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Friday, March 16, 2007

Lighten up, it's just fashion!

Santino Rice has been, without a doubt, the most memorable contestant of Project Runway. With talent like his, you'd have expected him to have already presented several collections, or at least to have launched a successful singing career (anyone else remember that masterpiece entitled "Daniel Franco, Where did you go?"). We chat with Santino about everything from why he's decided to take it slow to his plans for the future (which may even include an appearance on a Broadway production of Project Runway: The Musical. It could happen!*)

How does it feel going from 'Santino Rice, the guy who lives next door' to Santino the Reality-TV star? Did you learn anything from the experience?

Well, this question alone could take up pages and pages of your zine, Amanda. Let me start by saying that I'm a fashion designer, a creative person that has always been an eccentric. Project Runway is more or less a "Reality Show" and yes, I'm a STAAAAAAR, darling, but I look forward to shaking off any label of being a "Reality TV Star". A TV star, sure... Fashion Star, most definitely... and I'd be involved with more TV, if it feels right to me- it's just that Reality TV as a genre has more mediocrity than positive attributes. I've seen what else is happening on other reality shows, shit is pretty wack! I became "The Star" of Project Runway 2 and magazines were saying I was made for TV, and all of this, but I feel like it didn't take much. Read a fucking book you idiots! That's what I want to scream at the TV set! I've learned a tremendous amount of things now, but that was my first time being involved in something like that. The next time will be much more and much funnier. Superlatives personified! I always knew I'd be famous though, that was always in my DNA. This fame, this amount of fame that I have right now though, is bullshit compared to what I envision...but you gotta start somewhere!
I honestly can't imagine you'd think of me as "the boy next door" type, but it's charming... I think that I've got a lot of special people in my life and I'm pretty special to those people as well. I rather fancy the idea of being a Star in real life rather than being a "Reality star".
Did I learn anything? Where to I begin with this one. Yes x 100,000,000! Simplifying your question to just what I've learned from going from anonymity to being a celebrity... I've said before that fame without fortune is annoying. As much time as I thought about it beforehand, you can never really prepare yourself for fame. I learned I made a lot of people a lot of money! You're welcome folks! Wanna buy a dress? People think the show was all fun, fun, fun. but you quickly see that the work you have to try to accomplish in the time frame allotted is so bogus, it's not fun at all. I had to bring the Fun! I was fun for me, everyone got to watch me entertain myself!
Seriously though, I learned a lot about how these shows work. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about human nature. I learned a lot about the media. I learned that ultimately, who I am, is RIGHT and anyone who disagrees with who I am and what I create, and what I say, is WRONG! But on top of that they're none of my concern. And that one is a BIG one! I've always been confident about my ability and my brain. But what I went through, and in many ways that I am still going through, gives me so much solace in knowing I'm RIGHT, I'm O.K. It was more like a reconfirmation, but most importantly it enables me to really live and learn new things and create without caring about the finger-pointers and haters. Those fucks will always be there in your life and mine. Success is the best revenge!

What/who inspires you when you're designing and creating clothing?

God, Nature, and Music inspire me most. I feel that because I'm always soaking up everything around me, constantly reading, constantly learning, and listening. My work and my designs reflect that mix of information. I talk about God in my process because I get ideas and inspiration from "somewhere else" many times and I think it's God talking to me or my guardian angels talking to me...almost like they're saying,"Hey! Look over there, Santino!" and at that split second I see a snapshot of life that inspires a whirlwind of ideas in my mind. Of course, I'm not hearing voices! But I catch little snapshots like that all the time and they're very important to me. As well as when I'm sketching, I often feel more like a conduit and messenger than just drawing the list of ideas that I was wanting to sketch down that day. I start getting ideas from outside my conscious mind. Women and Men are, of course, majorly inspirational to my process as well. A clients personality...physical beauty, all very important to be stimulated on many levels.

What's the most interesting question fans ask you, and how do you answer them?

