As promised (and hopefully this isn’t a huge spoiler for anyone), I interviewed this season’s “Project Runway All Stars” winner Anthony Ryan Auld today. It’s always a relief to find that someone who seems personable and chatty on reality TV (which, given the sleep deprivation and stress, is not so easy to pull off) is just as friendly over the phone. Auld, who called from his Baton Rouge home, talked about what’s next, what he thought of the other finalists, and what was really going on when his BFF Josh McKinley refused to help him in the finale.
What’s next for you now?
I will be showing at NOLA Fashion Week, Birmingham Fashion Week, El Paseo fashion week in the Palm Springs area, just a lot of traveling and pushing the collection. I’m looking forward to working with Nine West and having the opportunity to manufacture my clothing. It’s exciting to tell people that. I’m going to be doing a lot of research about manufacturing and starting a business to see if that’s something I’ll be undertaking right now. It’ll be a lot of work.
Given how tough the competition was, were you shocked to win?
I was quite shocked. I thought Uli’s collection was strong; she really gave you some high fashion there. Some of it may not be too wearable, but it was gorgeous, and she established in the season she did consistently strong work there. I never thought it would come down to me. So I was extremely nervous. I didn’t really know what to do. I’d never been [in the final three] before, and Uli and Emilio and Josh all had been.
Speaking of Josh, why did he turn you down when you asked him to help you prepare for the finale? Was he just tired? Because it came across as a jerk move.
It’s not, if you think about it. We literally film episodes back to back to back, and his episode was the day before. There’s no break in between. Remember, we had been to Paris, stayed less than 48 hours, then we got off the plane, changed clothes and went to the work room. We were all dog tired at that point. Then, Josh and Uli had to do that one hour challenge, which was really more like four or five hours of filming. They weren’t done until 1 in the morning, and then he had to be back up at 5 for this. When I looked at him, I knew he was tired, but I wanted him to know I wanted him to help me. The fact that he said no showed how a great friend he is, because he was saying that if I can only do 50 percent of my best for you, you deserve more than that. He’s a great friend to me, just to be honest.
I’m guessing there was more to that exchange between the two of you than what we saw.
This is a reality TV show; they’ve got to edit it somehow. People are just looking to hate someone. We’re still BFFs.
What was your toughest challenge this season? I’m guessing it might have been the military challenge.
A lot of people were like, you should have left on that one. That was one of my favorite and least favorite challenges. Being able to share with those women and hear their stories; I mean, everyone has a story, but hearing theirs was very humbling. Their stories really sit with you. Of course, never really having worked with custom in double Ds, its a different body type. Plus, I would put her in something fitted with a high collar and peplum and a pencil skirt, something very tailored. I knew exactly what I would put her in, but I wanted to give her something she wanted to wear. You give them something they aren’t comfortable in and you get thrown under the bus.
Was it easier or harder coming back to the “Project Runway” world?
On the one hand, you’re up against everyone from previous seasons, and they all know what’s coming, too. It was easier in that we know what we’re getting into, but you’re also up against Uli and Emilio and Josh, and you’ve watched all of their seasons. It was intimidating. In my season, I came in seventh. They could have brought in Viktor Luna or Kimberly Goldson from my season, but for them to choose me? Of course I said I’ll do it, I’m all about it.
I always forget you came in seventh in your season!
But I think going into it a lot of designers looked at me that way. Once I started doing better and better in the competition, it hit them all, what the hell is he doing that we’re not noticing?
Do you think the judges may have underestimated you at first as well?
No. The judges all knew I came in seventh, I’m sure they did their research. But they were very responsive to what I was doing. My aesthetics had done a complete 180 from my first time on the show, so I knew I as going to bring something that wasn’t what I did on season nine. It’s a game of pieces and there’s strategy behind it. This time I came in with a different design approach, and wanted to clean it up and make it more high fashion. A lot of the designers probably didn’t give me a second look, but the judges did. I caught their attention and kept it.
