By Emily Williams
In June 2012, a dream came true for Hoover resident Ashley DeRamus and her mother and business partner Connie DeRamus. At the National Down Syndrome Congress’ annual convention in Denver, Colorado, the creation of Ashley’s clothing line, Ashley by Design, was announced.
Ashley has Down syndrome, an aspect of her life that she says does little to confine her. But because of the physical effects of Down syndrome, Ashley always struggled to find clothing that would fit well in its original form.
“Clothing she found would most often need many alterations,” Connie said.
With Ashley by Design, Ashley has created a line of clothing that is tailored to perfectly fit the body of a female with Down syndrome. Not only are the pieces she sells a good fit for her body, they are a good fit for her taste, as well.
“My personal style is fashionable but casual and the style of the line is Bohemian,” Ashley said. “We have partnered with Adorn Fashion to help us create some of the looks.”
Ashley’s clothing line is filled with long and loose-fitting sweaters and blouses, colorful tunics and flowy dresses. Though Adorn takes credit for a few looks, Ashley’s designs fill the pages of the website.
The Rebecca Top, which sells for $39, is a striped, V-neck tunic with loose-fitting short sleeves and can be worn over pants or leggings. Ashley also designed two dresses, the Claudene and the Eliza. Both are sleeveless and loose fitting, and she uses the layering of the fabric to create a more flattering silhouette.
Ashley does not limit herself to one certain style icon, but gathers inspiration for her designs from many sources.
“I do watch all of the fashion shows like ‘What Not to Wear’ and ‘Project Runway,’” Ashley said.
When it comes to taking a new design from concept to construction, she said the process can get lengthy.
“It takes lots of time, research and money before an article can be sold,” Ashley said.
Ashley’s buyers can be found all over the world, a result of her constant travels. Her non-profit organization, The Ashley DeRamus Foundation, sends her around the country to advocate and share her personal success.
“My favorite memories come from traveling, making new friends and being an entrepreneur with Down syndrome,” she said.
“We have all ladies – young and old,” she said. “Since we travel the country, we have many loyal customers both with and without special needs.”
What began with a few articles of clothing has grown and, with the help of Adorn, Ashley now offers clothing for children and a selection of accessories.
The money she makes with her business directly supports her non-profit organization. By traveling to special events around the country and maintaining an online storefront, Ashley is able to fund her foundation and continue advocating for people with special needs.
When her fans and customers see her success, Ashley said she hopes they become inspired.
“They are supporting a Down syndrome advocate,” Ashley said.
Her success is not limited to her foundation or her clothing. When Ashley isn’t designing and advocating, she involves herself in a variety of hobbies.
Now retired, in her hey-day Ashley was an avid swimmer and has earned 43 medals through the Special Olympics.
Ashley said she spends a lot of her free time with her piano, making up songs and singing gospel tunes, and regularly performs the National Anthem when she travels.
Most recently, Ashley was named Advocate of the Year 2015 by Down Syndrome International. She traveled to India Aug. 7-22, spending time traveling and volunteering with children before accepting her award on Aug. 21.
In all of her endeavors, Ashley said she lives by a motto she gleaned from one of her close friends, which drives her in her faith and business.
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do,” Ashley said. “Show them what you can do.”