Do you have any regrets? When you watch episodes do you wish you had changed any of your designs?
I didn't do my best work on the show, at all. I did my best work to get on the show but once you are there it's a whole different story. I was disappointed that I couldn't execute my designs the way I wanted to or the way I envisioned them. That's really the only regret I have. Other than that? No. It was a real blessing to be on the show.
What kind of woman do you design for?
I definitely design for a woman who is independent thinking and who doesn't really follow the trends. I design for someone who has a really busy lifestyle, because Lord knows I do. I was running my own graphic deign studio, then I was teaching, then I was coming home and walking the dog or going to some function. Sometimes you don't have time to change! I try to make versatile and fashion-forward pieces. That comes from my experimentation. I was able to do a great fall collection, which got me on the show. That's the woman I design for. And that woman can range from 20 to 72. If you look good in the clothes then you look good in the clothes.
Any interest in doing a men's line?
Yes, I do. I would really love to do a men's line. My husband is my muse. I love jackets in general and that's how I got started designing. I love men's jackets and little things like that. Men's clothes are a lot more challenging but I would love to apprentice with a tailor and learn how to make a really terrific blazer. Even with some designers, like Stella McCartney, you can see the influence of men's clothes. I would love to do that.
Do you sell your clothes solely online or locally?
Right now, only online. I was literally just getting started and starting to get ecommerce and talking to manufacturers and sample makers right before I was cast on the show. I'm picking up where I left off but now, with the show, the demand has heightened for my work. Especially the rain scarf! People saw that in my casting video and have sent requests for that. I am working on that and the spring collection as well. Things are just starting to happen and I have my time on the show to thank for that.
Is it challenging to meet the demands?
Meet demands now or on the show?
Now since you are a nationally known name?
Yeah, because it's more about time management. As we're speaking I'm finishing a skirt that doesn't really fit me. I had to try it on and make sure it's right. There's that and the interviews and so many other things, like meeting with my marketing team and scheduling photo shoots! It's definitely a lot of pressure to get things done.
Your line is called "Strange Fruit," named after the Billy Holiday song. Is this title due to your roots or do you think your line exudes some sort of social commentary?
Initially, my t-shirt line was all I was going to do. I accidentally fell into fashion. My t-shirt line was actually about wearing history on your back and using The Civil Rights Movement and other cultural movements as a way to be cool and educate people. That was my initial thought. I think I was listening to "Strange Fruit" at the time while I was designing one of my t-shirts and I didn't even have a name for the line yet. I looked up the track and learned the history of the song. Everyone thinks the lyrics are so haunting but it really was a protest song for anti-lynching in the South and it helped create awareness. People didn't realize that lynching was happening as much as it was. That was the part of the reason for using the song, and also my clothes have a strange twist to them so it has a double meaning, of sorts. It's very important.
Do you continue to include your t-shirt in your line?
I would like to design some more t-shirts. I just don't have the time! It's a time thing. I actually did some graphics for the Love Series, which was really about celebrating love between the First Lady and President Obama. I used that in a graphic way. I was creating some graphic work, hadn't produced them yet, and then I was cast on the show. Hopefully I can get back to that.
What's next? Are you working on a spring/summer collection?
Yes, I am working on a spring/summer collection. I love fall. If I had my choice, I would only do fall. But I'm dabbling. Right after I got off the show, I started thinking of spring and started getting inspired. That's what I am working on now. It's a limited 10-piece collection. My fall collection was 25 or 26 pieces.
So, what's your hope?
Honestly, my hope is not only to sell clothes but also to become more of a lifestyle brand. I have a dog form. I hope to be able to do a pet line, and maybe even some sort of skincare or beauty line. This is a pie in the sky but you never know? Project Runway was a pie in the sky and I got on that!