Thursdays at 9/8c
Gretchen Jones Sounds Off on Her "Project Runway" Win
by Caitlin Bergmann
Hilariously enough, if you Google your name, gretchenjones.com is one of the top three hits, except it’s “…Writing fiction and other scary things.” The other "Gretchen Jones" probably has her traffic surging through the roof right now because of you. I think you may want to consider a writing career now to capitalize on this.
Gretchen Jones: I was thinking that same thing!
What's the past 24 hours been like for you?
GJ: I feel like I haven’t really had the opportunity to be present with it, to tell you the truth. It’s kind of a whirlwind. I feel like I’m just going to one day sit down and it’s gonna hit me that this all happened.
So, what’s it like to keep the secret that you accomplished this back in February under wraps for so long? Do you just look in the mirror every day until the episode airs and say, “Soon, people will know I’m awesome?"
GJ: Yes! I had to every day be like, “Don’t blow it, Jones! Don’t blow it!”
Did you feel limited at all by the time frame you had to create your collection in? Season 1's designers, for comparison, had essentially five months to do what you guys did in six weeks.
GJ: I anticipated feeling more nervous about it than I ended up being.
Would you have created the same collection or changed anything if you had more time? You had less than one week per look.
GJ: I think what I really learned from the experience, and to be quite honest, the entirety of the “Project Runway” experience, is that I work well under pressure and I also think one of my strengths is that I’m a planner. It's really amazing what you can accomplish if you write to-do lists and break down what you need and what you want. That stuff all really works.
Did you literally give yourself a deadline per garment? “This need to be done in X amount of days, or I need to move on to the next one?”
GJ: What I did, really, was I calculated how many days there were and then I did days per piece. But then every once in a while, I’d be like, “Oh, god. I need a day off.” So it was perpetually evolving and moving. I just got it all done.
This was the chance of a lifetime. It wasn’t even about winning. It was the chance to present [a collection] on such a wide scale and I knew it was imperative to my next set of successes and that was a big deal.
GJ: For me, it’s just a personal, ethical feeling. My moral grounds make me want to design with a conscience – especially because I know that I’m playing into a world that is very “in one day, out the next.” It’s important for me to give back to my environment, just for me, so I know I’m doing that. How I think that will translate through time is with these financial successes, instead of looking at how to make the next step, I can incorporate stronger and stronger practices that maintain that ethical side.
It’s really important to me to use materials that are sustainable and to sustain my local economy. I think we’re failing ourselves as a nation within that. We don’t actually want to pay for things to be made domestically, but we talk about it a lot. It’s important to give back to the community to support it. It’s all a cycle. If we don’t support each other, then nobody gets helped.
It’s really socially top-of-mind right now, especially with this economy. People are responding well to when designers make those choices in their work.
GJ: Absolutely. This isn’t a niche thing anymore. The more we do it and give the modern consumer a choice, the more it will be chosen in the end.
What were your favorite pieces from the collection or looks that had that most personal connection for you?
GJ: That’s a hard question! I think the knitwear faded bodysuit was really special to me because it incorporated three local artisans and sustainable practices outside of my own designs. I was able to support the community that has fostered the growth and pursuits that I have had as a designer.
The hats I designed, I had made by a local milliner. The knitwear was hand-knit by a local knitter. The jewelry was forged for me through a local jeweler. And then I hand-dyed all of the materials for the bodysuit. What that really represents is the embodiment what you can get from your own community.
But, outside of that, I also was in love with my second look, which was the zig-zag dress with the flyaway back. That one to me really embodies the direction that I aim to go with my aesthetic, and that I can still stay bohemian and a little bit … excuse me, “Lady of the Canyon,” as Michael Kors likes to say, while also being more urbane and fashion-forward. And that’s what I hope to do with each collection is to progress while also maintaining my voice.
