BY NATASHA HEMLEY
Designer Christian Siriano got his break after winning season four of Project Runway, taking the fashion world by storm. He chatted with Windy City Times about his new line of shoes for Payless as well as his upcoming appearance at Columbia College Chicago's Conversation in the Arts.
Windy City Times: Lets talk about your line of shoes for Payless, which is fabulous, by the way!
Christian Siriano: Thank you! I've been working with Payless now for a few years. We've done, like, nine collections together, which has been really great. For me, it was really about bringing fashion to more of an accessible place. I wanted my younger fashionista fanwho loves me, loves what I do, but can't afford my clothingto [be able to] afford a really great shoe for under $50. We've taken it now to something bigger and better. Each season, we do a great runway shoe and we do bags. It is really growing and going to keep growing, which is is exciting. I love it!
Windy City Times: What inspires you when creating the shoes?
Christian Siriano: Everything. I get inspired by lots of furniture legs or heels. I get inspired by different types of lacing. All kinds of things inspire the shoes. I love architectural items that we can bring into the shoes. All of those little thingsprints that we've done [from] Chinese, African [and other] cultures. There's a laundry list of inspiration, which is fun.
Windy City Times: Have your ideas about fashion changed in the last three years?
Christian Siriano: Definitely! Now it is more of a business, but you learn a lot. I've learned so much just from being with customers, different women and how they shop. Every year I learn something new. Business changes me, which is great I love it. It is such a great experience to travel and meet different customers, find out what they like or don't like. It's really nice.
Windy City Times: Now I know you did a one hour special, which aired on Bravo last year. Can you talk a little about that experience?
Christian Siriano: It was great! It was following me and my new life, and that's it; nothing else, which is exactly how I wanted it. I wanted to do a follow-up and a nice little special. It was really cool. It showed me and my business and my world.
Windy City Times: Is it a little bit surreal that you got your start from Project Runway?
Christian Siriano: It's cool! I really take it as a fashion business, it's more serious, more real. Project Runway is great, but it's not real life. It's a fun show, great experience. I learned a lot. Now I've really learned so much more. I've really grown as a designer [and] as a brand. It definitely feels weird and different, but it's [a] good direction. Everybody wants that!
Windy City Times: How are you adjusting to your overnight success?
Christian Siriano: It's OK. It's a lot of work, not just for me. Me personally, I work on all of these products, I have to promote them, and that's a lot. Definitely stressful at times. [I] work with celebrity clients and that can be a lot of work, but it's fun and its great to do what you love to do. I am pretty lucky I get to do that.
Windy City Times: What do you like to do on your down time?
Christian Siriano: I wish I had down time. I really don't, unfortunately. I'm really into [the] home. I love decoration and interior design. I like antique stores on the weekends, nothing that interesting. I watch awful TV and sit around eating junk food; that's about it.
Windy City Times: You are going to be making an appearance at Columbia College Chicago for its Conversation in the Arts. What do you want the audience to take away from that interview?
Christian Siriano: I really want everyone to know that if you're a young artist, inspired designer or a young creator in any way to follow that dream, to keep going. I'm 25; I'm still learning, but I get to do what I love to do. Lots of people told me I couldn't. If you love what you are doing, you should keep doing it, and that's the biggest thing to kind of do what you want to do.
Windy City Times: What's your favorite hot spot when you come to Chicago?
Christian Siriano: I don't have too many. It's been a while, I have to figure it out, nothing sticking out of my head. I met [and I am] kind of a friends with Billy Dec, who I know owns a few restaurants and things like that. Hopefully, he'll have a little place for me to go.
Windy City Times: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Christian Siriano: I really want to see my Christian Siriano brand really grow and develop. Hopefully, we will be opening some type of retail store. I really want to keep it growing and developing. I'd really love to do other things: jewelry, sunglasses, all those things. Hopefully, in the next 10 years we'll be able to do those things.
Nena Ivon, former fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue in Chicago, will interview Christian Siriano Tuesday, April 26, at Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash, at 7 p.m. (This has changed from the original date of Monday, April 25, according to www.colum.edu/specialevents/upclose/Christian%20Siriano.php.&;