As the first designer to get snipped on “Project Runway All Stars,” Elisa Jimenez stood out not so much for her gauzy designs but for a quirkiness that also set her apart in season four. The spit marking (oops, blessing marking) designer talked to reporters the day after her last show aired to reveal why she doesn’t mind looking like a nut on national television, what she’d really like to do and who she’s rooting for to win.
While some designers might have given the decision to return to “Runway” some hard, cold thought, for Jimenez the show seemed pre-ordained. “It was a very pivotal time in my own work, and I had been putting out into the world that I wanted to do something huge and intense,” she says. “And would you know the same day I made the meditation, I got the call?” After talking it over with her “number one advisor,” Jimenez decided that the second time around would give her a chance to approach the challenge a little differently. “I wasn’t really present [the first time],” she says. “This time I really wanted to be present. In season four, I was timid about being verbal, about saying I believe in American production and small entrepreneurships. I wanted to be a good force in that. You’re going to be a character, but I wanted to be a positive character. This time, I didn’t hold back interviews. You want to be presented more as who you are.”
And yes, who she is seemed to be a whole hella lotta crazy. But Jimenez shrugged off the fact that the show focused on her reserving her bed with lipstick, spit marking clothes and crawling under her work table to design her outfit. “I do a lot of installation work, so in a studio, every amount of space is space to work in. Immediately when we got there, I was into claiming my space and dividing it into a little, petite studio. I’m much more agile when I can work in a larger area. I do approach making clothes like a sculptor.” And if people don’t get it, that’s their problem. “I think my unconventional methods and ideology throughout my entire life has made it difficult for a certain group of people to understand or accept that something can come out of that, and it’s almost like they have to critique the process… but I’ve had an amazing career without working by the rules.”
As for the spitting, she says it has a rich personal history for her dating back to when her grandmothers taught her how to sew. “They’d get into a frenzy and wouldn’t always wait for the chalk,” she says. “My grandmother called it a blessing mark. You’re not spitting on people, you’re blessing something. But only on television could you distill a 17-year career into [spitting.]”
Even though she did get a slapdown from Georgina Chapman for her final design, Jimenez says her florid explanation was more a result of editing and nerves than a desire on her part to tell a story with each piece she designs. “Out of context… it looks like I’m explaining the dress,” she says. “I actually stand by the piece I did, and the explanation wasn’t so much in relation to the story… but that was me being nervous on the runway. I think the work stands for itself. I agree; you shouldn’t have to explain your work. It was a very good lesson, for me and for everyone. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
Now that she’s been auf’ed (or whatever host Angela Lindvall wants to call it), she’s still rooting for a specific winner. Though she says she’d wear designs by Austin, Rami or Kara, “I’m rooting for Austin Scarlett, because everyone’s talented and has skills, but Austin is this incredible example of a very intelligent, well-read young man, and he was part of making the show what it is. He’s one of the pioneers. Nothing against the other designers, but I’m impressed by his intelligence. I have a huge crush on him anyway. It’s so wrong. That’s a disclaimer.”