Pueblo fashion designer Patricia Michaels will appear on the 11th
season of Project Runway, which will begin airing Jan. 24.
Michaels was one of 16 designers picked
to compete for the popular show's grand prize of $100,000, a fashion
spread in Marie Claire magazine, a Lexus, $50,000 worth of technology
and the opportunity to sell their collection at Lord & Taylor
The Taos Pueblo native was the first Native
American designer to participate in the history of the show, which
is hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum and provides budding designers
an opportunity to launch fashion careers while competing in weekly
challenges under the watchful guidance of industry insiders.
While many would-be contestants watch
the show religiously and apply more than once, Michaels said that
in her case, one of the show's casting agents contacted her and
encouraged her to enter after seeing her information on a website
for fashion models.
"I hadn't seen it, but I had heard a few
things about it," said the designer. "So I decided to rent a couple
of seasons [to watch] and I was in awe of what the challenges were
and the opportunities that could happen."
The designer whose work has been
featured in French Elle and is in the permanent collection of several
museums said part of the reason she decided to apply was
to encourage other Native American designers to break away from
showing only in Native-themed events and galleries and expose themselves
to more mainstream fashion outlets and influences.
about time Natives get out of our comfortable spots and go forward
to other venues," she said. "That's why I took on this challenge,
to have a new direction. Because just doing museum shows that people
want me to do to draw a crowd really hasn't gotten me anywhere.
It's important to always evolve. That's the reason I became a fashion
designer, because it's always changing. It gives you that liberty
Michaels spent two months last summer
living and working in Manhattan with the show's other contestants
during the taping of the show, an experience she said was challenging
in many ways, especially since this season's twist saw competitors
being forced to work together in teams.
"You don't really know this person and
you want to be respectful to their aesthetic and also be successful,"
Michaels said. "I tried to be mindful and stay true to myself. It's
a difficult balance, and the slant is you are still competing against
this person. I thought, yes, I am competing, but after all is said
and done and we are all home and the season is over, you might end
up being friends with this person, so don't get so competitive that
you end up making enemies. You want to be cool."
In the past, Project Runway contestants
have often emerged as favorite (or not so favorite) characters among
viewers based on their skills and personalities.
"I'm worthy and I cried a lot," Michaels
joked when asked how viewers might remember her, adding that she
also thinks they'll remember her passion for textiles and fabrication
and creating new materials via weaving, felting, hand-dyeing and
One of the most valuable aspects of the
competition, Michaels said, was the honest critiques from the judges.
"I learned a lot about my strengths and
weaknesses, and that it's best to get a fresh palette by being around
people in the industry who really know what fashion is about. It
made me feel passionate about how I am and confident in what I've
been doing. And it made me look at myself as a designer. I appreciated
it on many levels."
Michaels said much of her inspiration
comes from combining her experiences traveling with time spent outdoors
in New Mexico, and pulling those influences together during ceremonies
with her tribe.
She said she told fellow contestants they
might understand her work better if they came here.
"I was like, please come visit us in New
Mexico," Michaels said. "Unless you come and see where I come from,
you will never understand."
Legends Santa Fe gallery will host a viewing
party and open house when the Project Runway season opener airs
Michaels will attend the event
which begins at 6:30 p.m. at 125 Lincoln Ave., Suite 110
and some of her recent creations will be on display.