Posts Tagged fashion

Project Runway S16: meet the designers

pr s16 designers

Season 16 of Project Runway premiered August 17, 2017 on Lifetime. This season designers will design for various sized models (from 2-22 Tim announces in the first episode). The designers will work with a different model on each challenge. They’re also incorporating a model mirror where the models comment about the designs and the designers. Another season featured model “confessions” and I think it didn’t carry over to the next season as its a design show and focus is on the designers not necessarily the models.

The first episode featured a red carpet challenge. Amy stated: “My trunk is packed full of wisdom so I don’t think this is going to be that hard.” Brandon, who designs menswear, said: “I’m out of my element. It’s got me questioning myself and my abilities.”

Deyonte won. ChaCha lost and was eliminated.

Deyonte’s winning design:

deyonte win design ep 1

ChaCha’s losing design:

chacha lose ep 1

On the second episode designers worked in teams on an unconventional materials challenge using recycled materials. Why do they do unconventional and team challenges so early on? During the judging, Claire said: “I’ve never designed for a curvy girl.” Maggie Q whispered to Marie Claire‘s Anne Fulenwider:  “She’s totally normal.” Anne replied: “I think she’s skinnier than I am.”

Ayana won. Sentell lost and was eliminated.

Ayana’s winning design:

win episode 2

Sentell’s losing design:

sentell losing episode 2

Here are the designers:



Age: 23

Hometown: Sevierville, Tenn.

Resides in: Brooklyn, New York

Education: Columbia College Chicago

Style Icon: Alanna Pearl

amy bond


Age: 46

Hometown: Idaho

Resides in: Los Angeles, Calif.

Education: MFA in fashion design

Style Icon: Tilda Swinton

Current: professor at Otis College of Art & Design



Age: 27

Hometown: New York, New York

Resides in: Salt Lake City, Utah

Education: Middle Tennessee State University– textiles, merchandising and design

Style Icons: Chriselle Lim, Rihanna



Age: 32

Hometown: East Los Angeles, Calif.

Resides in: Inglewood, Calif.

Style Icons Rihanna, Janelle Monáe



Age: 24

Hometown: Murray, Utah

Resides in: San Francisco, Calif.

Education: Art Institute of San Francisco

Style Icon: Rihanna



Age: 24

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

Resides in: Chicago, Ill.

Education: Art Institute of Chicago– masters in fashion design

Style Icon: Miley Cyrus



Age: 27

Hometown: Grand Ledge, Mich.

Resides in: Grand Ledge, Mich.

Style Icon: Katy Perry



Age: 36

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

Resides in: Lynwood, Wash.

Style Icon: Beyonce



Age: 37

Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Resides in: Atlanta, Georgia

Style Icon: Tracee Ellis Ross



Age: 38

Hometown: Gifu-Ken, Japan

Resides in: Los Angeles, Calif.




Age: 32

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Resides in: Atlanta, GA

Style Icons: Pharrell, A$AP Rocky, David Beckham

margarita press


Age: 30

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Resides in: Los Angeles, Calif.

Style Icon: Iris Apfel



Age: 25

Hometown: Oakland, Calif.

Resides in: Oakland, Calif.

Style Icons: Tilda Swinton, Panos Yiapanis



Age: 36

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.

Resides in: Minneapolis, Minn.

Style Icon: Janelle Monae




Age: 33

Hometown: New York, NY

Resides in: Bronx, NY

Style Icons: Tracee Ellis Ross, Corinne Bailey Rae, Solange Knowles



Age: 27

Hometown: Grand Ledge, Mich.

Resides in: Grand Ledge, Mich.

Style Icon: Gwen Stefani





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TV preview: Project Runway Junior

model/ host Hannah Davis and mentor Tim Gunn

model/ host Hannah Davis and mentor Tim Gunn

I suppose we shouldn’t mention Project Runway: Threads. I liked it because I like seeing young creative people. Guess it was a dry run for this new show. Project Runway: Threads was quite disjointed. The surprise challenge didn’t make much sense and Vanessa Simmons too low-key as host. So now there’s Project Runway Junior (#ProjectRunwayJunior) which features aspiring designers ages 13 to 17. Emmy® Award winner Tim Gunn will mentor the designers as well as co-host alongside supermodel Hannah Davis. Judges are: Kelly Osbourne, designer Christian Siriano and executive fashion editor at Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine Aya Kanai.

Christian Siriano, Tim Gunn, Hannah Davis, Aya Kanai and Kelly Osbourne

Christian Siriano, Tim Gunn, Hannah Davis, Aya Kanai and Kelly Osbourne

The December 10th episode will feature a special video appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama to announce a challenge with Lands’ End that will support Let Girls Learn, a Presidential Initiative which includes a collaboration with the Peace Corps that helps adolescent girls around the world go to school and stay in school. The Project Runway Junior designers will create a design that will be used and sold on

The winner of Project Runway Junior will receive a full scholarship to the prestigious FIDM in California, a complete home sewing and crafting studio provided by Brother, a feature in Seventeen Magazine and a $25,000 cash prize to help launch their line.


