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The official site for "Project Runway" Season 13 offers video, designer portfolios, Rate the Runway, blogs and more.
Nzinga Knight

Nzinga Knight

Age 33, Brooklyn, NY - Out Episode 1
  • Nzinga Knight's Closet Tour
  • Nzinga Knight's Home Visit
Q&A Nzinga's Take
QDescribe your family. AI come from a large family. Education, healthy living, creativity, spirituality, religion and travel is important to us. My parents are from the Caribbean and South America. My mother is Guyanese and my father is from Trinidad. They came to the US as teens and have been married since they were 20 and 21. I have 5 lovely sisters spread out across the world. My family lives across the world, in the Caribbean, South America, Europe, the Arabian Gulf and North America. Most of my relatives are either Christian or Muslim. We are a happy, loving, kind and easygoing family; both to each other and to people we engage with.
QPast jobs? AMarc Jacobs Collection intern, production associate at Jones NY, designer, freelance consultant and production coordinator, fashion instructor at Pratt Institute, makeup artist/color specialist at Sephora, museum tour guide at the Studio Museum in Harlem, peer educator -- my very first job when I was 16 was educating teens about HIV & STD prevention and abstinence.
QNicknames? AFamily and close friends call me Zingy sometimes.
QWhen did you realize you had designer potential? AI first knew I had designer potential when I took my first basic sewing and pattern-making class at FIT. Even though my instructor hadn't taught many techniques I came up with really cool designs – interesting peplum jackets with tripunto techniques – and really maximized and expanded upon my skills. From there I applied for fashion schools and transferred from the fine art program at Pratt Institute to the fashion design program. My mom first knew I had designer potential when as a kid I'd sketch shoes realistically.
QFirst garment you ever made? AA dress for a wedding I attended.
QWhat's your design training/schooling, etc.? APratt Institute, BFA fashion design, on-the-job training and lots of experimentation on my own.
QHave you won any awards for your designs/work related to design? AYes, CFDA Best of School fashion design award, DCA and NYFA grant for design work, Elevate Culture grant, Citi-Group Power Up Business Competition grant.
QStrengths as a designer? ACommunicating my ideas, cultural sensitivity, research, pattern-making, sewing, draping, 3D design.
QWeaknesses as a designer? AEstimating how long it will take to complete a garment.
QWhat are your influences? AMy influences in the past have been designers like Vionette, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, historical events, fine art, my travels, films, New York and nature. My current influences are performers, celebrities, fashionistas, street style, Sheikha Mozah... lots of street fashion. I love looking at what Indonesian fashionistas are wearing, Middle Eastern Gulf style. I love looking at Asian soap operas, African soap operas like “An African City,” and seeing how the African designers are fusing traditional fabrics with modern design. I look at everything- gallery exhibits, magazines. I look at shows like “Basketball Wives” (a guilty pleasure) to see the kind of twist, flair and extra something some of the women like Malaysia give to high-end designer clothing. I'm currently inspired to create pieces that will give women amazing street style and special-occasion style. I'm ultimately interested in making women look cool, elegant, edgy and individual. My aesthetic is evolving and I'm asking myself, “What do I want to wear when I need to show up looking fierce?” I'm creating scenarios and examining people that embody what I think fashion is at its best and designing into that.
QWhat's playing on your iPod when you're designing? AYou mean my iPhone? :) Music by Phantogram, Rihanna, Beyonce, LaBelle, Janelle Monae pandora station, La Roux, Nero, Wale, Sneaker Pimps, Bjork, Sun Ra, Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Amy Winehouse, Thelonious Monk, Madcon, Kito & Reija Lee, Satigold, MGMT, Phoenix.
QFavorite material or fabric to work with? ASurprisingly, my favorite fabric to work with is cotton. It is the easiest and very comfortable. But I don't use it much in my work because I have focused on evening-wear. For my wardrobe though, I use it. My second favorite fabric which I use most and handle well is chiffon. It is the most difficult but I enjoy it because it is so delicate, pliable and emotive.
