Raising Kayne

7.18.2006

By Jeffrey Epstein

He's sweet, smart, and sassy, and after the first episode of the new season of Bravo's Project Runway, we were smitten with this southern gent. Twenty-seven-year-old Kayne Gillaspie lives in the Oklahoma City, Okla., suburb of Norman with his partner, Warren, where they co-own the boutiques Southern Charm (which boasts the pageant -style gowns Gillaspie is known for) and Alter Ego (which has more urban fashions). We got a chance to chat with Gillaspie, who attended New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, before the show premiered.

So in the first episode you come off as really sweet and mellow. But you're really a vicious bitch, right?
[Laughs] I'm actually pretty easygoing. There were a lot of sacrifices for me to make to take five and a half weeks off of work to participate in the competition, and we're not being paid so it's not for the money. I was trying to size everyone up and be super-nice. Everyone deserves respect until they disrespect me. I'm a reality TV whore. I know how some people work on these shows. Who's the Wendy Pepper? Who's the Jay McCarroll? I grew up with five sisters and was very easygoing and calm'you kinda have to be waiting on five girls all the time. I was grateful to be [on the show]. I'm from a lower middle-class family and we had to work for anything I wanted. I was catty and funny and honest, but we all were.

I have to say, it was strange seeing [host] Heidi Klum so thin after she was pregnant all last season.
I don't know what it is, but taping the opening of the show, I had to run up to her and crouch down, but I held onto the front of her stomach and her back. I was holding her up because she was in five-inch heels. So I felt her stomach and her back'tight as a surfboard. I expected a little tummy or a little soft. There's a reason for that! But, no, it's tight.

Did you get to experience any of New York City while you were there?
I did a little bit. I got to stay for four days after we were through taping. I did a ton of shopping, saw a couple of shows, and did a ton of walking.

Did Tim play favorites with anyone? Were you teacher's pet?
No. Tim actually hated my casting audition clothes because they're all beaded and sparkly and over-the-top pageant gowns. It's not a Halston or an Armani, and it's never going to be. But Tim appreciated it. Even Michael Kors said before he met me that they were constructed within an inch of their death. Most women have parts that they want covered up. The construction has to be there for most customers. Not everyone has a Hilary Swank body.

Was there someone on the show you bonded with right away?
Robert [Best, from Los Angeles] and I did become best friends very early on. Then my other good bud was Michael [Knight, from Atlanta]. I never made an enemy on the show. I quarreled a little bit back and forth with Laura and was rubbed the wrong way by Jeffrey [Sebelia]'s egotistical personality. But I was honest in telling him.

Anyone you are happy to never see again?
I really wouldn't care if I ever saw Malan [Breton] again. And he said something crappy on the runway about the other designers on the runway.

Can't wait to watch that episode! Is there one established designer who has particularly influenced you and your design style?
I have three absolutely favorite designers of all time. Versace, Roberto Cavalli, and Dolce & Gabbana. They're my all-time favorites. I follow their lines closely every season. They always produce beautiful things.

Now I'm sure a lot of viewers are going to want to know your marital status with Warren'
I'll have been with Warren four years on August 26. In gay years that's, what, 21 years?

How is being out in Norman, Oklahoma?
Believe it or not, it's not bad. Obviously people know, unless they're retarded'no offense against mentally challenged people'that I am gay when they first meet me. Hello, I vomit color every morning when I wake up. Also, I think I'm a very nice person. I would love for everyone to be comfortable with my lifestyle, but I'm also smart enough to understand that's not going to happen yet. As long as I don't start controversy, we can all live together.

What are you hoping to get from the show?
I would love to get a book deal'just kidding! Any exposure or publicity'my own clothing line. Honestly, I would love to dress celebrities. I would love to do all kinds of things. There are tons of things. Any exposure for people to see the passion for the work that I make.

The show will probably help business at the stores.
Already. The phone has been ringing off the hook. We're looking at expanding and hiring other people. It's already crazy and the show hasn't even started.

What's the biggest fashion faux pas a guy can make?
The biggest fashion faux pas' Can I give you two? The really thin guys who wear women's jeans, I can deal with. But if you can wear a visible thong, that's gross. And the other is socks with sandals with shorts. Especially black socks with sandals and shorts. Hate it.

Kayne has just launched his Web site at: www.johnathankayne.com Check out our interview with Robert Best here.

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