I don't know if it's so interesting, but more perplexing to me, that many young people ask me, "How did you know that you wanted to be a designer?" It then leads to them telling me of their ambitions to design as well, and I all I can tell them is to just pursue it! If it doesn't work out eventually then try something else. Of course there are plenty of people who's parents have lied to them and told them that they're super creative, or they should be a model, or whatever. But look at Michael Kors! Shit, if he can do it kids, you can too! ha ha... Seriously, even at that, if you really, really, love something, it will show! Whether or not you had a gift for it at birth or not, it will show. And the more you try, the more likely you'll be successful. Persevere, don't half-ass it! But also, look around, look at all the bad clothes that are being sold and all the bad clothes that people are wearing! There's work for you as a designer even if you suck! Sucking at design is obviously working out really well for many designers! Look at Michael Kors.....ha ha ha. I kid, I kid, I don't really think his clothes are so bad, they're just boring and he's just appropriating everything Halston already did. Michael Kors would like you to believe that he invented the mirrored Aviator sunglasses. But shit whatever, Knock 'em dead Mikey!

What's in store for the future, especially with regards to your clothing?

I'm still working on custom one-of-a-kind pieces. It's what I can afford to maintain. I'm in no hurry to try to put on fashion shows. I'm in no hurry to take out huge loans with the bank. I'm still looking for the right deal financially. Still talking to potential investors. It takes a lot of money. I know I can't expect anyone who doesn't work within the garment industry to understand this, but even if I scrounged together enough for 1 collection and doesn't mean I'll be around next season! Then say I get $1 million dollars in orders, which isn't a lot for a fashion house to produce, but it can take $300,000 dollars to produce those orders. I understand viewers see designers on the show and then when the show's over, they're expecting everyone to magically have a dream career and have stores around the world carrying their clothes. Unfortunately for all of the designers on the show it doesn't work that way. The designer's who have been able to do so are fortunate enough to have the means by which to do it, ie: have family money, or took out loans. I recently read an article in New York Magazine about Jeffrey Sebelia and the reporter makes all these ridiculous comments about how "unfortunate" Jeffrey's life is and I'm thinking Jeffrey has more shit going on then anyone from the show! Yeah, yeah, Chloe and Emmett have stores, but Jeffrey has a legitimate fashion brand that was off the ground prior to Project Runway. Jeffrey's famous now, but it doesn't mean you become a millionaire because you were on TV! And what, it's been like 3-4 months for him? Whether people want to be patient or not, it's going to take years, not months! Years, before you start seeing what happens with these designers. Jay McCarroll was, I'm guessing, so frustrated by all the questions of, "Where's your line?" for the past 2 years that he showed a collection 2 seasons ago in New York and I'm thinking, for what? To prove to people that you still exist? Big, expensive show...even if some of it was donated, I feel like it's really unnecessary for a young designer with unsure financial footing to throw a big fashion show! It's not like my ideal client is the same as the demographic of the show. I never thought 1+1= Billionaire! I realized long before that maybe I'd sell a few more dresses because I'm famous but any headway I'd make would be because of me. Having done the show has enabled me a certain amount of freedom as a designer. I'm still very happy of having made the choice to participate on the show. I don't live in the Hollywood Hills yet, but that's really unrealistic to have thought in the first place.

If you decided to be a crime-fighting superhero and got the chance to make your costume yourself, what would it look like? What would it be made of?

I wanted to wear something that crossed a suit of armor with the more traditional ease and range of motion that you get from good ol' Lycra tights. The cape is to fly of course! Who needs a jet; I'm bi-coastal in 30 minutes! The film Excalibur (1981) was a huge inspiration for me. That film has the most beautiful medieval costumes and the chrome and gold metal was ultimately what I decided to fabricate my own superhero costume from. I also quite like the idea of not only being a superhero but also a patron saint of sorts; For those who have been beaten down and discouraged while expressing their own creativity and imagination. The "S" radiates with the passion and love that I feel for my work. Its rays inspire new ideas and create hope in those who feel hopeless and confused. Thanks for asking, I had a great time living out this fantasy! Much Love and Respect!

*Check out what may be Santino's big break into the music industry, "Blow You Kisses" here. For more info on Santino's life after Project Runway, check out his Myspace, blog, and soon-to-be-updated website.

-Amanda C.Q.

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Anonymous Try said...

Just thought I'd stop by and say how much I enjoyed this interview with the fashionable and fabulous Santino Rice. It was informative, funny, and interesting. Santino never fails to amaze me. And I loved the super hero was very original and the costume sketch was hilarious. Job well done.

April 4, 2007 at 8:37 PM  

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