With Emirati-Mexican roots, the founder of digital fashion canvas @TheMirageEdit shares her take on defying traditional gender stereotypes, reigniting her love for writing poetry during quarantine, her admiration for Frida Kahlo and what it takes to go far in your career
Ashley Al Busmait. Photography by @thevisualeyez
Tell us a little about your background.
From an early age, I was infatuated with the idea of creating an identity through clothing. I was always naturally inclined to add an unpredictable flair to my outfits in my early years. About four years ago, I was sitting at my desk at my first job, when all of a sudden two colleagues suggested the idea of starting a fashion page. I looked at them with surprise and was not really sure how to digest the idea.
I was initially hesitant as it was seen as taboo for a female to be publicly seen on social media at that particular time. With much encouragement from my friends and parents, and a conscious decision to be brave, I started my fashion page which was previously titled Desert Vogue, and now The Mirage Edit. The theme of my Instagram page is centred around my personal journey of self discovery from an artistic perspective, focusing on an underlying theme of showcasing women’s empowerment, highlighting the cross-cultural threads that weave us together, and causes I am passionate about.
Ashley Al Busmait. Photography by @viktorriav.photography
Much like the alluring and transient mirage that graces the desert sands that I hail from, I hope that through my blog I can continually transform and take my audience on a visual reverie that ignites a sense of wonder and discovery within them.
As I travel through the sands of time, I continue to evolve and follow my inner compass leading me to explore a newfound artistic freedom - both solidifying and liberating me.
What inspires you?
I derive inspiration from multiple streams, sources that intrigue and compel me from an artistic sense. The biggest being my muses from past eras, each one instilling a different sense of wisdom. Although I have many, a few that have a very big influence on me both personally and artistically are Frida Kahlo, the legendary Mexican artist who sent shockwaves with her vulnerable and thought-provoking art and Chavela Vargas, who defied society's standards by being one of the first female singers to demand the stage donning menswear - singing ranchera ballads, which, at the time was a genre of music reserved for men. I also greatly look up to Prince, Madonna, Cher, Steven Tyler and Jane Birkin who all had one thing in common: being their authentic selves, unapologetically and continually evolving and experimenting with their look to solidify their identity.
I am also greatly inspired by the sheer strength of women, how they are just as much soft as they are warriors - the way they are able to fluidly travel between their masculine and feminine counterparts. I often think about who came before me and how they summoned the strength to blaze through all of life’s challenges, leaving behind great contributions and paving the way for women like me to continue to break barriers and fight for what we believe in - regardless of all the external factors that life throws at us.
Ashley Al Busmait in ivory suit by @alexandrevauthier, Photography by @viktoriiav.photography, styled by @alishall
There is an entry from the artist Frida Kahlo’s diary that I hold closely as it is a reminder to live fearlessly and always stay true to myself and my art. It reads: “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
Favourite city and why?
I have a very strong adoration for the city of love, Paris. I visited in the summer of 2018 and completely fell in love with the soft and romantic energy that surges through the quaint cobbled streets. It is the home of some of the most legendary icons in fashion history that I look up to and I appreciate how the city still continues to echo their legacy. I really do hope to spend a few years there in the near future to continue the next chapter in my road to self-discovery. I get the feeling it will be one grand adventure.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my free time I am usually writing poetry and listening to music. I found quarantine to be a very introspective period and I used that time to self reflect and reignite my love for writing poetry. I am currently working on a short film with an aspiring Dubai-based filmmaker Duane Mendes for a poem that is very dear to my heart.
I feel the time has come to share my words in the hopes that it will touch others who maybe at some point felt, or will feel the same way. In the digital age that we are living in, being bombarded with a mass load of information, I find the written word to be special - there is something so honest about taking the time to pour one’s feelings and thoughts onto a sheet of paper. It will always be a timeless art.
I love traditional Emirati food. My favourite would probably be a dish called saloona. I am definitely a rice and meat type of girl - my Arab side dominates in this area *laughs*.
If you could go back in time, where would you go and why?
I am often told that I have an older soul and I really think that's true. I’ve always been enamored with past eras, intrigued by the fashion and allure that radiated from the past decades like the sheer elegance from the Victorian era, to the roaring '20s, all the way until the '90s. If I was granted the liberty of going back in time, I would love to travel to the '40s and get the chance to sit with with Frida Kahlo and Chavela Vargas at la Casa Azul (her beautifully decorated blue house), drawing wisdom from them and simply enjoying the presence of two great legends.
Ashley Al Busmait dressed in @tallermarmo, Photography by @thevisualeyez
Who do you look up to and why?
I look up to my mother, first and foremost. In my eyes, she is the pinnacle of a strong woman. My mother raised my brother and I alone, whilst working two jobs and living in a foreign country far away from her family in the United States. She has preserved through so many difficult patches in life independently, with the utmost grace and dignity. She has taught me to always depend on myself, believe in myself, and shoot for the stars.
What is your life motto?
A life motto that I like to refer to periodically is "No Risk, No story”. It is a reminder to always take the road less travelled and live a life filled with adventure even it if means taking illogical and unrealistic [risks], and making decisions for your life that only you understand despite all odds.
I still do not believe I have reached the milestone of a monumental achievement, as I continually strive to work towards my dreams. However, if I were to name one it would be summoning the courage to leave a stable corporate job in the pursuit of following my innate passion of fashion content creation.
Ashley Al Busmait dressed in @tallermarmo, Photography by @twentyfourvisuals, Art Direction by @lucianaterroni, Makeup by @athinadoutis
Any career/business tips?
-First and foremost, listen to your inner voice. There will be so many different voices trying to steer you in different directions but you, yourself know exactly who you want to be and where you see yourself. It is YOUR journey, trust in that wholeheartedly.
-Treat everyone with sincere kindness and respect but remember to stand up for yourself when needed and understand your rights. Have a strong conviction of your ethics and know that you do not have to bend in attempt to seek validation. It is okay to say “no”, respectfully, if it is something which does not sit right with you.
-Approach business with a sense of transparency and accountability. Be honest about your capabilities and what you are able to deliver.
-Heart, consistency and a humble attitude will carry you very far.