In the first episode of Project Runway Junior the challenge is a “First Impressions” challenge where the designers sketch and take photos from a roof deck with New York as inspiration. The show now reminds me of Master Chef Jr. with similar challenges to adult versions of the show. These competitors all excel at what they do for their ages. it’s toned down a bit but it’s still as entertaining. Kelly Osbourne and Aya Kanai contribute quite a bit as judges. Christian Siriano doesn’t appeal to me but apparently the Project Runway family loves him because he keeps getting brought on to judge shows. I just don’t find he has all that much personality. I can think of many other previous Project Runway designers I’d like to see as judges. Tim Gunn comes in to provide constructive feedback. He’s a positive influence. Project Runway: Threads tried to be its own show and didn’t model itself too much on Project Runway and that didn’t work. Here the show sticks to what works. All these kids are in the know about the show, the designers and current celebrities.

Project Runway Junior designers are:



Age: 16
Hometown: Brockton, MA
Favorite Designers: The Blonds, Preen Fall
Design Aesthetic: Outrageous Glam



Age: 15
Hometown: Minneapolis, KS
Favorite Designers: Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Siriano, Louis Vuitton
Design Aesthetic: Vibrant and Playful



Age: 16
Hometown: Swampscott, MA
Favorite Designers: Alexander McQueen, Tome, Christopher Kane, Proenza Schouler, Vivienne Westwood, Valentino, Emilio Pucci
Design Aesthetic: Polished and Modern



Age: 17
Hometown: Manhattan Beach, CA
Favorite Designers: Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace
Design Aesthetic: Upscale and Sassy



Age: 13
Hometown: Toledo, OH
Favorite Designers: Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors
Design Aesthetic: Edgy & Eccentric



Age: 15
Hometown: Carlsbad, CA
Favorite Designers: Anna Sui
Design Aesthetic: California Lifestyle



Age: 16
Hometown: Queens, NY
Favorite Designers: Paula Gerbase, Stella Ishii, Jonathan Simkhai
Design Aesthetic: Sleek Streetwear



Age: 16
Hometown: Westlake Village, CA
Favorite Designers: Zac Posen, Elie Saab, Paolo Sebastian, Ralph & Russo
Design Aesthetic: Feminine and Elegant



Age: 17
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Favorite Designers: Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen
Design Aesthetic: British-Inspired Punk



Age: 17
Hometown: Cerritos, CA
Favorite Designers: Alexander Wang, Jeremy Scott, Samantha Plasencia
Design Aesthetic: Street Chic



Age: 16
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Favorite Designers: Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Valentino, Iris Van Herpen, On Aura Tout Vu
Design Aesthetic: The Darker Side of Elegance
–previously appeared on Project Runway: Threads



Age: 15
Hometown: Louisville, KY
Favorite Designers: Zuhair Murad, Elie Saab, Vera Wang
Design Aesthetic: Feminine Hollywood Glam

Project Runway Junior premieres Thursday, November 12, at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime.

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a primer: Project Runway Season 13


The gang is back: host Heidi Klum, mentor Tim Gunn and judges Nina Garcia (Marie Claire) and designer Zac Posen. This season, fans got to vote through Instagram on the one past designer they wanted to see compete again. Fans voted through Instagram for either Ken Laurence (Season 12), Alexander Pope (Season 12) or Amanda Valentine (Season 11). The winning designer will be revealed in the premiere episode and will be competing against 18 Project Runway newbies.

PR S13 ep1

The Project Runway Season 13 Designers:


Alexander Knox, 22
Hometown: Chicago
Resides in: Chicago


Angela Sum, 32
Hometown: Toronto
Resides in: Los Angeles


Carrie Sleutskaya, 24
Hometown: San Diego
Resides in: Los Angeles


Charketa Glover, 37
Hometown: Detroit
Resides in: Detroit


Emily Payne, 40
Hometown: Temple, Texas
Resides in: San Francisco


Emmanuel Tobias, 29
Hometown: Dallas
Resides in: Dallas


Fade zu grau, 45
Hometown: Coral Gables, Fla.
Resides in: Coral Gables, Fla.


Hernan Lander, 33
Hometown: San Francisco De Macoris, Dominican Republic
Resides in: New York


Jefferson Musanda, 25
Hometown: Lynn, Mass.
Resides in: Brooklyn


Kiniokahokula Zamora, 30
Hometown: Kapolei, HI
Resides in: Honolulu, HI


Korina Emmerich, 28
Hometown: Eugene, Ore.
Resides in: Brooklyn


Kristine Guico, 26
Hometown: Naperville, Ill.
Resides in: Brooklyn


Mitchell Perry, 25
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Resides in: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


Nzinga Knight, 33
Hometown: Brooklyn
Resides in: Brooklyn


Samantha Plasencia, 27
Hometown: San Antonio
Resides in: San Antonio


Sandhya Garg, 28
Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
Resides in: Birmingham, Ala.


