, the designs can take you up to $50,000, but I do pride myself in having products that are affordable.”

The Monarchy headpieces vary from intricate wire to wood skeletons dressed with faux flowers, jewels, yarn, and other accessories. These designs have attracted some of the most popular social media influencers to recording artistes locally – both female and male, the designer shared – as well as regionally and internationally, throughout the Caribbean and in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“Each design literally ties back to my client’s personality. I know that a calmer person will not necessarily choose an extravagant piece; the girly type that likes to be seen, but is still shy and wants just the right amount of focus, may go for flowers; and there is the eccentric. One thing is for sure, The Monarchy crowns will make any individual who wears it feel empowered; that is important to me,” Thompson expressed.

She explained that one of her most challenging headpieces was one she did for Cosplay. Finding the faux flowers that matched the concept was different from the types she would normally include in her designs, but Thompson accepted the challenge and was able to create something completely new and, in the process, introduced her business to a whole new community. She also accepts requests for styles persons may find online.

“I also appreciate the bolder males who have become my customers. Those who don’t care about stigmas, extremely manly or not, are very much into fashion and like expressing their style and personalities out loud. I want to continue empowering the queens and kings, and princesses and princes inside each person who dares to be different, and inspire them to give, accept and wear their crowns boldly,” Thompson said.

The February 14 cover of the ‘Flair’ was captured by Peter Anguin of Penguin Photography.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com

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Stephanie Lyew

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