Friday, November 1, 2013

A Conversation With Dom Streater - Project Runway Season 12 Winner

This week I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Dom Streater, Project Runway's most recent winner. Unfortunately I wasn't able to record the conversation verbatim, but I excitedly took a billion and one notes. She had so much to share and now, I'm sharing it with you. So let's jump right in!

Jordan Cathleen: How was designing a collection different from the previous challenges?
Dom Streater: It was a lot of pressure to be able to tell my story right. It was definitely the ultimate challenge. Of course a lot more stress than usual because it's had to create a 12 piece collection in just six weeks!

JC: I can only imagine! I read that your favorite piece from the finale collection was the long sleeve dress with the cowl back. Is there a least favorite?
DS: I wouldn't say there was a least favorite piece. I made a lot of garments and went to a very selective process to narrow it down to everything that you saw in the collection. I honestly love every piece that I sent out.

JC: You touched on it a bit, but in more detail can you describe your design process?
DS: It all starts with inspiration. I usually have a good feeling of what will be "in" the next season. Also, I write a lot! I have just tons of descriptive words scribbled on my paper. After that I get into the sketching a developing a color palette and silhouettes. Then comes the prints. I can properly design a print if I don't know what silhouette I'm working with. It has to be proportionate. Then I get to design the print in photoshop and have it sent out to be made into a textile. Then I can get to work.

JC: Wow. I always knew it took a lot of work, but I never stopped to think about how much work goes into it.
DS: (Laughs) Yeah, it can be a bit much.

JC: (Laughs) I can see that! So how has Philadelphia influenced you as a designer?
DS: It influences the type of woman I design for. Everyone is always on the go, hopping on and off the subway. I design clothes that are made to be worn in the city, from day to night. My clothes are for people with an active lifestyle. Movement is my main thought when I design. I ask myself, "Will it work?" If it's not something I could wear in the city, I don't do it.

JC: So you focus on functionality?
DS: Exactly!

JC: Being a city girl myself I can appreciate that. So Philadelphia may not be a fashion capital like New York, but in your opinion is the fashion scene here growing?
DS: Definitely! I noticed this while I was in school. Over the past few years, interest in fashion has blown up. It's becoming a regular part of our lives.

JC: The majority of my readers are women my age (20, not much younger than yourself). Explain where all of your confidence comes from.
DS: Well, I'm just a naturally talkative person so it's easy for me to jump right into things. Besides, it's required as a designer. You have to have tenacity in this industry. Plus I've never been the type of person concerned with other people's opinions. The only thing that should matter is your own.

JC: Was there ever any point during the competition where you doubted yourself/your ability to win?
DS: No, not really. There were definitely moments when I was stressed, tired, and exhausted! I went in saying, "I want to win." I wouldn't do it if I didn't think I could win. That just seems like a waste to me.

JC: I really like that perspective and you're right, it does seem like a waste of time if you aren't going into something with that mentality.
DS: Exactly. It's like, so what are you doing then?

JC: Alright, I'm sure you have a ton of favorite pieces that you made during the competition, but what is your favorite garment previous to Project Runway?
DS: Previous? Oh wow.... Well there's this chiffon dress I made that used two textiles that I hand-pieced together. That was the first time I realized I could mix textiles. It's funny because you can't really teach that. You're just born to have an eye for textile design; it's not really something that can be developed. That's actually still one of my favorite pieces.

JC: Favorite garment during the season?
DS: Definitely the avant garde challenge. It was perfectly made, both in construction and design! I absolutely love that look. I'm really glad that the judges saw the hard work that I put into it.

JC: Most fun challenge.
DS: (Laughs) The HP challenge!

JC: (Laughs) I figured you would say that. Most difficult challenge.
DS: The first challenge, definitely. It's like you watch the show and you know it's difficult, but you really have no idea. The pace is insane and it was definitely a shock. The first and second challenges I really struggled with time management.

JC: How long is the season in real time?
DS: Six weeks!

JC: Oh wow, that's insane! So what experience has developed you most as a designer? (Your education, specific life event, etc.)
DS: Um well there was no one moment. I remember in high school when I was starting to apply for college, I was going to study marine biology. I was talking to my counselor about what I liked to do and fashion came up. I made the decision to pursue fashion and never looked back.

JC: How did you seem to stay above the drama this season?
DS: This was a huge opportunity. I had been looking for a job in the industry for months after graduation. I knew this was my one chance at fashion so I wanted to remain professional throughout the competition.

JC: Is there any one person who helped you the most on the show?
DS: Helen. She was my closest friend. We bonded, confided, and helped each other. We can't talk to family, no phone, no computer. We're completely shut off. She was my shoulder to lean on and I was her shoulder to lean on.

JC: You and your model also seemed to have a pretty good relationship. Did she help you as well?
DS: I love my model! She was the perfect model: perfect personality, beautiful. Plus she was intuitive to the judges' point of view. You know when they get a closer look at the clothes? She would come to me with extra feedback from the judges. Plus she was so beautiful so I wanted to design feminine, elegant clothes to match her personality.

JC: You are such a motivated, passionate person. What message can you give to my readers on pursuing their own dreams?
DS: To not give up. It's very easy to get discouraged. It had been three years since graduation and I still didn't have a job in my field. I had to work at an animal care center and waitress. You have to stick to your guns. Now, I can wake up doing what I love. Besides, it's supposed to be hard; you're supposed to struggle. It makes you that much stronger.

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Dear Jordan,