Miranda Levy

Age 29, Milwaukee, WI - Out Episode 7
out

Describe your family.

My father was in the military and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. We grew up with very little, but my mom was very creative and my dad worked hard to make sure we always had enough money for groceries so my mom could make us a home-cooked meal every night. A lot of family tension strained my parents' relationship, which resulted in their divorce when I was in high school. The fortunate outcome of this was a closer bond between my two younger brothers and me. Being the oldest, I felt that Dustin and Chris both became my responsibility. My mom later remarried and had my little sister Kaitlyn, who is the coolest gal ever! My youngest brother Dustin passed away in a car accident three years ago. Losing him has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. He was my biggest fan, but would tease me that if I couldn’t make it as a designer that I could still get a job with him at McDonald's. He always told me that he was proud of me, like a child to a parent, and I honestly never knew how much I relied on his encouragement. I promised him that I would be showing my work in NYC by the time I was 30. I hope that I can prove him right, because I am not cut out for working in fast food. Through the tragedy, my humorous and loving memories of him continue to push me to live each and every day to the fullest, and fully appreciate the people in my life that I care about most. I have learned to slow down enough to enjoy the relationships that I have. I have been fortunate to have my boyfriend, Michael, by my side through it all and consider him my closest family member. He has been with me through the tears, pushed me to follow my dreams, made me laugh when I was stressed and still loved me through it all. If that’s not family, I don’t know what is.

Current occupation?

I am the gallery curator of Milwaukee’s Tenth Street Gallery, teach at the Art Institute Of Wisconsin and just finished a contract position as a color specialist for Kohl’s Corporate.

Past jobs?

I was a mechanic in the Army, picked strawberries when I was 13 years old, cleaned hotel rooms, was a librarian for the UWM art library, did preschool photography and was a day-care teacher, among many other things.

Pets?

I have a cat and her name is Meow Meow, although she doesn’t recognize that name and only responds to the sound of cat food being opened.

Nicknames?

My family and closest friends call me Mir. My childhood nickname was Twanky, because I was cranky and the only way to make me happy was to feed me Twinkies.

When did you realize you had designer potential?

When I was a little girl I would sketch clothing designs, but being from a small town it seemed like a one in a million chance that I could ever actually achieve that as a career. A friend of mine and I would make videotaped talk shows where we would make funny outfits, critique each other's designs and tell people what they should and shouldn’t wear.

First garment you ever made?

In college, I made a vinyl swimsuit made out of suction cups. The project was to create a superhero costume, and I decided that my superhero power would be the power of adhesion.

What's your design training/schooling, etc.?

I went to UWM for Fine Arts with an emphasis in Photography and Fibers.

Have you won any awards for your designs/work related to design?

I won some grants for fibers-related projects in college before I went headfirst into fashion design.

Strengths as a designer?

I enjoy making fun colorful garments that borrow from classic silhouettes and shape but still flatter a modern woman. I can think outside of the box and still stay true to my aesthetic.

Weaknesses as a designer?

I am self-taught, so sometimes I break rules that I didn’t know existed and I sometimes do things the hard way, but I absorb new ideas like a sponge and still have room to improve.

What are your influences?

Having worn a military uniform for 8 years while in the Army, I’m definitely influenced by military garments and the concepts of uniforms. I’ve also been really interested in post-WWII fashion and the classic style of American women during that era.

What's playing on your iPod when you're designing?

The Andrews Sisters, Buddy Holly, Dolly Parton, The Ditty Bops, The Rolling Stones, The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Die Antwoord.

Favorite material or fabric to work with?

Wool, cotton and leather.

Item you're most proud of designing?AI created a beautiful, elegant long coat from a wool blanket I purchased from a military-surplus store in Chicago. It’s the exact opposite of the utilitarian item that I used to keep warm in the barracks every night.

Favorite designer(s)?

William Morris, a wallpaper designer. Franck Sorbier and Christian Dior are probably my favorite fashion designers.

Sketch or drape?

Both.

Patterns or solids?

Both.

Favorite colors?

