The Hot Seat: Christian Siriano

The Project Runway alum is less fierce these days.

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Illustration: Rob Kelly


During his stint on Project Runway, Christian Siriano became known as the skinny boy with the severe, asymmetrical haircut and a man-bag full of cheeky comments. Though this persona served him well—he tore down his competition and went on to win the whole shebang—the designer has since mellowed. Siriano has assembled a wide fan base, ranging from Tim Gunn to young girls who worship Teen Vogue. "You have to make good decisions or else this industry will kill you," he explains. His new Bravo special, Having a Moment, allows us to scrutinize one of the most important weeks of Siriano's life: Fashion Week Fall 2009. The show documents those tumultuous seven days, which included interns scrubbing his studio floor and a fitting for Tori Spelling, who wondered aloud if Siriano's frock gave her torpedo boobs. (He countered that they looked like that already.)

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I want to play a game with you. Just say the first thing that pops into your head: Victoria Beckham.
Oh! First customer.

Project Runway on Lifetime.
A nice change.

Alexander McQueen.
Greatest artist of all time.

Wearing sweatpants anywhere but at home.
Never wear sweatpants.

I find it disappointing that Having a Moment is a special, not a series.
At the end of the day, my life is interesting, but not that interesting. I come to my studio every day and work on clothes. I felt like one hour of everything that's great that's been going on since Project Runway, how I'm adapting, was enough.

You chose a great time. That one hour illustrates just how wild your work life is. Do you ever feel like you can't do it?
Sometimes. It becomes more than just creating clothing and doing a collection. All the other things, even interviews or fittings—it's so much! When you aren't busy, you feel like you should be doing more.

Do you feel like something's missing when you're not working?
Yes. I'm sure 20 years from now, I'll be like, "Okay, I'm over it, let's take a break." But not yet.

Most designers toil for a long time before they create collections for chains like Payless and Victoria's Secret. Your rsum is intense.
Project Runway helped me jump five years in my career. The one thing that I've chosen not to do yet is a diffusion [lower-priced] clothing line.

Right: You've done inexpensive shoes, bags and makeup—but not inexpensive clothes.
Exactly. I really wanted to set that my label was a luxury brand: some bit of fantasy, some bit of evening wear, bridal and then day wear.

But you must have been tempted to design a line for Target right away.
Maybe in the next few years. I do like to make money! [Laughs] Some days, I'm just kind of like,I want to sell at HSN and have a million units of one blouse! It would be pretty fabulous.

None of the other PR winners have come close to the industry success you have. Why is that?
You can't be taught taste. That's something that every designer has to have. You also have to support yourself at first, which is a really scary process. I think I'm fun, and I'm super gay and flashy, but I'm actually very business-savvy.

People might not realize it, because you speak in sound bites.
I know. With the new show, I'm sure they were looking for sassy-diva Christian.

Except you weren't as sassy a diva as I expected you to be.
Well, no, because that was me almost two and a half years ago. Now I'm much more serious. It's definitely still me, because I say quirky things, but that's every gay man I know.

You're in league with designers who have a lot more experience than you do. Doesn't it get confusing, trying to learn from them and jostle for your place in the hierarchy?
I totally aspire—there are so many brands that do interesting things, and grow in interesting ways. I like to bring up someone like Michael Kors. His business is ginormous. But it is kind of nice to sell at the same stores that he sells at, and be on the same floor of Saks Fifth Avenue as him.

The combination of aspiration and inspiration seems to be a big theme with you.
Definitely. That's my world. I think, right now, that's the world of fashion, too. You have to have aspirations. You have to be inspired as well.

Having a Moment premieres Mon 5 on Bravo.

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