Written by Miranda Bunnis
NC state alumna Ashley Worrall took a leap of faith recently when she started Borough, an online woman’s dress brand inspired by Southern culture.
While the launch of the business owned by Worrall and her husband, Jeff Worrall, is new, the dream has been alive for some time.
“I launched this year, but Borough has been years in the making as I worked to finalize the designs and source local vendors and manufacturers. It’s been so fun to see people’s reaction to the line,” said Worrall.
Reaction has indeed been positive as Worrall was recently named one of 19 finalists for Belk’s annual Southern Designer Showcase competition. Judging takes place May 19 and winners will be announced shortly thereafter. The winners will have their collections sold in Belk stores and on Belk.com in spring 2017.
“It’s amazing to be recognized by such a respected organization like Belk as a Southern designer. I grew up shopping at Belk so it would be a dream come true to have my own designs sold there. This would also be a huge milestone for Borough” said Worrall.
Worrall, who studied Textile Technology at NC State and graduated in 2007, spoke about the comprehensive nature of the education she received while at college, learning about everything from fibers and materials to the launching of products. “It gave me a good broad overview of the textile industry, helping to set me up for my business,” she said.
She came up with the name Borough while visiting Charleston, her childhood dream location. She eventually moved there to open her business.
With each dress named after a Charleston borough that reflects its unique personality, the company has a total of five different dress styles, all coming in a variety of prints. Out of the current prints which change seasonally, the most successful has been House Hunting. “The print is so Charleston,” Worrall said about the bright pink and yellow architecture block print.
“I enjoyed fashion and doing the design side. I knew I wanted to work with patterns, prints and create something that I wanted to wear every day,” she said.
The Borough customer varies with the average age based on recent pop-up shops being 30, but expanding up into the late 50s, too. “Everyone loves a fun bright print and shift dresses are so universally flattering, they’re a classic style that appeals to a broad range,” she said.
The designs, currently only being sold online, are going to be distributed further in more pop-up shops, and at events such as the Carolina Cup steeplechase. As the brand continues to grow, the plan is to distribute the designs among regional boutiques.
As Worrall began her textile career, some close to her expressed reservations. Family members who had previously worked in the textile industry mills and had lost their jobs when the businesses had moved to other countries were skeptical of her chosen path.
“That’s why it is so important to me to keep it in the Carolinas. It’s important to help the local textile economy to keep growing,” she said.
Worrall gained experience in the textiles industry prior to launching Borough, working in a compression garment company for plastic surgery patients. This involved a range of skills from designing and drawing the patterns to consulting with patients about sizing. It also provided the opportunity to have seamstresses ready and on site to work hand-in-hand on her designs from the word go. Going straight into this job after graduating from NC State was a big step.
She also has experience in marketing for a big health care organization, which gave her solid and broad exposure to the marketing side prior to starting up Borough. “I like marketing but wanted to get back into textiles,” she said.
Worrall’s advice for students who want to open their own company in the future can be summed up in two words: perseverance and patience. “So many times I thought maybe I won’t. Sticking with it is vital,” she said.
You can shop designs for Borough online here.