If you have been living under a rock for the past few days, then maybe you haven’t heard the news. Another designer from our neck of the woods has won Project Runway. So three of the show’s eight winners have been plucked from our regional talent pool. My fledgling math skills put that at around 40 percent, so I am wondering if the show could just be called Project Portland. We managed to catch up with new winner, Gretchen Jones, to answer some burning questions.
Q. This has been quite a ride for you! Right now if you had to do it all over again would you say yes?
A. You know…I would!? Even though it was the hardest experience of my life and came with its highs and lows, I know [deep down in my heart] that it was worth the risk. I am stronger than I would have ever known and learned so much about my capabilities, that alone is priceless, let alone the much needed exposure and connections I now have because of it. I know that now, because of being on the show, I will reach every dream I have ever dared to dream.
Q. We all know that reality television is manipulated into stories. Do you feel that you were accurately portrayed at all?
A. Its all about context. Rarely do we all openly discuss how we feel about ourselves and others. Rarely do we have spotlights on our every action. Even more rare do we expose ourselves to others in such a raw way, ready to be exposed and vulnerable…I believe that I, in an environment so completely foreign and challenging, stayed true to myself. A part of the risk of participating in something like this is to let go of the control of representation. And this was only a mere fraction of a representation into who I am.
What I hope is that I was able to represent myself as thoughtful, informed, honest and kind, but fiercely competitive and talented. You have to be in this industry. And then you [or I] have to let go…
Q. Working under those stress levels, time constraints and sleep exhaustion seems like it would be very detrimental to the creative process. Do you think your designs were compromised because of that?
A. I think it absolutely had an effect. The experience is draining on all levels and by the end, I knew I needed time to digest all my critiques, rest and recharge- emotional, physically, mentally AND creatively.
Q. What singular piece would you say you are most proud of from the challenges?
A. Man! That is tough…I honestly think it’s a tie between the Jumpsuit from the Marie Claire challenge [because for me, it was reflective of breaking boundaries for my own abilities as a designer] and The Zigzag dress from the finale [as it reflects where I am going as a designer] I would and will wear both of those pieces time and time again. I think a lot of women would.
Q. What do you think about the pretty consistent presence of Portland designers on the show? Coincidence, or are we claiming our rightful piece of the design world?
A. I do believe and always have believed in the community of designers here in Portland. There is a lot of talent in this town. The beauty within the modern fashion industry is that there is room for all different types of business approaches- from hand craft/local all the way through to high fashion/international labels. Portland will remain unique and special as it houses a community of designers akin to the same intimate approach. And I think that’s why it is so special.
Q. Finally, what’s on the horizon for you and how can we get our Gretchen fix?
A. I have moved away from Portland already. En route to New York, as I realized through this experience that I have many more ambitions to pursue. My goals are lofty and it is time to take the next step and reach for the ‘big’ dreams. I intend on finding a luxury brand mentorship, exploring styling and writing and honing my skills so I can sometime soon launch my own high-end brand.