So you win Project Runway – what next?

I am a closet watcher of “Project Runway”, the Reality TV show for fashion designers – I love the colour and shape of materials and the creative arc of the designers gaining in confidence, with a side order of little dramas and surprises along the way.  Christian Siriano won Project Runway but then went on to a stellar career designing for celebrities, developing his own line.  How?  Talent, hard work, energy, genuineness, a point of view and obsession with his medium, as this video by and Pbs shows:


10 Creative Insights on Making It (and selling it)

Here’s what I learnt from this video, for any creatives

  1. there will be obstacles and rejections – don’t give up because there are closed doors on the traditional route – go around them.  Christian was deeply discouraged by a surprise rejection from an American design college, so decided to go to London art college instead, which gave him a chance to work with European designers like Vivienne Westwood (previous blog posts about her)
  2. go the distance to get good training – Christian travelled a daily hour’s commute each way to the “Baltimore School for the Arts” and later went to London for uni
  3. be true to your source: Christian grew up with a plus size mum and a skinny ballerina sister, so was happy to design for the whole range of sizes – his clothes are available up to size 26
  4. get advice from seasoned professionals – Christian knew he could design, but for business advice, turned to Steve Kolb, CEO of Fashion Designers of America)
  5. develop to know how to market and target a customer, and deliver the goods or service to them (observed by Constance White, former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine)
  6. don’t despise the day of small beginnings – Christian had a tiny room in a shared apartment in New York, and his Mum suggested he make it work by putting his bed mattress against the wall in the daytime so he could use the room for sewing/working studio
  7. think positive – the day when Christian had his first appointment with Saks, they cancelled because Lehman Brothers collapsed.  The market leaders were depressed as their sales were slashed, but Christian just commented that last year he made nothing so the only way was up.  He didn’t let a time of economic deep uncertainty stop his business launch.
  8. entrepreneurial spirit – be making a message and want as many people as possible to see/hear that, look into new ways to reach customers – Christian secured key recurring funding by working with huge distributor of low budget clothing, Payless, which funded his high end haute couture work
  9. confidence and fearlessness – as Nina says, if you know that you have talent, you can ‘own it’ and become confident
  10. keep going and make it work – which kindof sums up most of these points

Carlos Watson, the presenter of this video programme, summed it up thus:

“Christian’s honest and unapologetic attitude earned him a spot on a top-rated TV show but his talent, drive and work ethic earned him a permanent place in one of the most competitive industries in the world.”

Creative Takeaways

Practically making that one thing you have in mind opens doors to other options which you don’t know until you will discover them in the making of the first one.  Christian says: “I’ll make one thing and that inspires 5 other things”.

What is that one thing I feel inspired to make?  I should begin making it today, even if it’s just sketching it out and ordering the materials.  Then make it and see what other ideas, modifications and spin-offs come to mind.

Think transformation.  “Even if it’s the most basic piece, I want you to feel transformed.” says Christian Siriano.  What can I make today which transforms someone, takes them somewhere fresh and wonderful?


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