Here at the Sew News office, we are very devoted fans of Project Runway mentor and fashion expert Tim Gunn. In fact, Editor-in-chief Ellen and I have been trading our favorite “Tim-isms” and comparing notes about the previous night’s PR episode every Friday morning since Season 4 in 2008. So you can imagine how thrilled we were to find out that our Sew it All contributor and Denver friend Stephanie Ohnmacht of Stephanie O. Designs is one of the designers featured in the new Project Runway spin-off show Under the Gunn!
The show is hosted by Tim Gunn and features designers vying for the chance to be mentored by three former PR alums: Mondo Guerra (another Denver talent!), Anya Ayoung-Chee or Nick Verreos. Each mentor helps guide their chosen team of four designers through several challenges until only one designer and mentor remain. There are some pretty spectacular prizes on the line, including $100,000 cash, a Brother sewing and embroidery studio and a trip to Paris. Exciting!
The first episode of the show aired last Thursday, when we found out that Stephanie would have to wait and be in the second group of designers to attempt the first challenge and show off their skills to the mentors in Episode 2. (Watch the full first episode here.) Naturally, we were eager to find out about Stephanie’s experience on the show, so she was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!
SN: How did you get your start in sewing and fashion design?
Stephanie: I started as a 7 year old making clothes for pets and dolls, but once I started competing and winning contests through 4-H, I got really hooked. My mother knew all the basics and together we learned to tackle tailoring and couture techniques. And despite the distractions of college, career, and maintaining love interests, I kept my passion and involvement in fashion and design and started my fashion business in 2007.
SN: How do you describe your personal design aesthetic and vision?
Stephanie: My design style runs the gamut from feminine and flirty to tailored and chic. I combine comfort and style into the sophistication and glamour of being dressed up for day or night.
SN: What was your first thought when you found out you’d been accepted to appear on Under the Gunn?
Stephanie: “What am I going to wear!” and “How am I going to unplug for 6 weeks to film the show?” and “What’s the show going to be like?” The title alone had me worried.
SN: What was your greatest fear about the competition?
Stephanie: I was really worried that I might not be able to design and sew fast enough. In the real world, I like to let ideas marinate and, as a perfectionist, I really pay a lot of attention to details. That all takes time that I wasn’t sure would be available on the show.
SN: Were you nervous about being in the second group of designers for the first challenge?
Stephanie: Absolutely! We didn’t know that the first group was going to be selected by the mentors before we had the chance to present. I was shocked, nervous, and disappointed that 7 of us were left to fight it out for 5 remaining spots. Not the odds I was hoping for.
SN: How did you deal with the time constraints presented by the first challenge?
Stephanie: It is all about settling on a design concept right away and executing as effectively and efficiently as possible. This show is about speed. There was going to be no time to adjust mid-stream with only 6 hours to work.
SN: Were you hoping a particular mentor would select you for their team?
Stephanie: I really was excited about the mentor model but I wanted someone who would challenge me both from a design perspective and provide business insight and strategy that would help me well beyond the confines of the show. Based on that and my understanding of each of the mentor’s backgrounds, my sights were set on Nick.
What’s your favorite “Tim-ism” or piece of advice that Tim gave you and the other designers?
Stephanie: “Stay true to yourself.”
Love that advice! Thank you so much to Stephanie O. for sharing about her experience; we can’t wait to see what she creates in her first challenge on this week’s episode (airing Thursday at 9/8 central on Lifetime). She promises it will be exciting! In the meantime, you can watch a preview here. And get the free tutorial for the adorable T-shirt makeover that Stephanie demonstrated on Season 4 of Sew it All TV! She also designed projects for Volumes 5 and 6 of Sew it All magazine, available at Shop Sew it All. And be sure to check out see Stephanie’s beautiful womenswear collection at stephanieodesigns.com to get a sense of her style. Go Stephanie, we are rooting for you!