STEELE INTERVIEWS: designer Santino Rice of On the Road with Austin and Santino

Amy Steele: How has your career changed since being on Project Runway?

Santino Rice: Much has changed; it’s been over 5 years since I competed on Season 2 of Project Runway. I’m internationally known and I have a healthy business creating one-of-a-kind pieces for clients. I’m able to pick and choose what I want to work on and who I want to work with. I’m able to pursue many more projects outside of the fashion industry and I’m staring in 2 hit TV shows– RuPaul’s Drag Race and On The Road With Austin & Santino— each is inspiring and focuses on the human spirit and creativity.

Amy Steele: What appeals to you about this show?

Santino Rice: Austin and I, along with producer and friend, Rich Bye of Goodbye Pictures developed On The Road and this has been years in the making. Everything about this show is appealing and inspiring to me. Hopefully our exchanges with our clients will inspire everyone who tunes in. Austin and I are both from small towns and we enjoy revisiting these towns that really remind us of where we came from. Although finding fabrics in these towns is difficult, it is possible to create something if you put your mind to it.

Amy Steele: Why did you want to do On the Road?

Santino Rice: Why not? God-willing we will take it Around The World! I love the idea of creating a special moment for a special woman. Most women never have the opportunity to have a made-to-measure garment created for them and this show documents what goes into the process of making a look from scratch. We are still going through a very precarious time in America, and it’s encouraging to travel into these towns and find our materials locally and make everything from scratch. Sure, we’re entertaining but we are creating a type of show that has never been done before. This isn’t a make-over show, it’s much more than that.

Santino Rice

Amy Steele: What has been the greatest challenge so far?

Santino Rice: Ugh, driving long distances, jumping in and out of planes, living out of suitcases. We’re often sleep deprived. It’s specific enough to have to hurdle all of the obstacles in our way in each town but we understand that we are creating entertainment as well. Austin and I are both curious about the towns we go to and the people we meet. It’s challenging to be documented while you are trying to create something in a limited time frame with a limited budget. Anything that others might find difficult, I see as a nice change and that adversity will help inspire us to create something even more personal and beautiful, even if getting there is a little painful.

Amy Steele: How do you and Austin complement each other when designing and what do you disagree about most often?

Santino Rice: I think that we both have very strong points-of-view and we respect each other. Beyond that I can never tell what we might disagree on as we work through our process, but you can be certain that we will each voice our opinions about something we don’t like. It’s great to collaborate with another designer who has such a depth of knowledge and references. Nothing about our collaborations is formulaic, it’s always different, it’s always changing, and in turn it’s always exciting.

Amy Steele: What is different about your approach to design than Austin’s?

Santino Rice: We are completely unique individuals. Much of what we do and how we approach the construction of a design is different. I believe that approaching an idea from multiple perspectives adds to a design. I love illustrating my ideas and I love to render a mock-up or prototype to the point where I can easily explain my concept to our client.

It’s amusing to me that everyone wants to compare our differences from our similarities. I suppose it’s because we visually look different that makes people want to dwell on that. Austin and I are friends and we laugh a lot when we are together. We might butt heads sometimes but it’s only because we both want to be proud of what we are creating. We are a team and we have very little time to accomplish something amazing so we are listening to our clients and to each other.

Amy Steele: How do you and Austin work together from planning the design to its execution?

Santino Rice: As you can see in On The Road, we talk to our client for a few hours and find out who they are and what they like and dislike. We immediately have ideas that pop into our heads and we start discussing them. Ultimately, the fabrics and findings that we dig up in town will heavily influence our design. I might go to the fabric store while Austin heads to an unconventional shop to pick up some odds and ends. We reconvene back at the workspace and we start sketching and being inspired by all of these materials we have in front of us. We comment and are inspired by what each other is creating and we start to come to some conclusions on what would be best for our client and what will be most appropriate for the event. After we pitch our ideas to the client and we have a good idea of what we are going to create, we still are collaborating on everything from the construction to the finishing details. Austin and I have a constant dialog throughout and we are both very much invested in creating something that our client will love.

Amy Steele: Why is it so challenging for you to work together as a team?

Santino Rice:
It’s not challenging at all for me to work in a team. You’re referring to the 2nd episode where I start to want to pursue other creative options for our client Rosaline. You might see it as something else but I felt the need to explore other ideas on my own and then discuss them with Austin. The more sketches and mock-ups that we can create before our client meeting, the better! I don’t think that sitting behind Austin, twiddling my thumbs and being a backseat driver to what he was draping, constitutes a team. I’ve never gotten upset about Austin exploring his creative ideas separately, why should I be limited to watching him just because he grabbed the violet satin first?

Amy Steele: What inspires you to design for all these different women?

Santino Rice: I come to town without any preconceived ideas. I know very little about who we are meeting. Our clients lives, personalities, and accomplishments are what first inspires my mind and peaks my interests. Thankfully, I have been genuinely inspired to go above and beyond the call of a fashion designer because I love these women. It’s important for me to find out as much as I can about our clients because I need to truly understand them and their needs.

Amy Steele: What have you learned doing this show?

Santino Rice: I learn something new everyday, whether I’m doing a show or not. I’m open to receiving knowledge and new ideas. On The Road With Austin and Santino has really just reconfirmed a lot of things that I already knew. You can find big people in very small towns and once you get to know them and take a walk in their shoes, you understand why they’ve cultivated the life that they have for themselves. It’s fascinating and it’s rewarding for us to contribute to a memorable moment in someone’s life in the way that we do.

Amy Steele: You have a great, infectious laugh and such a laid back demeanor. What do you worry about? How do you maintain such an optimistic outlook?

Santino Rice: Thanks! Rather than worry, I make lists and check off all the things I need to do. I suppose that I laugh to keep from crying. I’m happiest when I’m creating, so I stay busy and I focus on the details of life and laugh away all of the things that are ugly and mediocre. I love myself and I believe in myself, if I could instill some part of my outlook on life into others, I’d say you should love more and laugh more and steadily accomplish your biggest dreams. Oh and remember to sing in the shower and dance your ass off!

Amy Steele: What can audiences expect from both of you in future episodes?

Santino Rice: Expect more hilarity and more beautiful fashions. We’ve got some clients and events coming up that nearly kill us. It’s always an adventure and towns and clients are always changing. Things never get old for us because we are always experiencing something completely different. Thank you for watching and I hope you enjoy it as much as Austin and I enjoyed making it!

On the Road with Austin and Santino airs Thursdays at 10:30p EST on Lifetime.

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