Portland Designers Take Over Reality Television

Seth Aaron Henderson takes home the prize for Project Runway All Stars on the same day two more Portland designers are announced for Tim Gunn's new fashion show.

By Eden Dawn January 10, 2014

A look from Henderson's winning collection

It seems Portland is downright unstoppable these days—at least on the reality television front.

For the first time in Project Runway history, a designer has won twice. And he's one of ours.

Last night, Seth Aaron Henderson (who snatched the tiara in the show's seventh season) brought home another title—and a whole lotta prizes—from season 3 of Project Runway All Stars.

In addition to bragging rights, the self-taught Portland designer (and FashioNXT regular) picked up (among other things), the show's traditional "fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine"—and perhaps more importantly, a cash prize of $150,000 and a complete custom sewing studio to launch his winning line into the market.

His impressive final collection wowed the judges to beat out Korto Momolu (Season 5) and Elena Slivnyak (Season 10). Since his win, he’s maintained a presence at Multnomah Village’s Anne Bocci Boutique—where he’s sold clothing since his pre-Runway days—but hasn't blown up the way I originally expected. It’ll be interesting to see what Henderson does with this next level of funding.

If that wasn’t enough news for our local hotbed of indie talent, we’ve taken over Lifetime’s new design competition show Under the Gunn with not one, but two Portland designers.

The show premieres on the January 16, and according to Lifetime: “Tim passes the torch to Project Runway alumni Mondo Guerra, Anya Ayoung-Chee and Nick Verreos, who have shown their prowess on the runway as contestants, but now must prove they have the vision and business savvy to mentor and manage a fashion empire with 15 new up-and-coming designers under their watch. Each mentor will have a team of designers they must manage, coach, cheerlead and, when necessary, knock down with tough love in order to lead them to runway success. This new crop of designers will face the critiques of designer Rachel Roy, celebrity stylist Jen Rade, creator of some of the most iconic red carpet looks in Hollywood, and TV fashion correspondent and Marie Claire Senior Fashion Editor Zanna Roberts Rassi.”

Designer Amy Sim

First up Amy Sim, winner of this year’s FashioNXT’s Emerging Designer competition (and one of my favorite former students), Sim’s bio describes her as:

“The former cheerleader that is friendly, confident and ultra-competitive, and at 53 she has more energy than designers half her age. Amy references classic American sportswear in her flawlessly constructed garments, paying careful attention to fabric and detail.”

Raised with a twin brother in a family of boys, Amy was a pretty blonde tomboy from the very beginning. Her grandmother taught her to sew when she was in the sixth grade, and Amy soon started making her own clothes, constructing cooler versions of the garments her better-off friends were buying at department stores. When a college instructor talked her out of pursuing a degree in fashion, she studied Home Economics instead, got married, had kids, and started her own Jazzercise franchise. But she always kept one foot in the fashion world, working as a catalogue and commercial model for 30 years. After nearly losing her college-football-player son to a sudden illness, Amy realized life is short. She returned to school, finally earning her fashion degree at age 49.”

From first hand experience I can say that Sim’s quality and construction detail is beyond impressive and if the judges don’t see that, I’m going to make some personal phone calls.

Designer Brady Lange

Next up we have Brady Lange (another Ai alum), the type of designer to:

  1. Have a room at Content devoted to a windblown photoshoot with a Beverly Hills 90210 theme
  2. Send male models down the runway in robin’s egg blue suits.

From his show bio: “Brady is good-looking, and he is well aware of it. Describing himself as "the happiest bitchy person you know," he designs fun, bright clothes for the cool kids who stand around waiting to be photographed for a street-style blog.

Brady grew up on a small farm in Montana, where his decidedly non-hippie parents grew all their own food, determined to live off the land. They were a happy family and he recalls a lot of love. Brady learned to sew in high school, but he didn’t think fashion was a money-making career. However when he enrolled at the Art Institute, Brady finally felt at home, realizing he never should have left fashion design.” 

How will Portland fare on this latest design show? (And how many more of these shows can the TV world create?) Find out beginning January 16 on Lifetime when Under the Gunn premieres:

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