On the finale episode, you mentioned that if you didn’t win, you wouldn’t be able to continue designing.
Just financially, I’ve never been in that place to just design. My family, we grew up dirt poor. I’m on my own. I didn’t really have a lot of financial help. So I was saying that, if this didn’t happen, I might have to give up and take a job working in accounting or retail. I can work ten times harder than someone coming from a design school, but I don’t come from Parsons or FIT. When people look at my resume, more than likely, they’re going to look at the person who graduated from Parsons over someone who went to LSU [Louisiana State University]. I applied for jobs for a year straight and never heard a thing. And I studied with [John Paul] Gaultier’s hat designer and Vivienne’s Westwood’s team and I was still getting no response.
It was a heartbreaking moment.
I think at that point I was so stressed out. I’d left everything here,and I think I got down on myself. I felt that, If it doesn’t work this time, maybe it’s just not working. Retail is what led me into fashion, so maybe I should go back to being a store manager, just do a job where I can be happy and not do what I love. At that point if I did not do well, I was going to have to stop and find work. But the good news is I don’t have to now.
Have you met any of the other winners? You’ve mentioned you’re a fan of Christian Siriano.
Never had an opportunity to meet Christian, I’ve met Chloe [Dao] and Seth Aaron, and they’ve been great. Seth Aaron have me great advice on how to take the next [business] steps. I got a lot of great advice from Joanna Coles, actually. We talked about me coming to NY or staying here, and she believes I should be capitalizing on what I have here for the next year. I can fly to New York 4 to 6 times a month and still save money as opposed to living there. I can always bring it somewhere else.
So, what are you doing now that you’ve won?
I’m meeting with an accountant. I have a minor in business, so I’m a smart cookie. Really, it’s one day at a time, but I’m capitalizing on what I may have here. That’s why Christian is so successful. He really capitalized on that moment, and made the most of it.
What do those of us watching from home just not understand about the show?
People really don’t understand the timing and the stress level, and what it takes to make a dress. We all take for granted what we actually wear and the little things that are put into it. A button up is very tailored and labor intensive. We get nine hours to make a dress, and that’s absolutely nothing. Anyone who knows anything about sewing knows that. We’re making these outfits from [the ground up]; we aren’t working from a commercial pattern. Anyone has been on the show, you know how great they are as a designer that they’re able to get that vision across. It’s intense.
You’re a cancer survivor. How are you doing now?
I’m healthy as a horse, but I do need to pace myself, because if I don’t that’s when sick leave time comes in. My immune system has never been the same, but other than that I’m great.
Did you have to make any concessions to your health given how grueling the schedule is?
It’s very demanding. My concerns going into it were I got sick on season nine. I got strep throat, and when you have it for a week that’s three episodes. That was one thing. Going back, I made sure I took care of myself, drank more water and vitamin C and that I was getting enough sleep. I really made sure that I wasn’t overdoing it, that I was taking the time to eat. You get so frantic sometimes people don’t eat.
But this season you got sick, too?
I got sick after Paris. There was some point after Paris, I think the traveling and being on the plane, the lack of sleep, when I’d caught something. It affects your design. That was the challenge where I threw away my dress halfway through the day. It’s never fun in a situation like that.
You started a Fashion Week in Baton Rouge. Are you going to be continuing to work on that?
I would love to do a Fashion Week event in Baton Rouge, but I will never host or be the head of it. I can only do so much, I’m only one person. For me it’s very important to focus, and I don’t want to sound selfish, but I need to focus on myself right now. I relaunched the ROAR project. It’s about your story, whether it’s sexual abuse or cancer, and owning that story and being proud and not being afraid to sharing with others. ROAR will be within my website. But right now my website is just one page, and that tells you how busy we are with the show.
But not so busy you don’t have time for fashion, right?
I already know what I’m aiming for for spring. A lot of neutrals are coming up, lots of clean lines. A very modern approach for spring.