Back to the Basics: Style Inspired by Project Runway Designers

#makeitwork inspiration from your favorites.
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#makeitwork inspiration from your favorites.

Project Runway is to my teenage years what American Idol was to my childhood: unforgettable, irreplaceable and possessing a special kind of magic: the magic of possibility. I’ll confess: I still love Project Runway, and I’m currently binge-watching the newest season. A few favorites have emerged for me thus far, but none quite as striking or entertaining as designers from years past.

There were a handful of contestants that took this magic – of possibility, creativity, innovation – and let it shine through their personal style. A lesson or two can be learned from their commitment to a strong personal aesthetic. Below, take cues from three designers who knew their basic pieces, and how to “make it work.”

#1: Christian Siriano

Of course, he tops my list. And how could he not? Perhaps the most successful designer in Project Runway’s history, Siriano was also one of the “fiercest.” 

Known for his quirky catchphrases and beautiful gowns, he swept the competition, leaving with a win and a thriving career ahead. He’s designed for the likes of Leslie Jones, Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, and Sarah Jessica Parker. One of his greatest strengths as a designer is his commitment to designing for any and every type of woman.

Christian Siriano

Pacific Coast News

Take a cue from Siriano’s love of skinny pants: Boyfriend jeans have been running crazy, crazy, crazy toward the trend zone, while skinny jeans have been warming the bench. However, there’s still no pant we love quite as much as a slim fit trouser (or even a nice cigarette pant) – perfect for interviews and / or all those ambiguous “business casual” events. 

Another comeback we’ve seen in recent year(s) is the skinny scarf. Don’t believe me? Wander into your local Forever 21 and see for yourself. Siriano rocked a few of these during the competition. Wear them with t-shirts, v-necks, or your basic black leather jacket. 

#2: Amanda Valentine

You might not remember her (which is a true tragedy) but this designer competed in seasons 11 and 13. She was known for her indie, bohemian cool designs, her eclectic Nashville style, and her signature fringe. 

BTW, I love her because her life is #goals – she’s styled rock bands, played in a couple of her own bands, created and sold her fashion line, VALENTINE VALENTINE, and – of course – appeared on Project Runway.

Amanda Valentine from Project Runway

Photo: Project Runway show screenshot

As the runner-up for season 13, Valentine custom-designed edgy, architectural necklaces for the models to wear down the runway. Statement necklaces have been in for a while now – they’re one of those staple pieces that never go out of style. Go for silver, gold, or a pop of color; whatever your fancy, don’t overlook the power of a dramatic necklace to jazz up your basic tees.

Also, breaking: it’s a fringe festival! Valentine was a staunch advocate for fringe during her seasons (much to my joy). Fringe is magic, fringe is mayhem, fringe can make everything better. Scared of looking like a cowboy? Nix the flannel, and keep the rest of your styling sleek.

#3: Mondo Guerra

Another two time-competitor: Mondo appeared on both season 8 and season 1 (All Stars) of Project Runway. On the show, he came out as HIV positive during a custom textile design challenge. His style is bright, graphic, and whimsical. The pieces he designed called to mind classics like Mary Tyler Moore and Sex and the City. He jumped for bright colors and clashing patterns. I’ve always been a fan of his quirky way of looking at clothing (and the world), and love that his designs are serious fashion not taken too seriously.

I warned you: clashing patterns are the queen of this catwalk. Mondo made it work, too – his designs were predictably fearless. Beat back the autumn style blues and try out a contrasting pattern mix of your own. I’m a plaid-floral advocate, all though cheetah print / anything else works together well too.

One of the most memorable aspects of Mondo’s style was his “finishing touches” on each outfit. In his personal style, from pocket squares to colored glasses to printed socks, he never failed to infuse outfits with his own sense of vibrancy. Before charging out the door tomorrow, assess your outfit: what little piece could help pull it all together? For me, it’s something that makes me feel good: a vintage brooch or a purple lip, for example. 

Readers, sound off: 

Who’s your favorite Project Runway designer? Are you watching the current season? What do you think? How do you plan to incorporate the designers’ style inspiration into your clothing this week? 

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