Describe your family.
I have many families depending where I am. My immediate family--my father, mother, sister and I--are very close. We sometimes love so much that it makes us fight, but we are constantly proud of each other. I recognized recently that the one thing that we all have in common besides blood is our inability to recognize our own accomplishments. All four of us are proud of the things we’ve done, but we have an equally humble approach to life. We do what we do because we love it and for no other reason; we don’t act for approval or for respect or appreciation. We simply live to be happy and continue on with that joy. Because that closeness has crossed generations, I am close with most of my cousins. There is a chance I might have to miss my two favorite cousins getting married this summer. It’s difficult to have to make the decision to not go or maybe not be able to afford to go. My father’s grandmother, Great-Grandma Mildred Stephany, passed away at the age of 101 in 2007. She had 6 children, 29 grandchildren, around 80 great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren too many to count. My father just retired after 18 years of serving as the Director of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry Ranger School. The annual summertime alumni reunions have been a major part of my life. The Ranger School family is built into my support system of love and guidance. The town I am from is also very tight-knit. In a town of 60 year 'round, you get very close. We still have the good guys and the bad guys in town, but at the end of the day we all still stand up for the same core values. Then there is my Syracuse family. I was a part of an amazing group of friends that will be together forever. But then there were many subgroups and professors and administrators that I became quick comrades with. When I moved to Milwaukee about 15 months ago I built a new circle of friends out there that I refer to as my Milwaukee family. I was a part of an event that usually brings in 150 people, and over 400 people showed up. That is how big my new family reaches. I know that all of these groups will be glued to the television throughout the season.
I am currently the proprietor of Timothy Westbrook Studio. I am my own boss and look at the space as an artist studio. I have 10 college apprentices who I am training in my studio. My team also includes a Director of Media Relations. We a presenting a fashion show September 21 at the Milwaukee Public Museum, which is essentially Milwaukee’s Museum of Natural History.
The two most unrelated jobs were potentially my favorite. I worked as a housekeeper at Packbasket Adventures, an classic Adirondack lodge in Wanakena, New York, my hometown. After that I worked in the shipping department of a paper mill. It was essentially large-scale retail and an amazing learning experience. Through college I was a TA for various garment construction and “eco-fashion” classes. After graduating I got a job in the alterations department of David’s Bridal and then switched to a non-bridal consultant. In 2012 I was named The Pfister Hotel’s Artist-In-Residence in Milwaukee. For a year I was my own boss, setting the pace for my own projects and challenges. Through that experience I have given lectures about sustainability in the arts at local businesses, colleges, high schools and arts organizations, and at the GreenBiz Forum NYC 2012.
"Imphy Woois." When I was a toddler I couldn’t pronounce “Timothy Louis,” so I would say, "Imphy Woois loves Fwoot Woops (Froot Loops)"--foreshadowing, I’m sure. My mom lovingly calls me "Imphy" whenever she gets the chance. A former co-worker of hers, after hearing the story, loved to call me "Imphy Woois."
When did you realize you had designer potential?
When I was nine years old I spent the entire summer drawing dresses. I have been drawing since I can remember, and my grandmother taught me how to sew when I was nine. I loved to play with my sisters' Barbies, and all of a sudden there was a connection when I was nine. I realized that I didn’t just have to mix and match Barbies' dresses, I can make dresses for them; then I realized that I could make dresses for big people; then I realized that it could be a job.
First garment you ever made?
When I was nine I hand-sewed a dress for a Barbie. When I was in eighth grade I made a gown for a friend for Winter Ball. In 2010 I made my first wedding gown for a private client, worn on 10/10/10.
What's your design training/schooling, etc.?
When I was five my grandmother taught me how to sew. In my sophomore year on high school at Hugh C. Williams High in Canton, I took a “Fashion Design” class where I learned how to use patterns. In high school I interned at the St. Lawrence University Costume Shop under the direction of Sabrina Egeland. Under the direction of Sue Dean I costumed the middle school and high school musicals in my senior year. I studied Fiber Arts and Material Studies at Syracuse University in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Have you won any awards for your designs?
In eighth grade I won Best Male Outfit, Best Use of Materials, and Audience Choice in a wearable-art repurposed-fashion show competition in 2002. I won Best Construction for a repurposed-fashion design competition in September 2012. In November of 2012 I won Staff Favorite in a steampunk costume contest. I won the position of Artist-In-Residence for 2012-2013 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
Strengths as a designer?