Kelly green, yellow, black, red and tangerine orange. Pretty much every Pantone color except for Transparent Yellow (#11-0617).

Biggest fear as a designer?

Sewing over my finger with my sewing machine.

Fashion must?

Shoes. Lots of shoes.

Fashion faux pas that drives you crazy?

I can’t stand being referred to as a fashionista.

Ugliest item of clothing/accessory you've worn?

My boyfriend finally talked me into retiring what he referred to as my collection of grandma dresses.

Favorite style icon?

Bettie Page. Madonna. Marilyn Monroe. Twiggy. Mick Jagger. Jackie O. Richard Hell. Patti Smith.

What would you design for the First Lady?

I would design her a white pencil skirt with a cropped jacket.

Celebrity you wish you could design for?

CM Punk, if he wore more than just underwear, and Yolandi Visser. Yolandi would get high-waist white leather pants and a crop top with a cool print design on it.

Favorite supermodel muse?

Edie Sedgwick.

If you had to name your label, you'd call it...

Miranda Levy.

If you weren't designing, you'd be...

Sleeping eight hours a night.

Places/cultures you wish you could design for?

I wish I could design dresses during the 1940s.

Dream place to set up your business?

This is a tough question. Milwaukee feels like home and it always will. I’d ideally like to become successful wherever opportunity carries me and return home as often as possible.

Websites that feature your work?

www.mirandaklevy.com, www.facebook.com/mirandaklevy, www.twitter.com/mirandalevy

How were you described as a kid?

My mom says: “You were an energetic little go-getter just like you are now. You've been multitasking since you were two.”

How are you described by your family and friends?

My boyfriend says: “Miranda is the most motivated, strongest woman that I’ve ever met, and I’m excited that the world will be able to fall in love with her the way I have.”

Why do you think you're easy to live with?

I don’t think I’m easy to live with, because my studio takes up half the living room, I’m messy, and when I’m on deadline I get moody.

Favorite hangout?

Thief Wine Bar and Nana Asian Fusion in Shorewood are our favorite neighborhood spots.

Hobbies?

I enjoy screen-printing, embroidery, knitting, shooting guns and cooking.

Favorite movies and TV shows?

Old Technicolor films, zombie movies, Kubrick and Hitchcock films, "City of Lost Children," "Amelie," "Dexter," "Six Feet Under" and "Metropolis."

Favorite books/authors?

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith was the last book I had time to read completely.

Favorite websites?

Pinterest. Spoonflower. TED Talks. What You Missed In History Class. Google Image Search.

Your Twitter handle?

@mirandalevy

Favorite Twitter accounts?

@projectrunway

iPhone/Android/Blackberry?

iPhone.

Fast food or gourmet?

Gourmet.

Cooking or takeout?

Cooking.

Favorite foods?

Cheese, strawberries, chocolate, sushi, pho.

Beer or wine?

Wine… Sorry, Milwaukee!

Guiltiest pleasure?

Thrift shopping.

Biggest pet peeve?

People smacking their food.

How did you end up auditioning for PR?

This was my third time trying out and third time going through the initial interview process. I didn’t expect to even get a callback the first time, let alone actually end up on the show. I’d decided that if I didn’t make it on this year, I wasn’t going to allow myself to get heartbroken by PRW casting again.

Favorite past PR designer?

Mondo.

Challenge you wish they'd bring back?

The city inspiration challenge is something I have good ideas for.

Challenge you hope they don't?

Is this a trick question? I’m sure I’d curse myself if I picked something.

Your take on team challenges:

I think I’ll be good at team challenges. My military experiences taught me how to be a good leader and how to follow leadership as well.

What do you look for in a model?

I love gaps in teeth, so if a model has a gap, she gets my vote; and if she’s awkward, that’s even better. I like quirky girls.

Do you think you can win "Project Runway"?

Yes, I made it through boot camp. This is like boot camp without someone screaming in your face at 4 am…or maybe it will be like that. I guess we’ll find out. After 8 years of the Army, this should be a cakewalk.