Only One Ashley designer Kate Watts turns tragedy to triumph

The 39-year-old designer and creator of the Only One Ashley label put her dreams on hold following a horrific assault at the age of 14, which led to a hidden pregnancy and the birth of her terminally ill daughter Ashley.

“My daughter, Ashley, was born when I was 14 years old, following an assault and a pregnancy which was kept hidden by a very frightened young girl,” she said.

“She wasn’t expected to survive more than a few weeks but stayed with us until shortly after her 18th birthday.

“It was never a question for me to give up everything to look after my daughter and so any ambitions I had of my own were put aside for as long as it would take.

“When I lost Ashley in 2009, my world fell apart and it took some time before I could gather any focus to carry on with my life.”

Having to put her ambitions aside so she could care for her daughter, Ms Watts said she felt the need to fulfil her dream and honour Ashley by creating her label a little over a year ago.

“In 2013 I finally decided to enter the Myer Fashions on the Field competition at Ascot,” she said.

“It was a moment of disbelief to win the WA final and to be whisked off to Flemington for the Spring Carnival, where I got to live amongst the vibrancy and decadence of the Birdcage and see the amazing fashions and the beautiful atmosphere that Spring Carnival is renowned for.

“That was a catalyst for me and I knew then, that I wanted to be a part of that and on return from Melbourne, I began to source a handful of fabrics, started some sketches and Only One Ashley was born.”

With her daughter the constant source of inspiration, Ms Watts said it was only fitting to name the label after her daughter.

“Ashley was everything to me, my whole world,” she said.

“When I lost her I felt I had no way of holding onto what she’d left behind in me.

“So when I finally summoned the courage to create the label, I couldn’t think of any more fitting tribute to her legacy and all that she brought to my life.

“I had always loved fashion and to bring my two greatest loves together also meant I would hear her name in my life every day.”

Ms Watts finally launched her label and first collection last month at The Western Australian Club, a moment she described as perfect.

“The launch party was many months of planning and we couldn’t have dreamed it be a more perfect night,” she said.

“My collection captures a timeless elegance, with strong structure, a focus on all day comfort and the use of beautiful fabrics.

“I’ve created outfits that are perfect for race day fashion along with dresses and gowns that can sparkle at a party.”