*Your personal style is legendary! Was it inspired by anything in particular, or did you put it together over the years?
First off: I’m blushing with your compliments Kendra! Thank you! In regards to my personal style, I think it is something that has “developed” over the years. I’ve always tried to be “On trend” or at least ahead of trends, especially when I was younger. I tried lots of different looks and styles, many times failing LOL! I didn’t realize it then—I thought I was looking “cool” and fashionable, unfortunately there are photos to prove otherwise. I feel my personal style now is what I like to call Euro-Elegant-Hipster; I like to blend great fitted tailored jackets and elegant dress shirts, silk pocket scarves (the “Euro” part) with super-skinny jeans (the “Hipster”). I also remember a crucial moment when I really decided to dress up—wherever and whenever: I was in Torino Italy in 2006 for the Torino Winter Olympics and there was an elderly couple (in their 80s at least) taking a stroll through the Torino streets. Both were dressed IMPECCABLY. But what really stood out for me was the man. He was dressed in a fabulous jacket, pants, scarf, and beautiful loafers. I thought “if he can pull it together at his age, I can do the same at mine!”
*I love those moments! Sometimes a complete stranger can change your whole life. Now, you've done a lot of traveling, in part thanks to your Project Runway fame. What is your favorite city to visit? And where would you most like to spend some (relaxing) time?
Well, yes, I have been lucky to visit lots of amazing cities and I’m very thankful and grateful for that. I LOVE traveling and if I must confess, I’m a big airplane/airline aficionado—whatever the airplane version of “foodie” is, that’s me! Going to Torino Italy (as I said above) to cover the Figure Skating Costumes for the Winter Olympics was a big traveling highlight. I also loved going to Florence Italy when I was invited to give Fashion Lectures for the Miami University of Ohio Summer In Italy Program. But I also enjoy traveling to different cities here in the US for my appearances, if even for an overnight trip, it gives me a quick chance to have a mental “postcard” of the US and to see cities that I wouldn’t normally have an inclination to visit.
*All throughout Under the Gunn, you came off as fair, calm and supportive of your designers. What moment really made you sweat, though?
Awww, thank you again Kendra for the sweet words. I really tried to be fair, calm and most of all supportive to my designers on “Under the Gunn”. When Tim Gunn and the producers contacted me and asked me to do the show, at first I wasn’t “all-in” as they say. I taught fashion design, sketching and pattern-making for many years at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and run two fashion design companies but I never professed to be a Mentor; I am first and foremost a Fashion Designer. On “Under the Gunn” I mentored in the only way I knew—and how I was mentored—by combining all my knowledge, my teaching skills and my passion for all things fashion. I would have never thought that way of mentoring could be misconstrued as being ‘too hands-on” by Tim Gunn and that I would be edited as such. So, yes, I think one of the moments that really made me sweat as you said, was when in the beginning, one of my designers—Natalia—asked for my advice and suggestions on how to make one of her dresses better—and Tim ran in and completely chastised me like a parent chastises their 5 year-old child. It was definitely a moment. I quickly realized that I had to re-think what I had known and assumed was “mentoring’ and change it to how “Tim Gunn would mentor”.
*Yikes! Love hearing some of the behind-the-scenes info on that, though. Many of us wondered how you felt, because it did seem tense when you were asked to be less 'hands-on.' Speaking of mentoring, though... What's your best advice for the curvy fashionistas out there who love clothes and want to look their best?
I have several words of advice for the curvy fashionistas. First off: LOVE your body; pay tribute to it, don’t hide it. Also, re-think your thought process that Fashion and Fashion designers are your enemy. They are not. Get to LOVE fashion. And finally, don’t be afraid to do a lot of shopping; get out there. One big complaint I get from the SuperFabulous “Big & Beautiful” ladies is that ‘There’s NOTHING out there for us…” well, they are wrong. I visit a Macy’s “Plus Size” Department, for example and there are TONS of options. If you want to be “sexy” plus size, there’s clothing for you; if you want to be “proper and Lady-Like” plus size, there’s another clothing line for you…it’s all there. You just have to look for it, try on many, many clothes and once you find a brand that fits you and looks good on you, stick to it!
