Bonnie Ashley is one of the most supremely stylish people you will ever encounter. She is one of the rare types of people that can make a hessian potato sack look couture. Bonnie is one half of Melbourne design duo, Bonnie and Neil, which she runs with her husband Neil Downie. Together they and their team create colourful and bold cushions, bed linen, napery and tableware featuring their hand screen printed designs, straight out of their Brunswick studio. Their range is stocked widely across Australia and internationally in impressive places like Liberty in the UK and Le Bon Marche in France.
Similarly to Bonnie’s prints, her wardrobe is jam packed full of colourful textiles, the perfect amalgamation of coveted designer threads, vintage finds, street labels, and the appropriate accessory for every occasion. We’ve witnessed first hand Bonnie carry out the physical work of a screen printer in the studio, all while wearing a printed Marni dress and tribal beaded necklace, draped in an apron.
Which of course leads us to Bonnie’s shoe collection, an impressive archive of footwear she has purchased over the years. During the day her job requires her to be practical on the studio floor, but anything goes after 5pm in the shoe department. For this designer, the more outrageous the better, as Bonnie admits her spiritual shoe style would be “a pair of embellished sandals with tassels, mirrors and pompoms. More is more!”
What was the first pair of shoes you remember owning as a kid, and why did you love them?
Kung Fu shoes! I think every kid in the ‘80s wore them.
What pair of shoes are you still lusting over from childhood?
I always wanted a pair of sparkly jelly sandals. Even now as an adult, I am still drawn to sparkly shoes to this day. Some things never change!
What do you think your current shoe collection says about you?
That leopard print is a neutral. I’m a fan of wearing lots of different patterns together, so for me leopard print is a staple in my wardrobe, it’s probably the plainest pattern I own. Most of my shoes are patterned or have some embellishment or another.
What is your all time favourite pair of shoes?
My red suede shoes I wore to our wedding, which will always be sentimental!
The age-old debate: Heels or flats?
Both! Depending on whether I am in the studio or not. I’m on my feet all day at work so during the week I’m mostly in comfortable flats, I live in K Jacques leather sandals summer and wear boots in winter, but I love wearing heels out and about.
What has been your biggest splurge on shoes?
An amazing pair of Saint Laurent leopard sandals, but I cannot say how much as Neil might read this.
This season Soda is not only a refreshing drink, but habbot's latest glitter heel sandal. What attracted you to this style and made you add it to your shoe collection?
I am drawn to anything sparkly as a self-confessed magpie and I love the heel height on Soda.
What are you planning to wear your Soda sandals with?
A patterned maxi dress is my summer uniform over summer, so definitely pairing them together is a must!
Where’s the best place your shoes have taken you?
Through the palaces in Jaipur, walking through these majestic places and feeling inspired, wandering in the footsteps of those who had been there before.
Be honest, do you keep your shoes in out of the box?
Not in a box, I’m pretty messy, so all of my shoes are kept out and mostly sitting in a pile.
What type of shoe would you never been seen in?
Never ever trainers unless I’m at the gym!
What’s your biggest shoe regret?
Silver clogs with wooden heels that I bought on the Outnet. They were a last minute purchase before my friend’s wedding. Also a pair of pink heels I bought online as a panic purchase before my own wedding. There is definitely a theme with my spending!
Your verdict on ugg boots out in public, yes or no?
Definitely not! For me, ugg boots are for ‘at home’ wear only! Although I do have a pair, and let me say, they are really comfy.
If you were a pair of shoes what would you look like?
Something extravagant, like embellished sandals with tassels, mirrors and pompoms. More is more!
How many pairs of shoes are too many?
There is no such thing as too many! But if I had to say a number, perhaps 50 pairs is edging towards the tipping point.
Finish this sentence: Whatever happened to the Old Lady who lived in a shoe…
She lived happily ever after. What’s not to love about living in a shoe!
To find out more about Bonnie and Neil visit their website here or follow Bonnie on Instagram here.
Bonnie chooses habbot’s Soda sandal to get her from A to B with a glitter in her step.
Words | Lisa-Marie Corso Photography | Amelia Stanwix