“People are Desperate for Inspiration and Beauty”: Christian Siriano on the Return of Project Runway, Fashion’s Future

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Christian Siriano has always understood glamour. After more than a decade in fashion, the Project Runway mentor and host who launched his eponymous womenswear brand in 2008, has redefined the red carpet rule book.

And much like his iconic tulle gowns, Siriano has many layers. At a young age, the American designer, who studied under Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen in London, was captivated by the beauty of the ballet, leading to a love affair with silhouette, structure and fanciful garments.

“Me and my sister were ballet dancers. That is always going to be something that I just personally love. It reminds me of when I was a little boy watching my sister dance or being backstage watching all the sugar plum fairies in The Nutcracker. I still love that. I think a lot of people do too. I think it's that fantasy that I still enjoy,” Siriano says.

That romantic fantasy is not only present in the designer’s bold and colorful New York atelier but on both the red carpet and the runway.

“I always knew I wanted to be a show designer. That's the part I love. I don't always love the business end,” he chuckles, “but I love to celebrate beauty on the runway.”

In 2008, Siriano and his vision took on Project Runway, where he became the youngest designer to win the fashion competition series. But since then Siriano has become so much more than a Project Runway winner. The celebrated CFDA designer, who has dressed stars like Michelle Obama, Oprah, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, and Billy Porter has stepped out of the shadow of reality TV by creating looks that highlight body diversity.

“That was always my goal, to have all these different types of people and cultures and shapes and sizes,” the 35-year-old says while pointing out that his inclusive approach to fashion is part of his ethos. “I was doing that from day one. People just didn't realize until later. They're like, ‘Wow, you have so many Black models on the runway.’ I'm like, ‘No, I always have. It's not a new thing.’”

Courtesy of Christian Siriano Studio.

While challenging the status quo of the fashion industry (and still working to gain admiration and respect) was a hurdle in itself, Siriano and his fashion house were met with a new set of challenges amid Covid-19.

As global death tolls rose, lock-downs and unemployment soared, fashion was largely ignored.

“Fashion took a big hit and is still taking a hit, we’re in a really, really wild, strange, pivotal change moment. People are not shopping the same way and they're not spending what they used to spend,” he says, adding, “I do think people will get excited about things again, but I don't think people are going to spend the money the same way. I think they're going to hold onto it in case something happens again.”

And though Siriano is a world-renowned designer, he’s well aware his 13-year-old fashion house faces different challenges than a 100-year European house fashion like Chanel or Dior.

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