As Project Runway nears the end of its 11th season, many pause to wonder about the success of the many designers who have appeared on the show. Christian Siriano from season four is quickly becoming a household name with a lucrative contract with Payless Shoes and garments sold in Bergdorf Goodman’s, Neiman Marcus, and many upscale boutiques, as well as recently opening his signature store in New York City. Austin Scarlett from season one recently launched a well-received bridal collection. Irina Shabayeva, Korto Momolu, and Daniel Vosovic regularly show during New York Fashion Week. And season seven’s Emilio Sosa is one of the designers for Broadway’s much anticipated Motown: The Musical.
Michelle Lesniak Franklin may be one of the breakout alumnae from Project Runway’s growing list of contestant’s that will continue to make her mark in the fashion industry after her turn on the show. As a cast member of the current 11th season, Franklin had to remain silent about the outcome of the already taped finale, but she was forthcoming about her experiences on season 11.
Fashion Reverie recently caught up with Michelle at Lord & Taylor’s signature store as she debuted her dress that won the Lord & Taylor challenge.
Fashion Reverie: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: I call it geek chic. My style is for a fashionable woman who is very serious during the day, but at night she turns it to a real diva.
FR: What are your favorite fabrications?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: I work a lot in leather, wool and silk. I also like natural fibers and rainwear fabrics. I am from Portland, Oregon where it rains a lot, so you could say I do sportswear-inspired rainwear.
FR: Since the show have you moved to NYC?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: I still currently live in Portland because I am a Pacific Northwest girl. My dream would be to have an apartment in NYC and my house in Portland. But, there is no budget for that right now.
FR: Would you say you combine hard and soft in your silhouettes and construction?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: Yes, I definitely combine hard and soft elements in my garments. No woman’s body is perfect, but with the right tailoring and design we can make a woman’s body look ideal and the combination of hard and soft fabrics facilitates a designer’s ability to make women look perfect.
FR: What did you learn on Project Runway that now informs you as a designer or your design aesthetic?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: I learned a lot. People spend a lifetime trying to figure out who they are and I got it in a crash course on Project Runway. I learned that I am very dedicated and focused, and that I have a very strong aesthetic and stick to my guns, which is important in this industry.
FR: I am sure you were a fan of Project Runway before your appearance on the show. How many times did you audition before you won a spot on Project Runway?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: I auditioned once before.
FR: How was Zac Posen different as a judge than Michael Kors?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: They are both incredibly successful designers. But, what I like about Zac Posen was that he is newer as a designer relative to the industry. So, he may have a more current perspective of what we are going through as emerging designers.
FR: This is the first season that Project Runway designers worked on the team format for the entire length of the current season. When you won a spot on the show and learned that you would be working as teams, how did you respond?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: When we learned we would be working as teams it was very frightening at first. The designers for this season really didn’t sign up for this new format. But, if you think about it, in business everything is a collaborative effort, in other words, you work in teams. So, in the end it was a good thing.
FR: What is next for you?
Michelle Lesniak Franklin: I am currently in production with my brand. I produce everything from start to finish, and I am now looking to hire that out.
—William S. Gooch