Brittany Allen may have come to Season 18 of Bravo's "Project Runway" from Austin, Texas, but we get to claim the Fort Smith native and University of Arkansas graduate as one of our own. Allen joined the fashion design reality television show with a design aesthetic she describes as "if Dolly Parton and Betsey Johnson had a baby who was then raised by Anna Wintour." She made a splash during the Dec. 5 premiere by winning the very first challenge of the season. Episode six airs Jan. 16.
Q. When did you know fashion was your calling? Did you have the beginnings of design books strewn around your room as a kid or anything like that?
A. I am originally from Fort Smith, but I decided to go to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville after graduating from Southside High School. I had no idea I wanted to be in fashion until I was in college, actually. I originally went to college as a pre-nursing major, but I failed my anatomy class. My counselor told me it was crucial to pass that course, so I needed to reevaluate what my future looked like. I always loved fashion as a kid but didn't know I wanted to make a career out of it. I decided to take some sewing courses because I never learned how, and I fell in love with it. I instantly changed my major to apparel studies, and the rest is history.
Q. Why did this feel like the right time in your career to take on a challenge/opportunity like "Project Runway?"
A. I have felt throughout my career as a designer that I was really trying to figure out what my voice was, what my design aesthetic looked like, and what my design identity was overall. It's been a long journey of just figuring out the fashion industry in general, but I finally feel like I have gotten a good grip on who I am as a designer in the past year or so. I feel like I am at my prime. There is nothing that I can't sew well; I have a clear vision of what I want to contribute to the fashion industry; and I wanted to take my brand to the next level. I felt like "Project Runway" could be the platform to do that.
Q. What have you learned from this experience that will affect your craft moving forward?
A. I learned that all the self-doubt I have had over the last 10 years was me just being very hard on myself. I think it has made me a better designer, but I think being on "Project Runway" validated the fact that I have a place in the fashion industry. I was able to prove that in the very first episode with the first win of the season. Being much more confident in myself is really reflecting in my work today. I find myself being more true to who I am as a designer, and I follow my gut a lot more.
Q. What does your life and your brand look like in your mind five years from now? How does your journey with "Project Runway" hopefully help you attain this dream?
A. "Project Runway" was something I wanted to pursue to give my brand a voice and a platform to show the world. I think it will definitely help do that. In five years, I want to be manufacturing clothing and putting out two to three collections a year for my brand. I also hope to have some big red carpet moments that help my sales in the next few years. Lastly, I want to do some conceptual pieces that are really out of the box to push myself and keep my brand fresh.
Q. Arkansans are often still fighting against impressions the rest of the country may have about the Natural State. What's a fond memory of your time in Arkansas and its effect on where you are today you can share with me?
A. I loved going to the University of Arkansas so much. It truly shaped my career and paved the way for my time in the fashion industry. I pledged a sorority there, so the connections and friendships I had there is something I will treasure forever. My husband and I are MAJOR Razorback fans, and it's something we have never steered away from. I loved growing up and cheering on the Hogs and will continue to do that no matter where I live. I loved the location of the school. People don't realize how beautiful the state of Arkansas is. If you drive from Fort Smith to Fayetteville, the entire drive is breathtaking. I have traveled all over the world, and I still think it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
NAN What's Up on 01/12/2020