I’ll say right off that Nicole Ritchie was a far better guest judge on Project Runway than expected. She possessed all the class and the ability to constructively criticize that Lindsey Lohan lacked in spades. She did, however, miss the mark when she told Christiane King “I think that because right now you are competing against 15 other people, I think it’s really important to stand out and hold your own, and I think that that is probably going to be your biggest challenge.”
Oh how I wish there was time for the guest judges to squeeze in a quick perusal of the designers’ past work. I suppose that’s for Nina and Michael to do, but it seems like everyone is at a disadvantage judging fashions made in the Project Runway environment without taking a gander at who the designers are beforehand.
Christiane Kings’ work has a voice. She excels at her partial draping. The work is unmistakably Christiane. Light, airy, with an Ivory Coast influence that is refreshing and interesting. She’s not as successful when she works in more structured suits, mixing and matching pieced fabrics, but the main body of her work is so good, who cares about the rest? She already has offers—one from a large corporation—and she is weighing options for her future career. “I’ve had a few offers on the table already. I’m just…just breathing…taking a breather for a second, and letting it all sink in before I make any decisions. I will definitely keep going. And I am working on the Fall right now. Yes, I will definitely keep going on what I am doing whether I go on a new venture with a big corporation, or just stay small and build my empire.” Okay Christiane. Just be sure to keep pumping out those wonderful draped dresses.
It was not an easy entry into fashion for Christiane. Her home country is not one that is known for its stability, but fashion was in her bones, so she found a way. “I’m from the Ivory Coast where fashion is really, really, really underrated, so it’s not the dream profession for anyone, so I was kinda really doing it on the downlow with my aunt coaching me on the phone, and you know, I had the dream of being a fashion designer but not really going for it at the time. I got into fashion when I moved to the U.S. in 2001. I went to a fashion school and took sewing classes. So that’s really when it all started.”
Christiane took that unconventional start and ran with it. She now works out of her small workshop at home. Her handy husband is ready to help her along with her career, adding windows and tables as the need arises. “He builds many things. He built a closet. He just makes it very comfortable around the house. Any time that I would need anything, he’d just make it happen. Last month I needed more lighting in my studio, and he just decided to put in a window, so it’s just very easy for him to make stuff happen. Just like I would say ‘Okay let’s make a skirt for tonight’, he’d say ‘Let’s build a house today’”.
It is this supportive atmosphere that nurtures her as she creates her designs. The playful nature of her relationship with her husband finds its way into her work. It is a labor of love, as her designs are not ordinary. They are the result of expert draping and design skills. “I do all my prototypes. I do all the first samples myself, because a lot of it is draping, and in a way a little organic, so I need to make sure that it feels and looks right, and when I get orders, right now, it’s pretty small orders, I send it (The patterns and a sew-by sample.) out to a contractor to get them done then.” That phrase “right now, it’s pretty small orders” is your cue, dear reader, to get your order in while the getting is good. This small order phase will not last, first-aufed or not.
Christiane was looking forward to a long run on Project Runway and was especially looking forward to trying her hand at the harder challenges. “I think what I was really looking forward to was to do a challenge using unconventional materials, like the grocery store challenge that they had in season one and the car challenge that they had in season 5. That can really show the creativity and how someone could problem-solve in a way. I think the dress that I would come up with would really depend on what I am working with, but you would definitely see what I am all about which is creating some textures and layers and just complementing the woman’s body.”
Sadly, she did not get a chance to show the world what she could do by way of Project Runway. Still, she remains upbeat about her future. She auditioned for the show 5 times before she actually made it, but make it she did. With her wonderful design sensibilities, and her fierce belief in herself, she is now poised to take on the world. She says of her short time on the show “This was meant to happen. You were supposed to be on the show for one episode. Though you wished you had stayed longer. It’s still huge. People today know there is a Christaine King out there, that exists whether or not they like my designs, and I think that’s all I was there for, and I am a true believer of that.”
Sorry Nicole. You have it all wrong. This woman stands out and holds her own just fine. Just you watch.