Q&A: Season 12 Winner Dom Streater
Fresh off her victory, "Project Runway" Season 12 champ Dom Streater chatted with me about her favorite challenges, her friendships with her fellow designers, and what it's like to be the first African-American winner in the show's history. Check out the full interview after the cut, and don't forget to tune in for the Season 12 Reunion Special on Thursday at 9.8c. (followed by the premiere of a new season of "Project Runway All Stars" at 10.9c).
You had kind of a low profile during a lot of the season; you’d get good feedback in a challenge but you wouldn't win, or you'd be safe and get no feedback at all. Did that affect your outlook going into the finale?
In the beginning of the season I was on top a few times. Then I was safe for a lot of the challenges. And then I was in the bottom because I was nervous about being safe; I didn’t want to be someone that the judges were like, “She’s neither here nor there. She doesn’t really need to be here.” I was definitely nervous at first. But then toward the end of the season, the last couple of challenges before the finale, I was getting really good feedback from the judges so I was not nervous going into it. I was very confident.
The Season 12 designers had a couple team challenges, but for the most part it seemed like a lot fewer curveballs were being thrown at you guys than, say, the Season 11 cast. For example, you didn’t have a menswear challenge. How did you feel about the challenges you were given?
I never thought it was particularly hard. I know other designers will say the opposite. I had a lot of fun with it. For me, it really was a dream to be in the competition, on the show, so I was very excited every time we got a challenge: “Oh my God! I wonder what it could be?!” It was very fun for me. I do agree, though, that we did not have it nearly as bad as other seasons had it. I was waiting for a menswear challenge, or for something crazy for the finale. I thought the unconventional material was an easy twist, I was like, “Oh, thank God it was just that.” I was expecting them to throw everything at us for the finale. I was convinced we were going to have some crazy insane thing to do, but I guess we just got lucky.
Did you have a favorite challenge? A least favorite?
I loved the bowtie challenge. That was a favorite. I LOVED the HP challenge, obviously. That was probably my favorite challenge the entire season. I had fun that whole challenge, from meeting the founder of Kiva and discussing with him all the work that he does, and all the inspiration behind that challenge; it was joyful. I had a ton of fun. And the avant-garde! I loved my look from that one.
I loved what I did for the Marie Claire shoe challenge, but there are so many other things that I would have done for that. When I was watching I was like, “Oh, I probably could have done this, or I could have gone that direction.” I was like that every time we had a challenge. There are so many different directions you could go, but you have to pick one because you don’t have time to do all those looks. I do wish that I could’ve done something different for that one. I loved the look I created but I do wish I could’ve done something different.
You have a background in textile design, is that correct?
I went to Moore College, which is a school that was founded on textile design. A lot of the textile courses go hand in hand with the fashion courses there. I took a lot of textile courses when I was in college. I became a very textile-oriented designer because of that.
Is that why you gravitated toward using prints as your main focus in your finale collection?
That’s exactly why. I love prints. It’s incredibly hard to find a good print. There’s print diarrhea in fabric stores. Sometimes I go in fabric stores and I can’t believe some of the prints I see. Like, who designed this? Really? Really? Who’s gonna buy – there’s some insane stuff. I got into fashion when I started making clothes for my Barbies because I didn’t like what they were wearing. I’ve always been like that: If I don’t see something I like, I want to make it. And that’s how I am with textiles, too. If I have a vision for something I want it to be as accurate as possible to what I had in mind.
You’re the first African-American to win “Project Runway.” That’s got to be kind of exciting, right?
Yeah! It was never something that was on my mind initially – I didn’t even realize it until the day after, when someone mentioned it. I am incredibly honored. I’m so happy to be the first to do something and to set that example. I personally never thought that I could never make it, but there might be some young women of color who don’t think they can make it in fashion, so I’m glad to be that example better for them.
Of your fellow designers, who did you really connect with?
Justin is actually texting me right now! I talk to Justin all the time. He’s the biggest sweetheart, just the nicest person I’ve ever met. We definitely got really close. I talk to him almost every day. I talk to Helen almost every day. Helen’s an incredibly close friend of mine now. We were roommates [on the show] and we confided in each other; we connected immediately. It was very nice to have her be a sister while we were there. That’s not the kind of friendship that goes away. Helen and Kate – those two are like my sisters.
I don’t know that I didn’t connect with anyone. There were some people who were not there to make friends, like Alexandria. We didn’t get close. It’s not anything personal, I just didn’t mesh with her. But, again, she wasn’t there to make friends, so that’s fine. I don’t blame her! [Laughs]
I’ve been watching the show since the day it came on. I’m sure you’ve seen the crazy seasons where people hate each other. When we got there and were first allowed to talk to each other, it was insane how close we got, and so fast. We connected immediately after we got there. It was nothing I ever expected to happen. It was a nice sense of camaraderie between us. For the most part everyone was very professional. We gave each other constructive criticism all the time. We were very honest with each other. And I think that’s why we got so close: We had respect for each other as designers and as people.
What kind of woman will you have in mind when you design your next work?
I’m working on a fall/winter collection for next year, and hopefully I’ll be able to show that in February. I’m deciding to self-title my collection. I’m really excited. It’s very me, but it’s a new direction that I’m excited for. The woman I’m looking to design for? Ideally, I would love for every woman to wear my clothing, to be a Dom girl! But the woman I’m thinking about lives a real life. She works for a living. She lives in the city. She lives a fast-paced, active life, and she wants clothes that can keep up with her, but that are fashion-forward and exuberant. She likes to wear fun clothing. I’m not a wallflower, I’m not boring, and I don't want my girl to be boring either. That’s the person I think about when I’m designing: Someone who has that confidence, who wants to wear great prints and look amazing in them. That’s what I have in mind when I put my pencil to paper.