I’m ready for anything and I know my voice. I never hear "no," I only hear of one more way I can’t do it, which in the long run means there must be another new solution. I have a naive optimism and a never-ending supply of adrenaline and excitement, passion and devotion to myself, my goals and those around me. I am not competitive. I understand that in order to make yourself look good you should not focus on making others look bad.
Weaknesses as a designer?
I’m young and I have a lot yet to learn.
What are your influences?
I think that the project and the client push the motivation of the project. The Adirondack Mountains have always been an aesthetic inspiration. Ever since I created costumes for "Annie Get Your Gun" in high school I have loved the 1880s. During my time as the Artist-In-Residence at the Pfister Hotel I have been heavily inspired by the Victorian period. Art Nouveau offers a great parallel to the work that I am creating. At the turn of the 20th century Art Nouveau was a rebellion of the rise of the Industrial Revolution and was influenced by and influenced the social reform of women in politics. Now I rebel in the rise of the technological revolution and use symbols to express my feelings in the social reform regarding gay rights. So I would say classical styles and political activism and sustainability influence my work now.
Favorite material or fabric to work with?
Material that other people view as garbage.
Item you're most proud of designing?
Woven cassette-tape cloth.
Sketch or drape?
I don’t see these as opposites.
Patterns or solids?
Depends on the day.
All of them.
Biggest fear as a designer?
Having a real job to pay the bills. I want to create and continue to spread environmental awareness; I do not want a 9-to-5. This is my life; I eat, sleep, and breathe this.
You have to be careful about how you approach this phrase, because on the surface it is an oxymoron. Fashion is generally a luxury. We do not need luxury. Therefore, fashion is not a must. But where fashion is needed is for our individual self-esteem. It is needed for temperature regulation. It can tell a story about your personality. The fashion must is to be sure that your clothing says what you need it to say about you.
Fashion faux pas that drives you crazy?
Other people thinking that they have to dress to please others rather than pleasing themselves.
Ugliest item of clothing/accessory you've worn?
Never regret anything you do in life. If you are true to your spirit in every action, then you can live through “mistakes” and learn from all of your experiences.
Favorite style icon?
What would you design for the first lady?
I would want to hear about her interests and build something from re-purposed materials that tells a story about her past.
Celebrity you wish you could design for?
I would love to design for Kate Winslet, Julia Roberts, Christina Ricci, Joan Rivers, The Pointer Sisters, Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Julie Andrews. I would love to create gala gowns for any of them.
Favorite supermodel muse?
If you had to name your label, you'd call it...
If you weren't designing, you'd be...
Figure skating professionally. I have been figure skating since I was two.
Places/cultures you wish you could design for?
Pre-1500s Native Americans.
Dream place to set up your business?
Websites that feature your work
https://www.facebook.com/TimothyWestbrook, http://blog.invention.smithsonian.org/2013/01/14/its-in-the-details/, http://blog.invention.smithsonian.org/2013/02/21/sound-and-vision/, http://www.thepfisterhotel.com/artist-in-residence/artists/timothy-westbrook.asp, https://www.facebook.com/PaleontologyOfAWoman, http://paleontologyofawoman.eventbrite.com/, http://www.paleontologyofawoman.com/, https://www.artsinmilwaukee.org/timothy-westbrook
How were you described as a kid?
Very energetic, imaginative and independent, in the sense that I was very good at playing by myself. I loved playing dress-up and camping, singing and dancing. I thought I was going to grow up to be a Broadway star and an artist and a veterinarian until I was nine. Then I was going to be a Broadway star/fashion designer.
How are you described by your family and friends?
A ball of energy always moving a million miles an hour. Passionate, focused, loving, devastatingly honest, and kind. I also would say that people would comment highly on my personal integrity.
Why do you think you're easy to live with?
I’m very good at doing what I’m told. The problem is you have to tell me about 20 times so that I remember, if it isn’t something I’m used to doing.
Any place outside in the Adirondacks or my studio.
I love figure skating and unicorns.
Favorite movies and TV shows?
I’m not a big TV person, but I’ve been enjoying "American Pickers" and "Shark Tank." Anything on the History Channel. If I’m working on a particular collection, I will watch documentaries that inspire it. I’ve been watching a lot of dinosaur documentaries lately. If I have something to learn from the show, I will watch it. I generally don’t care for sitcoms. I challenge anyone to a Disney duel, because I have almost every one memorized. I love any good sci-fi movie about the future or fantasy or dystopia. Some of my top movies would include "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," "LOTR," "Underworld Trilogy" and every Disney movie ever. Throw in a few good musicals--"The Producers," "The Sound of Music," "Chicago" and "Cabaret"--in the background of the studio and I could work for days on end.
