Christian Siriano on Shooting Project Runway During COVID and Why Lady Gaga is “Fabulous”

Christian Siriano on Shooting Project Runway During COVID and Why Lady Gaga is “Fabulous”

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Christian Siriano on Shooting Project Runway During COVID and Why Lady Gaga is “Fabulous”

15 years into his career, Christian Siriano is only at the beginning of expanding his fashion and design empire.

15 years into his career, Christian Siriano is only at the beginning of expanding his fashion and design empire.

Text: Greg Marku

On a warm Thursday evening in October, gays, lesbians, and drag queens gathered outside Norwalk, Connecticut’s Troupe429, where Christian Siriano has come to support his boyfriend, Kyle Smith, on his debut pop-up shop. The event is for Smith’s menswear brand, Future Lovers of Tomorrow, which he created during the pandemic and is now selling his clothes in-person where fashion nerds shop and potentially bump into Siriano. Luckily, I had the luxury of speaking to Christian directly, but I couldn’t call him the winner of Project Runway, the show that jump-started his now multimillion-dollar empire, because he just doesn’t like it. I was unsure of how his personality would translate to meeting him in real life after watching him compete on the reality competition show back in 2007. Instead, Siriano shared that he approaches building fashion fantasies through prioritizing inclusivity. 

The fearlessly flamboyant personality that was ever-present on season four of, dare I say it, Project Runway 14 years ago and is now a matured, 35-year-old business-focused designer who is humbly dressing A-list celebrities and politicians. As a mentor on the show along with endless projects ahead of him, he's one of America's most successful new designers who keeps expanding his empire.  

 

In an exclusive interview, V sat down with the designer and spoke about his career being celebrated with his first-ever retrospective exhibit, the new season of Project Runway, the deluxe edition of his hit book, and his newest project, Siriano Interiors.

V MAGAZINE: You started designing 15 years ago, how did you get started in fashion?

Christian Siriano: In the beginning, I was making clothes for anybody and everybody. We had all different types of people coming, it was wild. I was getting calls from Oprah and then I was getting calls from Jewish women that lived in Brooklyn and had a wedding to go to. Then I had a cool downtown girl that wanted something kind of funky and weird. We had a pretty big range. So over the years I try to have something for everybody but then still in my aesthetic. I mean, I’m not making jeans and a T-shirt. We’re a bit fancier, a bit more evening, which is what I love. 

PROJECT RUNWAY -- Episode 1902 -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Greg Endries/Bravo)

V: What can viewers expect with the upcoming season of Project Runway?

CS: I think it’s a really crazy talented group. A lot of designers from other countries, which is really interesting, that have come to America to kind of make something for themselves. We had a lot of different cultures and a lot of really talented women, more so than ever, which is also really cool to watch these powerful women in the room overtaking the boys and they didn’t know what to do and it was fun. 

V: How many seasons have you filmed during COVID?

CS: The last two seasons. It was great. It was annoying. A COVID test everyday, sometimes twice a day. I thought about the designers and the models that had to basically quarantine and be there at all times. The judges and I got to obviously come in as we go. But other than that, they go live and breathe on set, which is wild. But they did it in a way that made it nice because I feel like they got really close to one another because they’re together more than they normally are.  

SCAD Savannah – Fall 2021 – Exhibitions – Christian Siriano – "People Are People" – Teaser Documentation – Photography Courtesy of SCAD

 

V: What is it like being a mentor on the show?

CS: It’s nice to give them wisdom because not only obviously wisdom of being contestants, but also wisdom because I’ve been in business now for almost 15 years and I’ve built a multi million dollar company out of it. So I think that’s what the goal is, to make it successful afterward. And I think they listen to me a bit more now because they see what it can be. 

V: What can people expect with the new edition of your book, “Christian Siriano: Dresses to Dream About Deluxe Edition”? 

CS: The new edition is basically some of my more iconic looks that I’ve done. The Oscar’s Billy Porter moment, the look I did for Janelle Monáe, things that had more impactful moments. So really beautiful, really fantasy, we wanted to give everybody who likes fashion a little bit of a dream fantasy kind of escapism. 

V: Who was your favorite person you’ve dressed?

CS: I still love all the things that we did for Michelle Obama. Those are some of my favorite moments. And I love working with Billy Porter, I think he’s incredible. But everybody from Zendaya to Christina Hendricks, I love working with Alicia Silverstone who’s like now my best friend. It just really depends on the day. Some people can be annoying and it drives me crazy and others were great. [Turns to his boyfriend]: Kyle! Go inside. Love you. 

SCAD Savannah – Fall 2021 – Christian Siriano – "People Are People" – Behind the Scenes Installation – SCAD Museum of Art, Gallery 108 – Photography Courtesy of SCAD

After gently excusing Kyle, Christian shared his thoughts on supporting a new designer.  

I've never really done menswear and he’s so into fashion and loves menswear and clothing and that’s why I kind of pushed him to do this because this is a whole other world that I don’t have to fully be involved in but I get to support. It’s been a whole different version of being a mentor to another designer but in a different way.  

SCAD Savannah – Fall 2021 – Exhibitions – Christian Siriano – "People Are People" – Opening Reception – SCAD Museum of Art – Photography Courtesy of SCAD

V: How did you and Kyle meet?

CS: We’ve been together for three and a half years. Kyle was working for me in my store [in Brooklyn] at the time and he was friends with another one of my friends that I’ve known for a long time and we just hung out, went on a date and then that was it.  

V: Random question, Madonna or Gaga?

CS: The thing is, I love Madonna so much and I've been with her a lot lately, it was just her recent little movie premiere. But Gaga is my original because I dressed her before anybody even knew who she was. She was in my first book. Gaga and I met in 2008. I started dressing her and I've dressed her ever since and she’s always supportive. Even if we don't talk all the time, she still supports us. It'll be like, ‘Wore your dress three weeks ago and it was incredible.’ So she’s pretty fabulous.  

V: When was Siriano Interiors created? Was it because of the pandemic?

CS: In the pandemic last year I realized I’ve always been a huge furniture lover, interior lover and I felt like it was a perfect time to kind of try. I’ve always been a lover of textiles and I make all my own fabrications with mills in Italy. Then people started asking me for things, like would you do a room or would you do a house or would you design a piece of furniture. So I started doing it and it just worked out. But I think now it’s been a nice outlet other than fashion because fashion can be really hard. 

Sara Kerens, Christian Siriano House, 2020

V: Would you say they're similar at all?

CS: I feel like some days they are and then something happens and I’m like God this is so fucking different. I think what’s good about it is it’s similar enough but it’s a new outlet for me not to feel pressured. There’s not the same pressure at all, which is great. Fashion is all pressure. 

SCAD Savannah – Fall 2021 – Savannah Film Festival – In Conversation – Christian Siriano – SCAD Museum of Art Theater – Photography Courtesy of SCAD

V: You have your first solo museum moment at SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design), what can people expect?

CS: It's all my work over the last 15 years. What’s really nice is it's called People are People. But I think people are used to going to a museum and seeing an old house like Dior or Gucci or they’re not used to seeing someone who is doing things now in the moment. We dress men and women and trans, non-binary, and curvy and skinny and there’s never really been an exhibit ever to show that. It’s pretty cool and different than what you would see. I mean Dior’s fabulous and iconic, but they’ve never done that.

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