(Almost) 20 Questions with Austin Scarlett

The designer dishes on fabulous fashions, difficult traveling and why he loves Santino Rice!

What was the first garment you ever made?

The first design I can remember creating was the robe and wings I wore as the Angel Gabriel for the church Christmas pageant.

Who was your first real client?

My two little sisters were always the perfect models when we were growing up. They certainly had more ball dresses than any other girls their age.

What item are you most proud of designing?

I’ve designed hundreds of sumptuous gowns of the richest silks, most delicate laces and finest hand-embroideries, but I am still quite proud of my little corn-husk dress from the very first episode of “Project Runway.”

Who is your favorite style icon?

It is very difficult to choose just one style icon out of the dozens I adore and idolize, but one of my all-time favorites would have to be Marlene Dietrich. She combined mystery, glamour, hauteur and seduction. She was eternally feminine in beaded gowns and feathered costumes, but she also possessed an androgynous appeal and was one of the first women to make wearing pants chic.

Who are your favorite designers?

Some of my very favorite designers are Cristobal Balenciaga, Madeleine Vionnet, Christian Lacroix, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto and Rodarte.

What is your biggest design influence?


Who is the woman you design for?

Confident, sexy, one of a kind.

Who is the woman you design for?

I design for a woman who desires to express her inner grace — one confident in her femininity.

What is your favorite material or fabric to work with?

A designer choosing his favorite fabric is like a mother choosing her favorite child. I love them all so much it would be impossible to pick one.

What are your favorite pieces in your closet?

My great-grandfather’s WWI uniform, the hat I wore to my first Paris fashion show and, of course, my ermine-and-velvet coronation mantle, part of an old masquerade costume I once made.

If you could design for anybody, who and what would it be?

I would love to design the inaugural gown for the first female president of the United States.

How has your career changed since “Project Runway”?

Since “Runway,” international recognition as a designer has enabled me to see hundreds of my designs produced commercially. It has expanded my opportunities to design for significant artistic and theatrical projects.

Have any of the places you’ve visited for the show reminded you of where you grew up?

The Ozark Mountains in Arkansas did remind me a little of Oregon, especially when we found wild blackberries growing.

Has working on “On the Road with Austin & Santino” changed your outlook or approach to designing?

Of course. I believe as a designer it is important to keep an open mind and a willingness to see each day as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each town, each client creates that different outlook, that different approach.

What are your hobbies besides designing?

When not designing, I love to cook and entertain. I do a little gardening, and, of course, the theater.

Why are you (or aren’t you) easy to travel or live with?

Creature of the night that I am, sometimes I can be a little cranky in the mornings. But I always enjoy discovering new places.

You do so much traveling for the show. What are your on-the-road essentials?

I couldn’t dream of making a move without my five steamer wardrobe trunks, three large hatboxes and my jewelry chest.

What are Santino’s strengths as a designer?

Santino’s talent and creativity never fail to impress me. He has an intuitive flair for color, texture and style.

What are the best parts of Santino’s personality?

Mr. Rice is also absolutely one of the most fun, wild, outrageous, spontaneous people I have ever known, and I love him for it.