QItem you're most proud of designing? AThe Twareg gown is the item I'm most proud of designing. It's beautiful, flattering, edgy, modest and modular- it has a drape that can turn into a scarf. It's been one of my best-selling gowns and it's sold across the U.S. and Dubai. This gown is so great it's been copied across the world. There are companies based in Indonesia, India, China and California claiming to sell it and it has influenced companies in Dubai to do a knock-off version. Though I wish to get the money from my designs myself, and I fear what the knock-off version looks and feels like, on the upside I can say that my designs (and this design in particular) have been influential. The fabric I used, silk jersey, is extremely soft and comfortable, yet once again not easy to work with. The drape was also difficult so it's a proud achievement.
QFavorite designer(s)? AChloe, Pamella Roland, Muccia Prada, Givenchy, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Martin Margiela, ThreeAsfour, Valentino, Bishme Cromaterie, Marchesa. There are many both established and up-and-coming!
QSketch or drape? ASketch. I sketch first thing in the morning, typically because I'll have some new ideas.
QPatterns or solids? ASolids & patterns. Most of my recent work has been with solids but I actually love prints and plan to use them more in my work.
QFavorite colors? ABlack, violet, pink, royal blue, aubergine, hunter green, freesia, mint green.
QBiggest fear as a designer? AMy biggest fear as a designer is not growing, and I fear ever giving up. While working my biggest fear is damaging a garment by cutting into the fabric while getting rid of stray threads.... nightmare!
QFashion must? AA great and dramatic coat, preferably a cape! Blouses that work in numerous ways- for work, for being out on the town, etc. Jumpers... I love a great jumper!
QFashion faux pas that drives you crazy? AFlip-flops! THOSE ARE NOT SHOES!!!, older women wearing mini-skirts, older women starving themselves to have a 20-year-old’s body and wearing her 20-year-old’s clothes but ultimately looking terrible and insecure, overly sensible shoes, ill-fitting bras that make the wearer’s boobs bubble under her clothes- ewww!, granny panties, any self-care (beyond putting on lipstick or gloss) in public, mom jeans, wedge sneakers... they're over!, anything that looks like Scarlett O’Hara would wear it, all of these sheer styles in which women wear granny panties under them.... just weird!, overuse and misuse/abuse of leggings, sheer paneled gowns, peek-a-boo couture and finally, any look in which I can't tell whether the woman is a prostitute or not.
QUgliest item of clothing/accessory you've worn? AI had – well, let's tell the truth, still have -- these pretty ugly Diesel snow boots, they're like a sneaker/ snow shoe hybrid. I loved them when I got ‘em in college and they're amazing for keeping my feet warm and NYC winter storms have nothing on them. I probably wore them past their trendy stage when they were just straight-up ugly but I stood by them for their functionality and oddness. Haven't worn them in years but if I ever need them they're there.
QFavorite style icon? AHH Sheikha Mozah. She's super-stylish, royalty, exceptionally intelligent and accomplished, and the most important person in the art world. To know of her is transformative. I hope to meet her, know her, design for her and work with her one day soon- insha'allah.
QWhat would you design for the First Lady? AI designed a gown for the First Lady which I posted on my social media. I actually drew it on her as if she and President Obama were going out and she's wearing it. She hasn't worn any of my designs... yet. I'd design a great gown for her and I'd love for her to wear one of my gowns to one of her formal events or the White House Eid celebration. It's a goal that I have for this summer, and if not this summer then next summer.
QCelebrity you wish you could design for? AIt might be strange to say but I'm not really into celebrities like that... but if I had to choose it'd be Rihanna because she can wear anything and she seems like a cool yet strange person. She knows how to look like a star with or without glitz and glam. She's also Caribbean like me and we have similar complexions, same height and body type. I'd design a collection for her to wear while on tour in the Middle East. In her March 2014 Vogue interview when asked who she follows on Instagram she said “girls in the Middle East..” Since my style is modest, glamorous and edgy like Middle Eastern style, I'd turn it up and design a collection for her that's inspired by her style and Middle Eastern style. That's what I'm designing and inspired by right now. I'd also choose Oprah because I really respect her- nothing about how her style is but because I'd just be happy to be doing something great with and for her. Oh and Coco Rocha, she seems cool and has good style.