Sean Kelly, 25
Hometown: Wellington, New Zealand
Resides in: Brooklyn


Tim Navarro, 32
Hometown: Rochester, Minn.
Resides in: Minneapolis


The winner of Project Runway Season 13 will receive: $100,000 from Red Robin to launch their own business, a sewing and crafting studio from Brother International Corporation, an entertainment center from Samsung, car from Lexus and a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine.


Project Runway Season 13 airs Thursday, July 24 at 9pm ET/PT

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MAD MEN: the fashion


Megan Draper [Jessica Pare] wears the best clothes– vibrant, hip, fun and lovely. Peggy Olson [Elisabeth Moss] has stepped up her look to reflect her career advancement. More professional and flattering. Better color choices. I also like some of what Trudy [Alison Brie] wears. Costume Designer Katherine Jane Bryant does a brilliant job bringing the 60s to the small screen on Mad Men.


jessica pare

megan and don

megan fashion





elisabeth moss as peggy

elisabeth moss in green

elisabeth moss mad men


peggy blue




mad men pete and trudy and ken

trudy and pete


guys of mad men

don draper

john slattery

harry and don

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photo by Eric Levin

Dr. Tonya Chen Mezrich is a non-practicing dentist who designs jewelry for her own collection: Jewel Design by Tonya. While at Dental School at Tufts University, she learned all the skills that she utilizes to design her one-of-a-kind jewelry. She finds jewels at estate sales in Boston, New York, and Paris and also uses sustainable materials, freshwater pearls and semiprecious stones as well as Swarovski crystals to create her unique necklaces.

Tonya is involved with the MFA Museum Council (nice to know as I’ve been a member for several years), the Animal Rescue League of Boston, serves as co-chair for the Boston Ballet Young Partners group, and sits on the advisory board for Mochi Magazine. She works with the Petpals program and brings her trained therapy dog, Bugsy, for regular visits with residents at Susan Ballis Home. If it sounds like Tonya isn’t busy enough, she’s also the Hot List columnist for Boston Common Magazine. The stylish jewelry designer is a nominee for the Daily Candy’s Sweetest Thing Fashion Category, and was named one of Boston Globe’s top 25 most stylish people. Tonya and her husband, best-selling author Ben Mezrich [New York Times bestsellers The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House], live in the Back Bay.

Amy Steele [AS]: You are a dentist. What did you like and not like about being a dentist?

Tonya Chen Mezrich [TM]: I loved my patients, and really being able to make a difference in people’s lives with dentistry. It was extremely rewarding to be able to give a person who had suffered with no or very little teeth, a new set of teeth and watch them light up with confidence and happiness as a result. What I didn’t particularly care for about being a dentist was all the red tape that insurance companies put patients and dentists through.

AS: Why did you start designing jewelry?

TM: I started designing jewelry during dental school. A friend of mine, who was at Harvard Dental, was always wearing beautiful jewelry. She told me she made it all, and that it was very easy to do. She encouraged me to start designing my own. So I took my tools from dental lab class and started making earrings. Everyone loved them, so I moved onto necklaces.

AS: You said that dentistry and jewelry making were closely related. How is this so?

TM: They are closely related because they involve the same skill set. A good mind in structure, foundation and design, and a good set of hands to accomplish it! Both fields are extremely detail oriented. You wouldn’t want a diamond falling out of its prong setting, just as you wouldn’t want a crown falling off of your tooth. A dentist is trained in casting metals, bending wires, waxing up, etc, the same exact skills needed to produce jewelry.

AS: How did you learn the fine art of jewelry making, even if it is like dentistry?

TM: I am a self-taught jewelry maker. I learned it all by trial and error. But it also helped me having a strong background in fashion, as well as fine arts training my whole life.

AS: Why is your jewelry unique?

TM: My jewelry is unique because my designs come from the heart, and are made of one of a kind materials. When a design is made from the heart, it shows. It’s not just some cookie-cutter piece of jewelry that you see anywhere. My jewelry turns heads, and makes the woman who wears it feel confident and beautiful.

AS: How are you making the jewelry, with what kind of techniques? [An aside I know nothing about jewelry-making]

TM: I make the jewelry using wire bending and wrapping techniques, as well as incorporating mixed media. I do not have the lab space yet to do castings, but I would like to in the future.

AS: What inspires your designs?

TM: I look around at nature, and at what people are wearing fashion-wise, to get hints as to what jewelry would pair well for each season. I am also inspired by many successful jewelry designers such as Erickson Beamon and Alexis Bittar.

AS: Where is your pug while you are working? How jealous does he get that you need creative time or have you worked out an arrangement? [writer’s note: Tonya talks about her pug a lot on Twitter!]