GJ: It’s pretty crazy! I certainly aim to be a design house. I want to have the opportunity, more than anything, to create what it is that I want to create without boundaries and jewelry is something that I wanted to dive into for a very long time. I wasn’t anticipating it being such a hit and I think for my first time out the gate doing jewelry, how do I not do it now?
The music you used during your show is stuck in my head wherever I walk now, for better or for worse. Did you have that created for you? How important was the music selection?
GJ: I did! That’s a local band I love and support. Their name is White Hinterland and they used a song called “Icarus” that is also on my website. They adapted [it] so I could have the opportunity to share and support love for another artist.
...Are you secretly running iloveportland.com?
GJ: You know, I feel like even though I intend on moving, I certainly want to support those who have supported me. I am an advocate for the art that happens in our own communities. And I am excited to explore all that is happening in New York City when I get there next.
Jessica Simpson received a lot of praise for her feedback last night. She comes from a singer/music background, but she has made quite the fashion empire for herself that people sometimes overlook. What made her a good finale judge and what feedback did she give you that you were perhaps surprised to hear?
GJ: I think there’s a difference between opinion and taste and feedback, really. What made her a valuable choice as a finale judge more than anything was that she has been very successful on a very mainstream level. Her shoes are extremely accessible. Any woman can go to Nordstrom in their local community and get them, and they have relevance to what’s happening in high fashion that’s accessible to the every day woman. Her knowledge in how to play with those things totally came into play with the way she judged. I think she represents a customer that is vital to any designer's success.
What’s next for you? What do you plan on using your winnings on – splurge a little, invest a little, use it toward your line?
GJ: One hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it’s also not a lot of money. After using that to move and to pay off my debt and to get myself into a position where I can focus on other endeavors, I won’t have very much left. I’d like that to be a nest egg for me, outside of my pursuits as a designer.
Are you going to continue with your label, Mothlove, or release clothing under your own name, given your recognition from the show?
GJ: I’m going to let go of Mothlove, at least for right now. I think it’s important for me to capitalize through namesake. That’s how people know me. Hopefully someday I could do a diffusion line that could bring back Mothlove.
My next steps really are continuing to work on my business plan so I can be thoughtful and diligent about my next move. I aim through this experience to have access to a mentorship with a designer similar to Michael Kors. I want to create a design house and have the opportunity to create whatever I want. And I know I have a lot to learn and I need support and mentorship in order to do that. I’d rather be completely thoughtful about my next steps so when I hit the ground running, I’ll have the tools I need to maintain that success. I’d rather take the time to do it with responsibility than straight out the gate, trying to produce quickly and without very much thought.
If I may, I’m quoting from the designer questionnaire you completed back in June, “I’m the whole package … I think what lacks from “Project Runway’s” winners is the embodiment of the next modern American designer, whom [sic] represents well not only on the show, but beyond. And I aim to walk away from this opportunity in a manner that [I] can capitalize not only from the win, but the exposure.” Do you think you accomplished the goal you set for yourself back then?
GJ: I think I accomplished part of the goal. A huge part of what I think being the winner of “Project Runway” really is is the next step. I know I’m going to do my best, not only for myself, but for that which got me here – and that is “Project Runway.” I couldn’t be given the opportunities that hopefully will come my way without that platform and taking such a big risk. And I really do believe I am the full package.
My clothing and accessories are the embodiment of where modern fashion is going, and I think I am the embodiment of a huge revolution in the fashion industry with the type of designers that are coming out there. The designers that I admire are young, modern women that are creating clothing for their community and I think that’s absolutely something I can access.
Was there ever a moment where you thought to yourself, “I might not win this thing” as you were standing on that stage? What’s that beat like right before Heidi says, “You’ve won ‘Project Runway'"?
GJ: I just kept visualizing me winning. I am a firm, firm believer in the power of thought and the law of attraction and visualization. For me, I knew I wanted it. It was just a matter of visualizing how it was going to happen, and it did, and it made a huge difference.