QFavorite supermodel muse? AI'm inspired by how fit and healthy looking Heidi Klum is and the career she's had over the past several years including and beyond modeling. My favorite supermodel muse is Tyra Banks. Not only did she have a great career but she provided mentoring and opportunities for other models after her modeling career. She also became a business woman and has used many of her talents. She's has done things that many other models and non-models have been inspired by. I also like Joann Smalls and a lot of newer models like Grace Mahary and Imaan Hammam.
QIf you had to name your label, you'd call it... ANzinga Knight
QIf you weren't designing, you'd be... AAn industrial designer, baker or a chef, doing genealogy research, traveling...
QDream place to set up your business? AThe dream place to set up my design business outside of NY would probably be Dubai. I've visited and its exciting but less busy, very fashionable and women like to dress up all the time, plus people seem to have a better quality of life than New Yorkers. I also love the desert and many beaches.
QWebsites that feature your work? Anzingaknight.com, https://www.facebook.com/NzingaKnightDesignerFashion
QHow were you described as a kid? AQuiet, thoughtful, artistic, sensitive.
QHow are you described by your family and friends? AOutgoing yet reserved at times, expressive, creative, friendly, giving, elegant, creative.
QWhy do you think you're easy to live with? AI'm easy to live with because I'm easy-going, honest, and I care. I'm not easy to live with when I feel “the maid should do it”... the imaginary maid that I have.
QFavorite hangout? ABy friends’ homes especially when music is involved, and especially when we're singing and playing together. I also like Spin, the ping pong place in Chelsea and the Botanical Gardens.
QHobbies? ABaking and cooking gourmet style, genealogy, doing facials and manicures.
QFavorite movies and TV shows? A“Coming to America,” “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” “The Five Obstructions,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Qui Etes-Vous, Polly Maggoo?” “A Man's Story,” “How to Marry A Millionaire,” “Dr Seuss' The Lorax,” “Legends of the Fall.”
QFavorite books/authors? AThe Holy Quran, “Fashion: The Century of the Designer,” Abu Musa's “Women Neighbors,” “The 4-Hour Work Week,” Mufaro's “Beautiful Daughters,” many books by Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, Maya Angelou and G Willow Wilson.
QFavorite websites? AThe Coveteur, Sweet Modesty, Style.com, Pantone, Bergdorfs, Elle, ElleUK, The Cut, Amazon, Ebay, Vogue, Pandora.com, Refinery29.com
QYour Twitter handle: A@nzingaknight
QFavorite Twitter accounts? A@neiltyson, @bergdorfs, @marcjacobs, @voguemagazine, @nytimes, @cfda
QiPhone/Android/Blackberry? AiPhone
QFast food or gourmet? AGourmet
QCooking or takeout? ACooking
QFavorite foods? AThe Wa-za! from Norma's at Le Parker Meridian, French toast from Jane Restaurant and lobster benny. Styles: Thai, Japanese, Caribbean, Senegalese, African American Soul food, sandwiches.
QBeer or wine? AMock-tails
QGuiltiest pleasure? AJunior's cheesecake
QBiggest pet peeve? AWhen women wear clothing just because it’s trending but with no regard for how the clothing actually looks on their body.
QHow did you end up auditioning for PR? AIt's a goal of mine to win “Project Runway” so I've applied a few times. This is my first time actually getting to audition.
QFavorite past PR designer? AChristopher Siriano and Dom Streater.
QChallenge you wish they'd bring back? AArt inspiration challenge.
QYour take on team challenges: AI think they're pretty good. Designers have the opportunity to maximize their strengths and really come up with something great. Also, in a team what may be one designer’s strength may be another designer’s weakness and vice versa. With proper communication working within a team can be a win-win situation.
QWhat do you look for in a model? AI like striking features. Something has to be striking about the girl. In the end the clothing and the model must be a match. I look for a model who together with the clothes looks convincing and will sell it. It's a skill that I'm still working on. Height, physique, expression and range, age (not too old or young), and features.
QDo you think you can win "Project Runway"? AYes, I think that when it's my time to win I'll win. When I focus and express my raw and refined talent, am unafraid to be bold and have faith I can do anything.
Project Runway Season 13 Photo Galleries
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