TM: My pug hangs around nearby when I’m working. So he’s really right there in it the whole time. He sometimes even gets to test run my jewelry to make sure the pieces are solid and wearable. I’d say he’s the most fashionable pug on the block by far.

AS: What is your favorite type of jewelry (i.e. bracelet, necklace etc)?

TM: My favorite type of jewelry to design is necklaces. I used to do a lot of earrings, but I moved over to necklaces, because I am really into the chunky statement piece style. I don’t like to make chunky earrings because they pull at the lobes and stretch the holes, so I steer away from this style. I do have a signature chandelier earring that is extremely light, but still has a substantial appearance of “looking chunky”. People love this style because they can have the chunk without the damage that actual chunk causes!

AS: How much pressure do you feel having the Style Boston show and also being named one of Boston’s most fashionable people?

TM: There’s a lot of pressure being named one of Boston Globe’s most fashionable people, and also being nominated this year as The Daily Candy’s Sweetest Thing in the Fashion category. I used to just wear my lulu lemons out all day long. But now there’s this pressure to really look the part and put a good outfit together before leaving the house. (You never know who you might run into). But the pressure is kinda fun. It takes a really creative process to come up with a good outfit that works well and is perfectly accessorized. I am lucky to have a good husband who helps vote on whether outfits make the pass or not.

AS: What do you like most about making jewelry?

TM: I love the creative process. I have a million designs in my head, and on sketches that need to be realized. I just wish there were more hours in the day to accomplish them!

AS: What is the most challenging aspect of making jewelry?

TM: The most challenging aspect is making sure a piece is solid and wearable, and finding more hours in the day to design. The solidity of a piece is very important to me; I think it is because I come from a dental background, where foundation is so key. I hear a lot of people complaining because this or that piece of jewelry from another designer or a cheap design broke. A good piece of jewelry that is well designed should not break with normal wear and tear. (But ladies, I’m not saying to treat your jewelry like it’s a chain link fence or a set of handcuffs, it IS delicate, and should be handled with care) However, from standard normal wear, jewelry should not break. If you are buying disposable jewelry from an H & M or similar line, then you shouldn’t expect it to last forever either.

AS: What is the one essential item of jewelry a woman MUST own?

TM: A statement necklace.

AS: Where can people find your jewelry?

TM: Moxie on Charles St and in Wellesley, Serenella on Newbury St.

AS: Thank you Tonya! Have a Happy Chanukah. I definitely look forward to owning one of those gorgeous necklaces one day.

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book review: Fierce Style

Fierce Style

Title: Fierce Style: How to Be Your Most Fabulous Self
Author: Christian Siriano
ISBN: 978-0446546010
Pages: 256 (hardcover)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 5, 2009)
Category: beauty and fashion
Review source: Hatchette Book Group
Rating: 2.5/5

Because that, my divas, is what it means to have fierce style—inside and out. It’s feeling fabulous about yourself, feeling strong, independent, and confident in what you do (all while looking totally ferosh, of course!) It’s about making things happen and tackling one challenge after the next. My hope is that you will find something in the following pages, whether it’s about clothes or something else, something that inspires you to be fierce yourself. Big or small, silly or serious, I hope you take away some inspiration.

On Season 8 of Project Runway, the zebra snapping, skinny jean and vest clad tiny bundle of energy Christian Siriano became the youngest winner. The designer spent tons of time [and hairspray!] on his updated Flock of Seagulls-style hair, always had something to say about everyone and everything on the show and exuded oodles of confidence. Christian knew his fashion and loved every minute of it: that was evident from the first show. He overused the word fierce [ I began to question Tyra Banks’s trademark rights to the word but it never came up on the shows or outside in any media discussions). Now Christian dresses such celebs as Victoria Beckham, Heidi Klum, Whoopi Goldberg and sells his clothing line at

Lucky for his fans [and maybe a few people who lack mirrors or haven’t progressed beyond their high school looks], Christian has decided that the world needs to know the inside dish on what he thinks is fabulous and how every woman can look fierce. Most of the items in Fierce Style read like Elle or Marie Claire articles [stop me if you’ve read this one before] or the manual for TLC’s What Not to Wear or Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. Or even going all the way back to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy [oh sometimes I truly miss those men and that show!].

In the Fierce Style introduction, Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn writes glowingly of Christian: From the onset of his time on Runway, it was nothing but “wow” moments. It was the ambitiousness of his ideas and his deft ability to execute them. I would see his sketches and think, “How is this going to happen?” And shortly I learned, well, it is going to happen. And it’s going to happen consistently. There’s exuberance in his designs—nothing is ever a basic silhouette. It’s all about the details. And he takes enormous risks. What I love about risk taking is that it is how great work comes about—greatness doesn’t come from playing it safe.

That’s why to me, Christian epitomizes a fashion designer as opposed to a clothing designer.

Scattered throughout the book is the Fearless Tip. [Fierce Style also list’s Fearless Celebrity Tips and we know that they are in touch with real people.]

