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Christian Siriano Talks Pandemic Runway Shows, Bridal and Dressing Celebrities

From his rise to fame on reality TV’s season 4 of “Project Runway” in 2007 to being honored on the Time 100 list of influential people in 2018 for his efforts to democratize luxury fashion for women of all sizes, Christian Siriano is a designer of the times.

The New York City-based designer, and now “Project Runway” mentor, joined The Daily’s chief content officer Eddie Roche at Coterie on Monday for a fireside chat to share lessons learned during the pandemic and why the customer—celebrity or not—always comes first.

Here are some of Siriano’s hot takes.

On lessons learned during covid: [I learned about] authenticity and brand awareness. I think everybody needs to understand that you will never be everything for everybody, but you can be really right for your world and people who love what you do. I started focusing on that more than anything. We really reminded ourselves that the customers are so important, that everything in fashion can go away in a minute. That was the goal and it will always be my goal pretty much moving forward forever.

On staging a fashion show at his house during a pandemic: For one, I was very scared to go out of business… and I was so bored. I was going crazy to tears… I really needed some glamour. I realized that when you take away a lot of the fabulous moments in fashion, the job really sucks to be honest. It is very hard. It’s all shipping, packing and bills. That is why I had to do it. Even if nobody came, even if there was 20 people—I think we had 85 people in the end—we were going do it no matter what.

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Christian Siriano RTW Spring 2021 show in Westport, Ct.
Christian Siriano at his Spring 2021 show in Westport, Conn. Lexi Moreland/ WWD

On the message women send by wearing his designs: I think sometimes it’s to show that there are other great designers out there that are not a big European house. That there’s other talent to support because usually that’s what dominates the industry in every way, which is hard to compete with. We [must] be better each time; the fit has to be perfect. We [must] go above and beyond what everyone else would do.

On dressing celebrities: I’m really lucky…we get to dress new young stars all the time now, which I really love. And then older stars that have resurgences like a Jennifer Coolidge. I’ve been dressing Jennifer for a long time, and she’s having such an amazing moment and will continue because she’s a genius and fabulous and now people understand.

On sending the first curvy model down the runway: We were the first and I’m proud that we were because I was really frustrated with people saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wear your clothes. I can’t envision myself in that.’ I was like, that’s weird [because] I feel like we’re really good at that. So that … was the only decision, I just wanted to show people that you can look great in the same things that everybody else looks great in.

Christian Siriano on Pandemic Runway Shows,
Precious Lee in Christian Siriano WWD

On the longevity of “Project Runway”: To watch somebody take a flat piece of nothing and turn it into three-dimensional art that you can wear and live your life in—it’s an unbelievable thing to see in a 24-hour situation. It’s kind of unreal that it still happened. I really do believe sewing is a dying art. The fact that every designer that has ever been on that show sews and pattern makes and makes everything themselves…brands have a team of 50 people to do that.

On designing bridal: I think what’s great about bridal, for me, is that it’s pure fantasy, and there’s no limits other than the color. Our brides are all types of people and now they’re down for anything, which is really fun.

On sourcing fabrics: I love fabrics—it is my biggest problem in the business. I spend so much money on fabrics. There’s just so divine and gorgeous and I get everything from Italian and French mills…I get in trouble every season because my fabric budget is always over budget every single season. I do think though the reason why I’m still really interested in fabrics is how they set apart most brands. And because there is fast fashion and because there is so many tiers of clothes, it’s hard to compete. A great fuchsia suit can be [available on every] level but the fabric separates what is luxury.

On sustainability: We’re still a small brand with a kind of low-carbon footprint because we don’t make a big excess of clothing. We make no overstock of anything, but obviously I partner with a lot of big brands and big mass manufacturers. But how do you get customers to not be obsessed with the buying process? We’re a consuming-hungry world, so I’m not sure what it will be because I think so long as the customer wants it and buys it, the big mass companies will never stop.