Fashion designer Kevin Christiana is the antithesis of fashion. That's because he's not into the usual hobnobbing, fake flattery, and hype that goes along with the territory.
I met him a couple of years ago at an opening night Fashion Week party. After a couple hours of the enforced socializing, he was already over it, and eager to sneak away to a dive bar. Like the down-to-earth New York world he inhabits, Kevin is a designer who would rather create clothes for real men and women out on the streets rather than costumes for runway models. Coming from a large Sicilian family and raised in New Jersey, he's an instantly likeable guy whose passion for the craft is overwhelming, two qualities that will go far in his success in this business.
You most likely know him as the contestant who left the show too early on Season 4 of Project Runway, aka the best season of PR ever. And recently you've seen him as Rachael Ray's personal "Style Buddy," featured regularly on her show. While other PR alumni may have evaporated into the nether, Christiana has been working hard ever since. Recession be damned, he's launching not one, but two new lines this fall. And it's finally his turn to take the spotlight.
So what has life been like after Project Runway?
It's an interesting dichotomy of truly amazing and very challenging. There were a lot of viewers during Season 4, which helped build a large fan base for me. It's remarkable to have the recognition after 12 years of designing; it's breath taking.
My next challenge after PR has been the launching of two lines for my specific fan base. My fans have such a wide range from young kids, who are avid PR watchers, to The Rachael Ray Show audience
Tell us about your jean line. Why separates it from other jean lines?
There are two lines launching for Fall 2009:
1. Christiana Zinn is a high-end line for "women of all sizes," created from a contemporary designer partnered with the Zinn family, who have captured and embraced the special sizes market for over 30 years. This is not a market that gets a lot of attention, so we are catering specifically to this market and going to capitalize on what other designers are missing out on.
2. Mynt 1792 Women's and Men's Lifestyle Brand:
On the men's side the target is professional athletes, ex-athletes, chefs and young working professionals . Basically, guys with real bodies! The launch will include jeans and soft tees. The men's line will develop further; Fall 2009 is just a taste. I see a lot of men who like wearing premium denim, but run into the problem where the jeans are too tight or too loose. Mynt 1792 is the perfect fit!
For the ladies: Tailored women's denim with an edgy twist, consisting of: core denim, unique novelty denims with some funky tasteful embellishments. Amazing novelty jackets will come in: military, motorcycle, boyfriend jackets, prep school blazers, Balmain-inspired jackets etc....
How does it feel to launch two new lines during a recession?
Well, both lines are reasonably priced (under $200)...so, we shall see.
The perfect look for the American woman on a budget: How would you dress her?
Pick key items like jeans, blazers, fun short jackets, pencil skirts and black pants. Mix and match the key items and update the look with shoes, accessories and a little bit of color. I guarantee a simple tank or tee paired with any key piece listed above with a new bauble or color will go from drab to fab!
How can women still look fabulous and fresh without spending a lot of money?
Take some of the clothes in your closet and update them by changing the buttons, adding embellishments, shortening jackets, cropping sleeves. The tailor can be cheaper than buying new clothes.
You spent a lot of time in China developing your line. Tell us about that. Would it have been possible to have made the jeans solely in the U.S.?
The factories and washing facilities in China are truly amazing and so are the people. I felt like a little kid in a candy store seeing all of the new technology. There will be some production in the states but if all the production was local, the price point would skyrocket and the lines have been created with retail and consumer friendliness. I feel in this economy, it's just as important to help retailers draw traffic into their stores by giving them a premium product at an affordable price point. That being said, we still support the small factories here in the U.S. by manufacturing a lot of the samples through small production runs and custom made items.
What is the biggest challenge for a new designer?
Mixing the designer in me with the business side. Trust me I'm still learning!
What was your last big splurge?
Dinner for my Mom on Mothers Day!
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about money?
Money can come and go, so try not to go crazy spending it all -- learn to save!
Christiana Zinn will be available nationwide in department stores and Mynt 1792 will be available in select boutiques this fall.
For Kevin Christiana, the Project Runway payoff is finally here