Here are a few:

–Thinking back on your interests as a kid can be a great starting place for developing your look today.

–It’s important to look to the present. Pop culture and your current interests can impact your fashion sense today.

-It’s better to have one amazing real piece that will last forever than a thousand fakes, no matter how authentic they may look. [Every Today Show fashion segment guest states this.]

–Remember—style isn’t always about being eccentric or crazy.

–Take your focus away from the negative and focus on what’s positive and what’s fabulous. The more you do that, the more fierce you will feel!

Other fierce and ferosh tips that Christian describes in the book:

10 things not to wear if you want to be fabulous

  1. wire frame glasses
  2. UGG boots [I don’t care, I like mine]
  3. flip-flops [kudos on calling out THIS HUGE fashion faux pas]
  4. shapeless jeans
  5. sweatpants
  6. hoodies
  7. big logos
  8. baseball hats [agreed!]
  9. fabric band watches
  10. polyester fabrics

Christian’s Daily Bag Must-Haves [did Nina Garcia approve this?]

–cell phone [oh, really?]

–wallet [come on, Christian]

–oversized planner [no we just use our iPhone or Blackberry or Palm Pilot for that]

–A can of hair spray [a can? Good-bye Ozone]

–Bronzer [yuk]

Top 10 Dream Pieces [Christian’s editor must have reminded him that the U.S. is in a recession and has an unemployment rate of 10% because he goes on to talk about Nine West, Target, Payless and a few other “bargain” places]

  1. Burberry trench coat
  2. A big, fun Marc Jacobs bag
  3. A classic black leather bag by Yves Saint Laurent
  4. A Marni accessory [don’t know who that is]
  5. Edgy heels by Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Marni, or Proenza Schouler]
  6. Classic stiletto heels by Louboutin, Manolo, or Jimmy Choo
  7. Chloe boots
  8. A Prada suitcase
  9. A pair of classic black Wolford tights
  10. A Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress-preferably a print

My Fierce Favorite [writer’s note: I chose what stood out for me]

Food—Subway, Yodels, Frozen veggie burgers

Music—Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna

Movies—Glitter, The Devil Wears Prada, The Bourne Series [someone has a crush on Matt Damon!]

TV Shows– Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Full House, Saved by the Bell

Although Christian throws in some interesting biographical information– He started worked at an Orange Julius at age 13 [is that legal?] in Annapolis, Maryland and moved on to Bubbles, a beauty salon. He interned in London then for Vivienne Westwood and after her, Alexander McQueen [no wonder he had so much confidence on the show. He may have been young but he had plenty of real-world experience]– Fierce Style is all over the map and rather tired. You know how magazines recycle the same story ideas? Most seem to be in this book. It would have been better as solely a  unique style manual or as a fun book on Christian’s rise to fame. Fierce Style is a beautiful looking, coffee-table kind of book. I wanted it to be fun and rich with fresh and special ideas. Unfortunately, Christian failed to reveal any new tips in these pages.



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STEELE INTERVIEWS: Project Runway designer Christopher Straub


Season 6 of Project Runway takes place in Los Angeles. Hosted by Heidi Klum, with mentor Tim Gunn and judges Michael Kors (leading fashion designer) and Nina Garcia (fashion director of Marie Claire magazine). The designers use workspaces at Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM).  Finalists will show their own lines in front of an audience of fashion industry insiders at New York Fashion Week. 

PROJECT RUNWAY: SEASON 6 started with 16 Designers and this week it is down to six:

Althea Harper (24) -Brooklyn, NY [hometown: Dayton, OH]

Carol Hannah Whitfield (24) -Brooklyn, NY [hometown: Anderson, SC]

Gordana Gehlhausen (45) -San Diego, CA [native of former Yugoslavia]

Irina Shabayeva (27) -New York, NY [native of Republic of Georgia]

Logan Neitzel (26) -Seattle, WA [hometown: Blackfoot, ID]

Christopher Straub (30) -Shakopee, MN [hometown: St. Louis Park, MN]

I spoke with the energetic, sweet, and very positive Christopher Straub by phone on Monday.


Christopher Straub at his work station/ PR

STEELE: I want to talk about the last challenge. I know you’re all done wrapping. Oh what was it called?


CHRISTOPHER STRAUB [CS]: Around the World in Two Days–I think that was the name of the challenge.

STEELE: The things that motivate you although it was the things that motivate or inspired Michael Kors more. What did you think when they said that these are places that he likes to go and travel to and they might be places you’ve never been to?

CS: I really can get my inspiration from anything. Whether it’s the smallest thing like a location or a fabric. I had no problem taking a photograph of Santa Fe and designing what I thought that woman in that temperature, in that climate would wear. And so I had a lot of fun with it.

STEELE: But they said no one there would wear what you ended up designing. I thought it was really cute.


