‘We can spend 45 minutes talking about a sleeve’: Nina Garcia on the latest season of Project Runway

Nina Garcia at The Fashion Group International’s annual ‘Night of Stars’ gala at Cipriani Wall Street in October 2019

Nina Garcia at The Fashion Group International’s annual ‘Night of Stars’ gala at Cipriani Wall Street in October 2019   | Photo Credit: Evan Agostini


Sartorial expert Nina Garcia on everything from sustainable fashion to wardrobe must-haves, and the new season of Project Runway

Nina Garcia fell in love with fashion at an early age. “It all started in my hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia. My mother loved fashion and her closet was like Ali Baba’s cave to me,” says the editor-in-chief of Elle, best known as the judge on Project Runway since 2004.

Garcia tells me how she used to visit a hotel in town where international magazines were sold. “They were so hard to get! As soon as I got home, I’d select my favourite pages and, with a pair of scissors and glue, create my own magazines,” says the fashion icon, who has produced the recently-launched Clothes Call with Nina Garcia, a 12-episode interactive fashion series. Most of her spare time as a youngster was spent sketching imaginary collections. “It was always an unwavering dream,” she writes on email from New York, where she lives with her husband and two children.

With Season 17 of the Peabody Award-winning show premièring earlier this month, Garcia opens up about how a lot has changed on Project Runway over the years — model Karlie Kloss has taken on the hosting responsibilities and Christian Siriano is the new mentor. New judges include fashion designer Brandon Maxwell and journalist-and-former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Elaine Welteroth. Excerpts:

Nina Garcia (centre) with Elaine Welteroth and Karlie Kloss

Nina Garcia (centre) with Elaine Welteroth and Karlie Kloss   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Earlier, you’ve spoken about how taking on Project Runway was a ‘risky move’.

I was hesitant to be on TV and speak about fashion which, at the time, was a very closed industry. I had worked with Heidi Klum before and also knew Michael Kors; their involvement helped me make the decision to participate. During the first New York Fashion Week after the show premièred, a lot of peers and fashionistas stopped me to tell me that they were obsessed with the show. I realised we had a hit on our hands.

How would you describe your judging style on the show?

I try to be as honest and frank as I can.

Rapid fire
  • What has runway beauty inspired you to try out? Playing with my eye shadow.
  • If you could Uberpool with anyone (dead or alive), who would you rideshare with? Marie Antoinette.
  • Your go-to work uniform? Stilettos (or boots), a calf-length skirt, and a cashmere sweater.
  • An up-and-coming designer you want everyone to know about? The many talented designers Latin America has. From accessories to ready-to-wear, there is so much much that is unique in the region.

What has been Project Runway’s biggest contribution to the fashion industry?

It helped open up an industry that was perceived as being too secretive. People could understand the amount of work that designers put into a garment — from the cut of a sleeve to the fabric choice. During the judging process, we can spend 45 minutes talking about a sleeve!

You’ve been an advocate of sustainable fashion for some years now. What triggered your passion?

Thinking about my children made me decide I needed to do something. We only have one home, Earth, and I want to leave them with a world where they can live and prosper.

A lot has changed in how fashion brands reach their audience. There are influencers on TikTok and shows on streaming platforms. How do you stay on par?

What I love about fashion is that it is always about what’s happening now. We always have to be on the lookout for what’s next. From Twitter and Pinterest, to Facebook and TikTok, and additional platforms like Instagram and YouTube... fashion has the power to populate all these digital platforms. There’s a clear interest in everything fashion.

Season 17 of Project Runway now airs on TLC SD and TLC HD World.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 12:33:01 AM |

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