Ray Bradbury is an incredible science-fiction author. I love his balance of moral conversation and whimsical sensibility to describe dystopian, postwar and technologically influenced versions of the future.
Advancedstyle.blogspot.com and Wikipedia. I am extremely inspired by the Advanced Style blog and I LOVE learning. Wikipedia is a great jumping-off point too.
Your Twitter handle?
Favorite Twitter accounts?
I don’t particularly care for following people on Twitter. I am only on Twitter when I am speaking at events to collect information about who is tweeting about me. I haven’t had much success with people responding to my tweets, so I’m not really sure if I understand its purpose other than spitting out bits of uncurated bits of information.
None of the above. I have a flip phone. I refuse to text. I like having a phone that calls people.
In terms of food it all depends on what I can afford, but no matter what, I would prefer it to be homemade. I’m always joking with people that I don’t do drugs, I don’t even drink caffeine, I only eat Taco Bell and Big Macs. But other than that I don’t really eat fast food. I love spicy food--anything with sriracha or curry. Indian food and Korean food are my favorites. I love grilled moose and a slice of bacon. I’m a milkoholic and love pineapple upside-down cake, lemon meringue pie without the meringue, and any of my grandmother's cooking. My boyfriend is pescatarian and we have been eating a lot of shrimp mac and cheese. YUM.
Beer or wine?
I prefer an amber, a fruity beer or a fruity wheat. I don’t care for IPAs or light beer. I like fruity drinks, but if they are too sugary, no thanks. I am a big fan of red wine and most champagne, but I don’t care for the taste of most white wines.
I am comfortable enough with myself to not be guilty about decisions that I make. I think people who are ashamed of what they like to do are ashamed of a part of themselves. I am proud of all of my interests and do not live with guilt or regret.
Biggest pet peeve?
People who don’t take responsibility for their actions and rather than focusing on how to solve problems blame other people or take out their negativity on others. Bullying.
How did you end up auditioning for PR?
A good friend from the art organization Made in Milwaukee gave my information to one of the casting directors, and one of the casting directors actually reached out to me suggesting I apply. I am excited to bring elements of sustainability and performance to "Project Runway." I would like to see runway shows where the model does more than walk to the end of the runway and back. I think that there is so much more potential.
Favorite past PR designer?
I enjoyed Chris from Season 10 and Jay from Season 1. I enjoyed their techniques, their personalities, their playfulness and approach. They were both final fours, and one won and one did not, but I still look up to both of them and their achievements. The standout looks from each of them were the cotton challenge for Jay, his entire runway collection and Chris’ first two looks. They both brought technical aspects of design that I relate to. After Season 10 aired I actually considered reaching out to Chris to collaborate with him.
Challenge you wish they'd bring back?
I love them all! It’s like “Gotta catch ‘em all.” Some favorites are the garbage challenge, postal challenge, the stilt challenge, the wedding gown challenge, the fine-art challenges and the rockets. They are all fun and whimsical challenges. I would love to see a challenge that incorporates wheelchairs, blind people, amputees, and an opportunity to create a look that will be accompanied by an installation in a museum.
Challenge you hope they don't?
I really love all of the challenges and would be glad to have the opportunity to try any of them.
Your take on team challenges:
I enjoy team challenges because they are based on real-life situations. What I don’t like about them in the show is that the designers have trouble putting their egos aside, and blame their own failures on others. I think that it is difficult to watch teams that work well together end up in the bottom, because it means that they have to send someone home even though they worked well together. I don’t like that the show forces you to speak poorly about your team members. It is very counter-intuitive and counterproductive.
What do you look for in a model?
The model always depends on the look and the story. I’m interested in what their other talents are. It is usually unfortunately expected that people can’t make a living off of modeling only. More often than not, that means that they have other interests and hobbies. What can their life story add to the performance of the clothing presentation?
Do you think you can win "Project Runway"?
Absolutely! I think that I can win "Project Runway" as long as I have the opportunity to create a collection in my own comfort zone with my resources. The series is meant to challenge you and ask you to step outside of a typical working situation. Luckily I’m used to working multiple 15-hour days in a row, with limited construction resources, cameras in my face, and people relentlessly asking me questions about what I’m doing. I think that the next big American designer has to rethink fashion. I don’t think that the next top designer can depend on aesthetics alone. Urban mining is an important facet of material sourcing for any designer of the future