Cheers and applause of the kind that typically accompany an LSU touchdown filled the Burbank Drive location of Hello Sushi on Dec. 27 as designer Anthony Ryan Auld was declared the winner of last week’s “Project Runway: All Stars II.” An equally loud roar greeted the news that nemesis Ivy Higa was going home.
The Baton Rouge native hosted a viewing party for family, friends and fans to celebrate his 30th birthday and, as it turned out, his fourth challenge win — the most of anyone on the show. Partner Matthew Day led everyone in a champagne toast at the news.
“This was one of my favorite challenges,” Auld told the crowd of about 100 during a question-and-answer session following the show.
The challenge, as described by emcee and judge Carolyn Murphy, was to create a retail ready-to-wear design with a “wow look.” The winning garment would be manufactured by Elie Tahari, who would feature it in his store windows and sell the design in all of their stores and online at http://www.elietahari.com. All profits from the sale of the winning design benefit the Save the Garment Center in New York.
Auld and designers Uli Herzner, Higa, Joshua McKinley and Emilio Sosa got to shop Tahari’s fabric floor with the help of his assistants to keep an eye toward cost control. In the workroom, Auld felt fairly confident he was on the right track when Tahari shared his very personal story with him and designers’ mentor Joanna Coles.
Tahari emigrated from Israel with $30 in his pocket, living on the streets of New York City and working as an electrician as he pursued his dream to become a successful fashion designer. He left Auld, Coles and the other designers with these words of wisdom: “All love and no fear.”
On the runway, Tahari, who also served as a guest judge, told Auld, “This is a challenging fabric but you used it very smartly.”
“I love this dress!” guest judge Stacy Keibler exclaimed. “I want her (the model) to take it off so I can wear it to a red carpet event.”
“It’s masterful the way Anthony Ryan manipulated that fabric,” Isaac Mizrahi said during the judges’ deliberation.
“That dress was easy to wear,” Tahari added. “I was very impressed.”
“I knew my print would speak for itself,” Auld said. “It was a fun challenge. I’ve never had anything I’ve made mass produced so it was really cool to be able to do this. You have to listen to those key words they give you (when Coles and guest judges visit in the workroom and during the runway critiques).
“I love these judges because they’re coming from a professional place,” he said when asked which judges he liked best — the regular “Project Runway” judges or the “All Stars” judges. “Joanna took two hours talking about my future … it was very humbling. They really look at the potential you have as a designer.”
Auld went on to explain that “All Stars” is much more design based than “Project Runway.”
“When you don’t listen to those subtle hints you’re already in trouble,” he said.
So, how long do they really have to make their designs? As Auld explained, with the shooting and everything, it takes three to four hours for the challenge instructions, which Thursday are to create a garment for women veterans aboard the USS Intrepid. The designers actually get 30 minutes to sketch and another 30 minutes at Mood Designer Fabrics in New York City. That leaves them about eight to nine hours to sew. The next day they have two hours for hair and makeup so “we have about 10 to 12 hours to actually make the garment.”
Is he consciously creating a black and blue collection? “No,” he began, laughing. “These challenges are back-to-back; we filmed this (season) in about six weeks so just stay true to what you see is working.”
Who are three celebrities — two women and one guy — he’d like to design for? “Brad Pitt, Emma Watson and Carrie Washington. I’m friends with Adam Lambert and I plan to send him a few things.”
What’s the best advice he’s ever gotten? “It actually came from Joanna Coles, who told me to just be me, to use my gut in where I go in my life. She’s the one who encouraged me to stay in the South. There really isn’t a fashion niche here and she said I can be that niche. It was a wake-up call for me.
“How do I use that exposure of ‘All Stars’ to propel myself and capitalize on what I have here?” Auld added. “You have to realize, I’ve only been out of school (LSU) two and half years. I’m proud of where I am.”
Where he is, is online with a mass-produced dress, Liv, described by Elie Tahari this way: “This printed sheath dress designed by Anthony Ryan Auld features a modern edge in a figure-flattering silhouette. The design was refreshed — in collaboration with Auld — to fit seamlessly within our Pre-Spring 2013 collection. All proceeds will benefit the Save the Garment Center Organization. ‘I wanted to create a piece you could wear to a cocktail party or the office — that you could also wear 10 years from now,’ says Auld. And in keeping with his design mantra: ‘Fashion should be fun.’ ”