Matar models design by Christopher Straub

CS: You never know what the judges are going to be looking for at that moment. I did what I did. I did what I thought was right. Sometimes the judges don’t get it. Sometimes you don’t get a chance to explain what you were really going for. I took my inspiration from the photograph and the colors and the landscapes and I don’t know anyone from Santa Fe and I’ve never been to Santa Fe. So I had to use all my own references to create a look that I thought was appropriate for the challenge.

STEELE: I watch Project Runway with my mother every week [writer’s note: is that pathetic of me to admit or nice that I spend quality time with my mom] and whenever you guys are at MOOD my mother says [and I use my mom voice]: “They never have enough time. They seem so rushed.” So is it the way that it looks or at the beginning are you allowed to get familiar with the store? Do you know what’s where?

CS: I don’t remember ever getting a tour of the store saying, “These fabrics are in this section.” but there are signs that say Organza or silk so sometimes if you know what you’re looking for you can look in those sections. But there’s never enough time. If you came to me and said “Let’s design an outfit for me,” you would never take a half an hour just to pick out fabric. That’s a huge part of the challenge. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you have to make a concession at that moment to pick something that’s going to work for you and work for your garment. Otherwise you have to change your plan right away if you don’t find the right fabric.

I’ve had to do that a few times where the initial garment wasn’t the fabric or color I was looking for. A good example was the first challenge. That dress was actually supposed to be orange and white and it ended up being gray and black. So it’s all about whatever fabrications you can find in that small, small timeframe. Especially if you are looking for several different materials because it’s what is going to work and what is going to go together.

STEELE: And when you sketch are you also thinking what kinds of fabrics you are using?

CS: Yeah. I remember going one time to MOOD and thinking, “I like this fabric. I should try to find a way to work that in to the next challenge. But you forget that fabric by the time you get to the next challenge. I remember thinking that I wanted a leg up and to be inspired by the fabric but you never know what the challenge is going to be. You never know if that white fabric with the pink orchids is going to work.  You can never get exactly what you have in your head but you can usually get pretty close. There’s a lot of stuff.

STEELE: What do you think is the best part of being on Project Runway?

CS: For me, it’s the relationship part of it. I love meeting people. I think that the bonding experience with those 15 people, some more than others, no one is going to be able to share that with me. I’m really good friends with Carol Hannah and Ramon-Lawrence and only they know the intensity and that odd boiling pot that we had to know each other in. Because in one respect, you have to have people around you that support you and in another respect, that’s your competition. Those are the people that are keeping you from being in the number one spot.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.

STEELE: How much interaction do you have with the models and especially with the spin-off show [Models of the Runway], how does that affect your designs?

CS: I think for me the model did not have a huge effect on my designs. Of course you like to work with a model that you know you’re comfortable with and you know their sizing and all that stuff. Models are really good transformers. If you want them to have a natural sun-kissed look or you want them to have a Goth look, they usually can get into those roles. I never had a problem. In this last challenge, when I had Santa Fe, Matar was the perfect model for that because she already has that bronzed skin and that beautiful wavy hair and highlights of gold and brown. It was perfect for my design.

STEELE: I would think most models are built like racks that you can just hang clothes on pretty much.

CS: Yeah. The thinner the model, the more beautiful your stuff looks sometimes.

STEELE: Kojii– I really like her look. I wondered why she said she had a hard look to work with because she’s pale and has dark hair. She’s the skinniest of all the models and she has a daughter!

CS: Oh, by far. By far! That was a hesitation with picking her because I had seen when a designer would make a garment for her specifically and put it on the bust for her it would have a six inch gap from the shoulders all the way to the bottom. It couldn’t close on our forms at all. Typically there will be some odd measurements here and there. But Kojii was literally six inches less than every measurement and it was difficult to make clothing for her. You couldn’t do any draping because you would literally have to custom make it for her body.

STEELE: So there are three episodes left and you’ve been either in the top three or the bottom three. I have to ask you about it.

CS: [laughing…] I was getting a lot of visibility. I went onto the show never, ever, ever wanting to play it safe. I always wanted to push the envelope whether it be good or whether it be bad. Sometimes it’s praised like the first challenge and sometimes it’s not so praised. But this is what I do. I’m an artist. I never went to school and I never got the critiques from the instructors. So this is all a new world. I’ve never had boundaries. It’s difficult for someone to say your ART is good or bad. I’ve never had it put in that perspective. Someone’s going to be telling you you’re good or you’re not so good. And it’s completely subjective.

On the first challenge: I won it, but I still got some people saying, “I hate your dress.” And then other times when I’m almost going home people will say, “I’m surprised you didn’t win.” There’s always going to be someone who’s going to love and hate everything you do. So I don’t really take it personally. At all. I’d rather be in the bottom three, then safe. At least I get to talk about my design, my point of view and my story behind it.

