Project Runway is one of the most intense design competitions on television!!
And that’s partially due to Tim Gunn’s slightly intimidating yet extremely effective hosting methods.
Luckily for us, one of the show’s stellar contestants, Natalia Fedner, recently gave CocoPerez.com some EXCLUSIVE details about what it’s like to be on the show!
Natalia has the added insight of being one of Tim’s students at Parsons The New School for Design — the college he taught at before his gig on Project Runway.
Find out how Mr. Gunn has changed over the years, and scoop yourself up some other exclusive fashion design info, by reading what Natalia had to say…AFTER THE JUMP!!!
How long have you been in the fashion and beauty business? What inspired you to begin? What continues to inspire you?
I’d like to think I’ve been a fashion designer since I was 2 years old – when I first started sketching. When I was four, I began to cut up my stockings in order to make them more interesting (met with serious disapproval from my parents…) And by six I was hand-sewing clothing for Barbies and Troll dolls (yes, my trolls were hip). So I think it’s fair to say I was a fashion designer before I even knew what fashion was. My desire to create (thanks to my disposition for all things visual and my mother teaching me how to draw at a very early age) is definitely my original inspiration. While in high school, I had a subscription to “W,” and the incredible designs of John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Tom Ford inspired me to pursue fashion design as a career. The world around me is my biggest inspiration; from the bioluminescence of a jellyfish to the gears in a watch – it’s easy to be inspired in a world filled with such fantastic things. I’m an artist who happens to use clothing as her canvas, so I prefer to create things that have never existed before. This is why I’m so attracted to tech fashion – I love being both a fashion designer and an inventor. For my most recent collection, I decided to take the craft of knitting into the 21st century: NataliaFednerdesign.com
What was it like reconnecting with Tim Gunn after so many years?
It was surreal. My first opportunity to speak with him was in front of the cameras. He gave me a big hug and let the other designers know I was a former student of his. It was very touching. Also- he looks exactly the same - this man does not age! The last time Tim saw me before “Under The Gunn,” I had short brown hair cut in a bob- I actually worried he wouldn’t recognize me since I’m now a blonde with long hair! Tim was the chair of the fashion department while I was at Parsons- and he was my mentor. I spent many afternoons in his office asking his advice on a variety of topics, from color palettes to how to navigate the fashion business. Sometimes friends will ask me ‘is he really like that in real life?’ Yes, yes he is. He was and is always immaculate.
Tim always comes across as stern but fair on the show. How is he when the cameras aren't rolling?
I think Tim is actually very funny off-camera. He makes a lot of really clever jokes and keeps the crew entertained. He is also a true professional. It’s clear he’s a perfectionist both on camera and off. If he’d flub a line, he’d make fun of himself – which was refreshing. We’re all human, after all.
You had to make a dress in SIX hours. What the what!! How were you able to accomplish such a feat?
That was soooo tough. I had just spent the past year developing an haute couture collection where most garments took two weeks to complete because of how intricate they were. I really had to readjust my way of thinking as a designer to meet the difficult time limit. I was literally learning on camera, because I had to find faster ways to accomplish designing, draping, and sewing than I ever had in my life. The last time I had made a dress in six hours was when I was 8 years old – for a Barbie!
Being on reality TV, you get your fair share of drama. How do you handle it when arguments and fights erupt while the camera's rolling?
I made myself a promise at the beginning of the competition: No matter what I would stay genuine to myself, trust my gut, and be good to my fellow designers. I don’t like to argue - it’s very uncomfortable for me because I don’t like making other people feel bad. At the same time, I prefer to be direct. When Oscar got upset during the team challenge, it really took me aback. I didn’t know how to react- and at first I just froze. Eventually I realized the best way to handle drama or fighting is with logic and directness. If you want to be heard- you don’t have to shout.
Any advice for aspiring designers?
Fashion design, like any artistic career (music, acting, writing, art, etc), is a very difficult field to succeed in. But not for the reasons you think. It’s difficult because everyone will tell you, you are making the wrong career choice. Society will question your ability to make ends meet, raise a family, and have security. It will encourage you to pick a safer route. And most people do – because those expectations are often overbearing. So the best advice I can give to any future fashion designer- or any type of artist- is listen to yourself first. If you are passionate about your art career, hardworking, and good to people - you will be fine. But you have to learn how to stay true to yourself first and foremost. You will fail a number of times before you finally succeed – because success is built on a mountain of failure. Successful people are successful because they don’t give up.
Hope for young designers everywhere!!
What a positive message.
And guess what — Joanna DeGeneres, Ellen DeGeneres' sister-in-law, wore one of Natalia's designs to the Oscars!! You can see pics of Joanna in the dress at the event with Ellen's mom (below).
You can also check out the dress that landed Natalia on Project Runway to begin with — the gorgeous white gown in one of the black and white images below (photographed by Giuliano Bekor, modeled by Amanda Adrienne).
[Image Courtesy Of Natalia Fedner.]
Tags: ellen degeneres, exclusives!, fashion smashion, interview, joanna degeneres, natalia fedner, oscars, parsons, project runway, tim gunn