*Love it! And you recently visited my state, New Hampshire , for an event in Keene. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Yes!! This was my THIRD visit to New Hampshire but my first time in Keene. I LOVED it! This time, I was invited to give a Trend Presentation, go shopping and consequently, do a Style Makeover for two radio contest winners at the Women’s Expo in Keene. I especially enjoyed three things being in Keene for my appearance: I loved the 3 hour long ride from Boston to Keene and seeing all the GORGEOUS trees and varying colors of green in them; absolutely stunning. I also loved the New England homes. You don’t see that in LA! Finally, I loved styling the contest winners and interacting with the fans and people who came to the Women’s Expo. After all these years since first doing “Project Runway” and now, after winning “Under the Gunn”, I am still humbled that anyone wants to take a photo with me or want an autograph.
*You've had an extraordinary outreach on twitter, thanks to your fun and engaging personality. Your fans love it! But have you ever been starstruck to talk to someone on twitter?
You know, funny enough, I was a bit “slow” and reluctant to do the social media thing and especially Twitter. I remember saying to myself “Why does anyone care that I’m going to the bathroom?”…”and why do I need to tweet that?”. I finally opened up to it and use it as a way to interact with fans; say Thank You for their support as well as notify them of when and where I’ll be so they hopefully can come and say “Hi!”. Also, in terms of my business, it’s been useful to let people know where and how they can buy my dresses, etc. In regards to being “Twitter Starstruck”, a while back I began writing on my blog about Figure Skating Costumes for the Olympics or every time there’s a big international or national competition. Well, I really didn’t think the actual skaters—or former skaters--were reading it. But as I found out, they were. When I got a tweet from Olympic Gold Medalist Tara Lipinski saying how much she loved my blog, that’s when I lost it…in a good way!
*Anyone you'd particularly love to design an outfit for?
I’m very lucky that many celebs like Katy Perrry, Heidi Klum, Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, have all worn my designs. It’s always nice when your designs are worn on the red carpet or for an event by someone like that. I would love to design for the First Lady Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez and a royal here and there—such as Queen Rania of Jordan or Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.
*Anywhere in particular that you're drawing inspiration from right now for a future collection?
Several weeks back I visited the Charles James Exhibition at the Met in NYC and was very inspired by his art, gorgeous gowns, and technological/pattern-making feats of wonder. He thought outside the “pattern-making/draping-book” box and that’s inspiring me right now. Also, an old high-shool friend of my partner David Paul, gave us a bunch of vintage Vogue pattern Magazines spanning three entire decades—the 60s, 70s and 80s and the fashion editorials in those magazines are making my head spin!
*Current favorite song or album:
It sounds so silly but I cannot get “Happy” by Pharell out of my mind! I feel like a 13 year-old school girl just thinking about it! But what I have really been listening to lately is the late 70’s/early 80s music of Chic and Sister Sledge. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were music geniuses!
*Last book you read:
The last book I read was “Black List” by Brad Thor. I LOVE his books and I’m a big fan of international political thrillers. Thor’s novels are perfect for my airplane travels—I literally get so engrossed that before I know it, I’m almost done with them, and it was just a six-hour flight!
*Movie you can't wait to see:
The “Yves Saint Laurent” movie. The trailer made my hairs stand up and heart a beat a bit faster. I cannot wait until it comes to the US at a very “artsy” cinema near me.
Thank you so much to Nick Verreos for being a guest on the Kendry Bird blog. It was an honor to speak with you, Nick! Looking forward to hearing and seeing much more from you in the future!
Visit Nick's website: http://www.nvnickverreos.com/
Follow Nick on twitter: @nickverreos1