STEELE: At the beginning you seemed really paranoid that everyone else had all this training that you didn’t have. You’re very hard on yourself. I’m like that too. We are all our own worst critics. You’re constantly comparing yourself to other designers. Of course, it is a competition. I was trying to think of a way to phrase this question. Obviously you are on a show where you are competing with other designers, so I’m just wondering WHY you feel that way.


Katie models design by Christopher Straub

CS: I guess the best word is just HUMBLE. I’m so happy to be a part of it. That everyone at home can see my point of view and my story. I just wanted to be able to compete. I didn’t necessarily go in it to win it. It was a great opportunity to share my story and share my point of view. I didn’t want to make enemies. I didn’t want to be arrogant or cocky in any way. I wanted to be the BEST ME.

STEELE: You come in and you already have your own sense of style and your own way of doing things but do you learn things and take things away from the show?

CS: Absolutely. Some stuff I had done on the show I had never done before. And what a weird time to try something new but some of the things I did on the show I used after that. I learned what I was capable of doing.  Up until the show I’d never put 20 hours into a dress and all of a sudden when you have a two-day challenge, you find out what can you do in 20 hours versus five hours. I now know I’m capable of doing some high art pieces.

STEELE: So you live in Minnesota still?

CS: Yes, I do.

STEELE: How’s the fashion there?

CS: The Twin Cities is in no means a fashion Mecca. There’s a lot of talent around here though.

STEELE: It’s cold! A lot of UGG boots.

CS: A lot of Columbia jackets. All the girls wear skimpy outfits but put huge parkas on over them. It’s so funny.

I’m getting a lot more aware of the Minneapolis fashion culture. Just now I’m getting taken in by that community so that’s fun too.

STEELE: Good luck with the rest of the episodes. Thank  you for talking to me.

CS: Happy to.

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film review: Coco Avant Chanel


Coco Avant Chanel is a stunning film and an inspirational story about a young Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel [Audrey Tautou] and the impetus for her foray into the male-dominated world of fashion design. She and her sister are left at an orphanage by their father as young girls. Fifteen years later, the duo makes money singing and dancing in bars. Coco dreams of moving to Paris. Her sister [Marie Gillain] falls in love with a Duke and moves to Paris with him. Left on her own, Coco travels to the home of Etienne Balsan [Benoît Poelvoorde] who fancied her despite the intense sparring. He is wealthy and breeds and trains race horses. When he entertains guests, he keeps Coco hidden. Coco will not bind herself with an uncomfortable corset as is the fashion at the time. She prefers to wear comfortable clothing. One day she decides to teach herself to ride a horse. Instead of riding side saddle like all the other women, she rides astride. She dresses like a boy a lot of the time. And with her un-made up face and lack of bobbles and jewels, she looks fresh and different from everyone else. She soon ends up socializing with Balsan’s friends and becomes close friends with an actress. Coco starts to make hats that everyone wants. The pivotal moment for Coco is when she falls deeply in love with an Englishman, Arthur Capel [Alessandro Nivola]. However, he is keeping something from her and Balsan is all too eager to reveal it out of spite. Balsan tries to control an uncontrollable Coco and Capel recognizes her artistic talents and independent spirit. That is why he adores her so much. Coco declares that she never intends to marry anyone [and never does]. She tells Balsan one day that she plans to move to Paris. He scoffs and says that it is silly and she will not be able to support herself. Capel on the other hand encourages her entrepreneurial attitude and will lend her the money she needs to start a design shop.

Audrey Tautou [who most remember for the sprite, cheerful Amelie] shows depth, intensity and determination in this role. You cannot take your eyes off of her beauty and strength as Coco for one moment. She is the young and determined, scrappy Coco Chanel who intends to make a name for herself. She triumphs over many obstacles and tragedies. As Capel, Nivola is handsome, charming and irresistible. And a triple threat—an American known for indie roles [Junebug, Laurel Canyon], his period British characters [Mansfield Park], now acts in perfect French in a French film. His chemistry with Tautou is electric from the moment they make eye contact. At one point she even tells her now lover Capel, that he could have married a celebrity but he chose money instead. What a strong woman. Coco Chanel is a role model. Under the direction of Anne Fontaine, Coco Avant Chanel is stunningly shot. Each scene is beautifully crafted and planned. I didn’t want the film to end. I adored every moment of Coco’s journey to the final scene where she exhibits her first clothing collection that features the signature Chanel suit. If you can see Coco Avant Chanel in the theatre, do so. These independent films that represent small works of love and art are few and far between.


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DVD review: House of Eliott

House of Eliott: The Complete Series
Starring: Stella Gonet, Louise Lombard, Aden Gillett

Beatrice: Evie, you’re unstoppable.
Evie: I think we both are.

In a beautiful packaged set, now you can have the complete collection of the popular British drama from 1991, House of Eliott. It has series one, two and three in lovely casing that fits the decorative and captivating series about two sisters in 1920s London. From the creators of Upstairs/Downstairs, The House of Eliott manages to examine class differences in London through the inner-workings of a design house. It’s done in a lively, dramatic manner. You become invested in all the characters over the course of the series.

