Digital marketer McDonnell is Global Digital Media and E-Commerce Director of the luxury group PUIG, chairperson of Digital Business Ireland, is on many boards, and hosts her own podcast Tech Powered Luxury which has reached more than 20 million people globally and topped podcast charts within the Fashion & Beauty Category in over 30 countries.

In 2021 she swapped living in Geneva for Paris where she lives with her Irish partner. Brew yourself a strong coffee… you’re going to need it to keep up with this one.

What was your dream career growing up?
I had a couple of dream careers: firstly as an athlete, then as an artist, a fashion designer, an entrepreneur… I think I’ve found a happy medium between fashion and business, while technology and digital components were something I discovered later and couldn
t have predicted how integral they would be to the luxury industry today.

What work projects are making your heart sing at the moment?
I’m lucky to always have a couple of projects alive at any given moment. I’ve a full-time role within PUIG, the group that owns and operates some of the most successful luxury fashion and beauty brands globally. I’m
a director within the Global Consumer Engagement division, across fashion and beauty, so I’ve the great privilege of collaborating across the group’s portfolio [PUIG has more than 11,000 employees across the world, and last year sales exceeding 4.3 billion]. I’m building out our strategic vision concerning global consumers who will be key to the success of our brands individually on a global scale, in particular Chinese and Middle Eastern consumers.

I also started my first company in 2022: Tech Powered Luxury. At first it was a course I’d teach in business and fashion schools or deliver in short formats such as keynote presentations or seminars on the topics of all things luxury brands and innovation. This brought me around the world, from lecture halls in Florence to stages in Kyiv for a Vogue Conference and a TedX in Johannesburg. After being a guest on podcasts and turning Tech Powered Luxury into its own module for ESSEC Business School and HEC Paris’s MBA programmes, I finally launched a podcast under the same name.

has been an interesting, challenging and rewarding journey, from learning about production to finding the best angles to learn from guests, to building out a team of 20 and trying to find the most efficient way to both finance and programme the show.

You wear so many hats, proverbially speaking, and across many time zones. How do you allocate your time?
I’m constantly pushing my own limits but I believe my ability to make quick decisions and take fast action allow me to move forward. I
m not the most patient person… but Im also a super planner – my agenda is broken down into 30-60 minute blocks each day, with weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals, something I learned while working at Google.

I use the same approach with health and wellness, blocking at least four moments a week to go to the gym or spa, something that I
ve brought back into my routine as I felt I wasnt prioritising my own health or fitness. 

What lessons have you
ve learned from podcasting – and who do you love listening to?
I’ve picked up skills that I never knew existed before. It has been quite the steep learning curve and now I
m moving from an audio to video format, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again! From managing the company creation to keeping on top of accounts and suppliers, overseeing areas like copywriting, audio and video editing, PR and more, I’ve definitely stepped out of my comfort zone and into the operational components. I’ve a newfound appreciation for anyone who runs a podcast – it’s a much bigger workload and commitment than I ever expected.

I love listening to Doireann Garrihy’s two podcasts [The Laughs of Your Life and Doireann and Friends] as well as Mark Mehigan’s Weekly Roast – both have me laughing out loud while walking to work in the mornings. When it comes to business, Irish podcasts That Great Business Show and The Entrepreneur Experiment are fantastic resources. My friends Akash Mehta and Carlota Rodben also have podcasts focused on the industries I work in which are really helpful to stay on top of trends: Founded Beauty and Beyond Luxury.

How do you balance work and wellness?
Now I
m in Paris Im finding this a lot easier. Ive joined a gym that I love – Heimat – and it’s an oasis of calm and wellness, women only, with unlimited classes, a spa and weekly community events. I also have a coach to keep me in check, with weekly plans and check-ins. I’m currently on a training plan for a 10k at the end of May in Paris – if I dont have a goal or a deadline, I find it hard to stay on track.

What does luxury mean to you personally?
My idea of luxury is exquisite dining experiences, unique and artisanal fashion and jewellery design (especially if coming from Ireland), and the freedom to travel.

Can luxury and sustainability be true bedfellows?
Yes – I wrote both my bachelor and masters degrees on these topics, the latter while working at LVMH which included interviewing 10 directors and presenting the findings to LVMH’s
former head of environment, Sylvie Benard, who held the position for 27 years. If luxury isn’t sustainable, it isn’t true luxury, however she also told me that if sustainability isn’t desirable, it cannot be considered luxury.

When and where was the last time you truly unplugged?
In general a few times a week when I head to my gym. I also read every night before sleeping. I’m currently enjoying The Bee Sting by Paul Murray and Aoibhín Garrihy
s poetry collections.

You’ve met world leaders and and all the movers and shakers in fashion and beauty. What has been your biggest pinch-me moment to date work wise?
Last year I spent five days in Abu Dhabi at the Forbes 30/50 Women Leaders Summit. Meeting Hillary Clinton, Billie Jean King and Gloria Steinem and having the opportunity to hear them speak multiple times over the event about women’s role in society was absolutely incredible.

Three favourite carry-on luggage luxuries while travelling?
I always need a large handbag along with my carry-on to keep my laptop and essentials – Peelo
Silver Tote is my favourite by far. Inside youll always find my AirPods, chargers, two phones, my passport. Also Seabody skincare, a Seoulista face mask and my Head Plan notebook – all from wonderful Irish businesswomen. Moon & Mellow pyjamas make any place away from home still feel like home, and I try to bring runners and gym gear with me, even during a short work trip.

If you could teleport yourself anywhere in the world tomorrow, to where would it be?

My favourite restaurant in my favourite place: L’Olivo on Anacapri, Capri.

In contrast, imagine a much-anticipated Friday night on your own. Your Moon + Mellow PJs are on, you have the TV entirely to yourself. What are your feel-good coach potato picks?
This is my reality at least once a week, usually on a Wednesday if I can make it happen! Popcorn, Grá Chocolates and Guy Ritchie
s The Gentlemen make for my current perfect night in.

Who would be your top three celebrity pyjama party guests, and what would your playlist involve?
Sara Blakely [entrepreneur and Spanx founder], Paris Hilton and Suzanne Jackson - wouldnt that be fun?

You’re known for wearing power suits by day, but by night… which are your favourite Moon + Mellow pieces?
I’m actually the proud owner of three fabulous sets of pyjamas from Moon + Mellow, all of which I absolutely love. The Petal and Poetic Vista long sets are what I’m pictured in here. The sleeve details, original prints and 100pc cotton are the perfect combination. I’m fully convinced I sleep better in fabulous pyjamas.

Ashley's Moon + Mellow Picks

Follow Ashley on Instagram @ash.mcdonnell