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"Life is happening": Exclusive interview with fashion designer Mychael Knight


January 13, 2015

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    Fashion designer Mychael Knight is known for his appearance on season three of Bravo’s Project Runway where he placed fourth in the competition and stole the Fan Favorite award with his sharp designs, endearing personality and baby-faced appearance. (Don’t look at us — Atlanta Magazinesaid it first.) Since then he’s added two more Project Runway appearances, a clothing line and a unisex fragrance (MajK) to his list of accomplishments—a list, by the way, which started in ’01, when Knight graduated from Georgia Southern University with a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising. According to Knight, his success as a designer “all started with my education here at Georgia Southern University.”
    While he may have been buttering us up a bit, it’s clear Knight hasn’t forgotten his roots. Earlier this month Knight returned to his alma mater as a guest speaker and judge for Georgia Southern’s Fashion Merchandising & Apparel Design program’s Fashion Showcase over the weekend of Dec. 5. Knight took a few minutes from his packed schedule to talk to Connect about his time at Georgia Southern, his vision as a designer and the future of his brand.

    Connect: While here at GSU, you designed for the dance team, you designed for peers, you designed for the school fashion show. Could you tell us about that? What was that like?”
    Mychael Knight: Yeah, that was really amazing. How the [Dyverzion] dance team started, that kind of happened by default, because at the time me and a couple friends—we were the creators of the dance team. I was actually the choreographer, the very first choreographer, for the dance team, which is still here — I just found out a few minutes ago. It was almost like the dancers were my first muses to work with. I have all these different body types, and I’m in school — I need to start making them some things. I used to make a lot of our costumes for our shows. On top of that there was a fashion show here; I used to do a lot of pieces for that. And then for extra money I would just make things for young ladies around campus to have money for the Pickle Barrel. … It was a great way to really be able to gain a little experience and be able to construct and build my skill set as a designer — not just creatively, but with the cut-and-sew. It was fun to be able to have all these little muses running around wearing Mychael Knight.

    C: So what have you been up to lately? Current projects?
    MK: Currently I’ve actually had a little downtime. I’m always working on collections; I do a collection every season; I actually showed my spring/summer collection some months ago. So I’m always doing that, but as far as major projects, I’ve actually had some downtime because I’m trying to re-figure out the brand, the direction — in a good way. Sometimes you just get a little bored with oneself, and I just needed a refresher, so I actually have not taken on too many other projects. I travel the country a lot, lecturing to students, but as far as anything major, just trying to be creative and create collections and thinking of the next step.       I am in the process — I said I don’t have any big projects and here I am about to mention one — well, that some people would consider, but I don’t — of developing my own television show with one of my best friends. It’s actually a makeover show. It’s based in reality because I’m making over an actual person, but it’s not a reality show. It’s a makeover show, and I’m really excited about that. I’ve just been shopping it to a few networks, so I’m hoping that someone picks that up. That’s about it: just really focusing on that and, again, just trying to be a better designer. That’s where I’m at right now, I’m really trying to hone in on that craft and just focus in intently on what it is I’m trying to say, what my voice is as a designer.

    C: So in trying to redefine the brand: What are you taking it from, and where are you moving it to?
    MK: Where it’s from… I was in this place of a really young, fun, super sexy girl and all she cared about was just dominating the world, and using her amazing feminine wiles to do so. But now she’s grown up, and she wants a little bit more out of life than just being a sexy girl. She’s always been smart, but she wants to show that she’s smart; she’s always been confident, but she wants to exude that confidence in a different way. So now I’m just trying to reinterpret that, instead of staying within the spectrum of what I do. My pieces will always be sexy — I love celebrating the woman’s body, it’s definitely about showing those curves — but also trying to figure out a way to do that in more subtle ways, in ways that are a little more sophisticated. That’s the long and short of it.

    C: Could you talk us through your creative process, when you get an idea for a line-up?
    MK: Well, for me, it all starts with an idea or something I see that’s an inspiration. In my mind, I start going over and continuing to think about how I can interpret that into the new season, and then I start thinking about which shapes I want and what color pattern I want to go with. It will always start with one single design, and when I sketch that first single design, at that point the floodgates just open and I build from it. I build from one sketch to the next sketch, and I tend to just sketch until I can’t sketch anymore, and that usually comes out to about 50 to 60 sketches. From there I’ll pull maybe my favorite 20 and start to really decide fabrics and reworking the pieces to better work with each other. Then things get cut and sewn and we have a fabulous fashion show, and voila!

    C: You’ve said in past interviews that your inspiration comes from life — which is fantastic — and one of the things you mentioned was travel. Do you have any specific places or cities in mind that you find particularly inspiring?
    MK:It’s going to sound so stupidly cliché to say, but honestly it’s every city. Everything, everywhere is so different. What I feel here is going to be totally different from what I feel in Atlanta, which is totally different from what I feel in Las Vegas, which is totally different from what I feel in Paris. You would have to be a fool, I feel, to not be inspired by anything and everything. You’re supposed to keep your eyes open. Life is happening, you know what I mean? And there are so many things that motivate you and move you into doing something really fantastic. So, everywhere. I really enjoy seeing how a city breathes, the life of a city, because it’s so different everywhere you go. But it’s true: Life inspires me. You just have to pull from everywhere.

    C: A lot of people have written really positively about your designs, that you “chivalrously capture celebrities’ bodies” and that your designs celebrate — as you said — a woman’s body and encourage them to celebrate it and empower them to embrace their femininity. Is that a message you deliberately set out to convey? How do you do that, and why?
    MK: No, actually. It started out as my ideals of being a man, my views of a woman. I’ve always seen women as very powerful. I have a mother and two sisters, and I’ve always admired and been in awe of the power they possess and how they take charge and take control of situations. So I’ve always done that. I think when I was younger, it was a very naïve, cliché idea of that, meaning that in order for a woman to be powerful, she must be sexy. And as I’ve gotten older, I feel as though that’s not necessarily true. Intellect, obviously, makes any person powerful. Confidence — my God — makes a woman super powerful — the fact that a woman can walk into a room and own it like the domain is hers. I feel like when I was young, it was more deliberate and more what I thought it was about. Now it’s more about how to quietly show that without being so overt.


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