Bring us up to speed!
Andy South was launched right after Season 8 and was picked up immediately by Neiman Marcus, Honolulu. We will be launching our third season in store this October! I have also opened my own manufacturing facility here in Hawaii after going to China, New York and L.A. to find factories to work with. I decided to use my own skill and train my own technicians to produce contemporary clothing competitive with that of other larger designer brands while remaining in Paradise. And in the windstorm that my life has become since the show, I have also decided to live my life as a woman, transitioning to my core-identified gender. I hid it while I was on Season 8, but after garnering immediate success as a new business owner, I knew that I needed to be completely happy, and that meant making my transition. I have changed my legal name to Ariyaphon, a name given to me by my own mother; Ari for short. I am very happy to have had a full life and success as Andy, and that I get to continue my journey as Ari. It is never about becoming someone else, but becoming who you are. I realized that it would be a life lived in the public eye, and I like that I can change people’s perception of what it means to be transgender.
What garment from your season of "Runway" do fans compliment you on the most?
Party Glitter challenge! The ribbon dress. Fans here in Hawaii always request the resort piece, where we had to let someone else construct our look. The Heidi Klum for New Balance mini collection, and also the pleated 11th look for Fashion Week. I do my best work under pressure and I started to fight it, thinking I should be a little more organized and ahead of the game, but in the end I realize that my way of working is MY way of working. If anyone had criticism of how I always worked until the last second, they can take a turn in my shoes—well, my heels now, hah!
What do you think you are best remembered for from your season?
That party store dress! It will never die! Hehehe!
Who has been your favorite client to design for?
My ready-to-wear customers that wear Andy South. I have held back on doing as much custom work to focus on the brand. I want my work to reach real people.
What celebrities would you love to dress?
Angelina Jolie, Nicole Scherzinger, Ciara. They are all talented celebrities that I admire for both their work and their light and character outside of work.
What are your strengths as a designer at this point in your career?
I am now a businesswoman. I understand how to take my often-extreme creative ideas and apply them to contemporary retail. I still push the boundaries even in commercial fashion.
How has your design aesthetic changed since your time on the show, if at all?
My finale collection was me at a changing time in my career. It was almost the extreme softer side of my design, and now I have found a way to blend the warrior woman that you saw in the beginning of the show with the sophistication you saw toward the end. I often say that my designs reflect what I am going through and experiencing personally. There was a time that I was hiding and always felt like I had to fight in order to compete, resulting in really hard, almost S&M looks, and now I have grown into the woman that I am, and my work reflects that. I understand what women want and what men want to see them in.
What are your favorite pieces/staple items in your closet?
My leather jacket. I got it after Fashion Week, and it has become my second skin. And also a soft linen button-down that I wear almost every day. I never realized that I developed a sort of uniform until I saw it in retrospect.
Which fashion rule do you think is begging to be broken?
All of them. I hate rules.
How do you choose what to pack for "All Stars"?
You definitely bring 12 runway looks, one for each challenge. And flat shoes. Bring the glamour and the comfort too, "show up and show well."
What "Project Runway" challenges do you think are the best and worst of all time?
I always love the unconventional challenges. And the challenges where we get to work with other designers, real women, or businesses. They are the most challenging.
Who is your favorite fellow "Project Runway" designer from any season?
My favorite has always been Christian Siriano. He is the only one who has established himself as a designer and has grown to be able to stand on his own as a brand. Many designers never outgrow the "Project Runway" celebrity, and there is a need to branch off as your own entity while remembering that "Project Runway" was a huge stepping-stone along the way. There are many more dreams to make come true after our time on the show. "Project Runway" has definitely given me very much publicity and a PR boost that I could not have gotten so quickly on my own.
What goes through your head when you see yourself on television?
I can’t watch. I have grown so much since we completed filming. Sometimes I will watch and it is almost nostalgic, because I see a much younger Andy. I sometimes watch my original audition, and I think how far I have come. It is always a proud moment to see yourself , both in successes and in stumbles.
What is the one thing fans still would be surprised to find out about you?
Probably that I have dealt with gender identity before my time on "Project Runway." Hopefully they will realize that we all have lives much greater and deeper than the moments you see on television.
What makes you All-Star material?
I am coming back to "All Stars" when I am in a place where I have grown personally and professionally. I know my self and my work much more now that I have had time to build my brand.