We see the wealthy, attractive Eliott sisters who frequent extravagant parties and have elegant friends and then additionally peek into the lives of those who work for the House of Eliott—the seamstresses who toil and worry about money. Both rich and working class have one thing in common: relationship issues.

The two single sisters find themselves without money after their father’s death. 30-year-old Beatrice basically brought up 18-year-old sister and therefore, sacrificed her own goals and future. Both women are strong, independent and creative. Beatrice [Stella Gonet] is the sensible, conservative sister while Evangeline [CSI’s Louise Lombard] is the spirited, inquisitive and adventurous one. The stisters could not be more different but they have that special sibling bond and both have an interest in creating fashion. This makes them work well together. Evangeline [Evie] is the designer/the creative one and Beatrice has the business sense, the ability to see how to make it work. As one character said in the beginning the two sisters were not paid what they were worth. At first the women design clothes according to the interests of their clients but they decide to challenge themselves and create an original collection. During this time, suitors come in and out of their lives, and the women struggle to reach success in a fickle, competitive industry. The costume design, period sets and characters make House of Eliot a must-see.

At the beginning, the Eliott sisters sell their home and Beatrice considers a position as caretaker of an elderly woman. Evie applies for a dance instructor position after learning all the hot moves from the housekeeper. But the women have big dreams and these positions do not suit them. A chance encounter with Evie and a philanthropist Penelope leads to the introduction of Penelopes’ playboy/photographer brother Jack [Aden Gillett]. He ends up hiring Beatrice to work for him and she keeps him completely organized but knows she and Evie want to be involved in the fashion world. They go to work for a woman in her design house. Instead of learning as apprentices, the woman disapproves when Evie garners more attention and requests for designing than she does. After that a big name designer hires the much sought after sisters and ends up stealing Evie’s designs.

The sisters make the daring decision to go into business for themselves with Jack’s monetary support as well as that of Evie’s godfather. Beatrice is the businesswoman while Evie has the eye and the talent to design. The sisters argue over different concepts and plans for their company. They clash over operational and design matters. Evie dates two very different men and this also causes a rift between the two sisters. Beatrice is at that “spinster” age for most in England at her time and Evie is young, beautiful, and inquisitive and attracts many suitors while her sister focuses on work. Evie is dedicated to design though, especially after a tragic event breaks her heart: she travels to art museums and takes in concerts and immerses herself to other cultural activities to gain new ideas for an original collection.

As with any proper and really worthwhile British series, House of Eliott has its bounty of dramatic moments, cliff-hangers, tragedies, scandals and winning episodes to propel it.

Activist Penelope remains conflicted on her friendship with Evie and her relationship with her brother Jack, who has become a partner in House of Elliott: “It makes me so mad. All this care and attention lavished on so much nonsense.” At a charity ball, she stood on-stage and expressed her distain for all its attendants, admonishing them for all the money they spent on their outfits for the event as well as the wasted money she and her organization used to plan and present it. She said that they all should have donated money directly to the organization. As a sub-plot, Penelope’s story provides a view into the other side of wealth: she selflessly and ardently works to help the unfortunate and puts herself in harm’s way time and time again. At the end of series one, she contemplates traveling to Africa with a missionary. Jack moves away from full-time photography to the film industry. He also grows fonder of Beatrice and their relationship moves from platonic to romantic. They make a wonderful pair—although they have their ups and downs. From the first scene he’s in, actor Aden Gillett commands the screen as Jack; a charming, honest, experienced and it turns out, quite sentimental, gorgeous man.

The Eliot sisters attract upper-crust clientele and the business is going very well. As Beatrice, Gonet shows her sensible side but also exhibits a strong sense of self. She’s gone this long without a man to support her and knows she can do it on her own. She loves Jack but does not need Jack. Lombard shines as Evie, a sprite, eager young woman who cannot wait for her next adventure or challenge. They attend lots of parties. Others do not treat them as fairly as they treat their workers and soon money is swindled, an affair with Evie and a diplomat threatens the reputation of House of Eliott and the sisters must make some difficult decisions. Wanting children and a more domestic home life, Jack suggests a separation to Beatrice. She works so much and is so career-focused and he knows it will not change and he does not want her to give up the business which provides her with such self-identity and pride. He is doing rather well with his film business as this point, but he also wants a family and Beatrice is just too involved with the House of Eliott.

The House of Eliott provides viewers with flair, drama, intrigue and an intricate journey for the sisters Eliott to come into their own. At any age, with enough focus, anyone can do what many view as impossible. Beatrice and Evangeline are dedicated and determined to make their way on their own terms and will let very few obstacles or few people lead them astray from accomplishing their ultimate goal: a successful fashion house.

The first season of House of Eliott begins with the two strong sisters supporting one another and the final series ends the same way. House of Eliott shows two very different yet connected women succeeding in a competitive industry, during a complex time in London.

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