The first, if not foremost
Four years ago, Jay McCarroll reigned as king of the TV catwalk as “Project Runway’s” very first winner. His serrated wit and Capote-like candor made him an appealing hyphenate: an entertainer-fashion designer.
Now, he’s back with a new documentary premiering Feb. 20 called “Eleven Minutes” that traces the year following his victory and his struggle to segue from “Project Runway” to reality with his first independent runway show at Bryant Park. Hint: It ain’t seamless. McCarroll, 34, who now lives in a house in Philadelphia, took a moment to muse on his current state of being.
What propelled you to do a documentary?
I’m pretty self-obsessed. “Project Runway” was so heavily edited and you didn’t get the full picture. I wanted people to see that I am not a reality show caricature. I’m a working designer. We shot so much footage and you get to see the process. I’m glad that people see the business side of me too.
Speaking of business, you do more than cut and sew in the film.
Fashion is a business and it’s hard. It’s scary when you hear that Home Depot is closing stores -- and they have a formula! I understand how young designers fail. You don’t expect an accountant to know how to drape a dress, but we’re supposed to know how to do accounting.
What did you get out of winning ‘Project Runway’?
Opportunities presented themselves to me. But I was on the first season. My experience is very different from Christian Siriano’s experience. People didn’t know how to take me: as an entertainer or designer. I just wish Michael Kors would stand up and say, “I was designing for 20 years and nobody knew who I was.” I can’t build an empire in six months. It’s been four years and I am just getting into my groove with my brand.
Where are you in the process?
I am producing a line of small pieces of sportswear with a lot of graphics and good color. I don’t think fashion should be revered or cost $20,000. I grew up on Benetton and the Gap sales rack. For my QVC line, I got to dress women who are 3X. Genetically, not everyone is a size 2. In the fashion world, you’re not successful unless you’re dressing anorexic actresses on the red carpet. I just want Cate Blanchett to wear my hoodie in her house.
Do you still watch ‘Project Runway’?
Are you jonesing for them to resolve the legal battle and air Season 6?
Hmm. I think the lawsuit itself and those players would make a great reality show. Maybe it’s karma for all that greed? Oh, and I have my “Rock of Love Bus” and “Top Chef.” They take me away.