From the big artic-blue eyes to the radiant blonde hair, the flower-shaped handbag to the tawny boots, Ashley Houston seems a young lady charmingly free of the reserve and shyness that cloaked my friends and me through our shadowy passage through Benicia High School. Too bright and articulate to call bubbly, but too pretty and fun to send my brain scrambling for scholastic adjectives, Ms. Houston is a class-act: approachable, nice, and teeming with enthusiasm for all things fashion.

Enthusiasm might be putting it lightly—monomaniacal devotion comes closer. When asked how she acquired her passion, she promptly replied, “it’s always been fashion—it’s never been something else. I know it sounds crazy.”

Actually, her goals, and her plans for executing them, seem thoroughly sane. She’s been interning for Christina S—a position she secured with stalker-like persistence—and this fall she’ll begin her studies at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandizing in San Francisco where she hopes to learn the skills and build the professional connections needed to someday oBenicia High School student models fashion at Benicia California's Historic Arsenalpen her own styling business.

“I want to do the styling aspect—I don’t want to make the pieces per se, I want to put them together because I see something—I take a dress—and then I’ll see all these different accessories and I’ll be playing with them in my mind. I think about them all the time, my mind’s always going, I have dreams about clothes. It’s insane. I don’t know why my mind works this way, it just does.”

Like most successful people in the fashion industry, Houston’s become adept at “wearing many hats.” In high school she authored essays about Coco Chanel, she just finished her first modeling gig (for this magazine), and she’s learning the ins and outs of salesmanship at the local boutique, where she plans to continue working through college. She feels that learning the ropes in Benicia, a small city unusually rich in high-quality clothing options will leave her ably prepared for further professional adventures.

“My dad says that if you can get someone to buy something from Christina S in Benicia, you can definitely get them to buy something in San Francisco. If you conquer a small town, you can conquer a big city.”

We at the magazine wish her the best of luck in all future conquering endeavors.