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Sunday, October 31, 2010

T Lo Interviews: Andy South

"Design to me is reference; it’s derivative of other things."

How was it watching the last episode? Did you watch it with your friends and family?

It was really awesome. It was my first viewing party. I know some of the other designers have been doing it throughout the season, but that was my first and it was a huge event. I showcased a lot of my work and it was basically presenting me and what I do to the community here. The support had been so amazing, so it was really nice to share it with friends and family.

Let’s talk about the judges. What did you think of their criticism in terms of your collection?

I could see where they were coming from and I knew going into it that they could have gone either way with me. You know, they could really like what I did or they could be really confused, and I knew that was a risk that I ran. Bottom line is, it’s a representation of who I am as a designer at that moment.

I think design is something that always evolves and changes and obviously it was a little quicker for me, but I think there was a pure representation of who I was at that moment. I would have loved to have done a 30-piece collection where I would have been able to tell my story the way that I wanted.

Most designers present way more than 10 looks, Michael Kors always presents way over 30, and sometimes that’s not enough.

Well, that’s the thing and when Tim came to visit I told him my concept and what I was going for, he had questions. I always envision 30 to 50 looks. You guys know that I’m very conceptual with what I do. In my head I had this huge story…it would’ve been amazing if I had enough pieces to show that. I think 10 pieces wasn’t enough, but again, that was a lot to do in a month too.

That’s true; a month wouldn’t have been enough. We absolutely loved the first look. We also loved the proportions and the silhouettes throughout the collection. It seems like you are always experimenting with form.

Oh yeah, I always want to play with form. It was never mentioned, but part of what I was trying to achieve was…especially with that first look, with the jacket…I tried to build off-the-shoulders, kind of referencing the statues, they had different shapes, and that’s what I wanted to pull into my designs and my silhouette, kind of alter the woman’s body a little.

Playing with proportions, playing with silhouettes, because that’s what interests me, that’s what interests me about fashion and other people’s work, when they do things that I really don’t expect, and that’s what I was trying to do with this collection.

Tells us a little bit about the inspiration.

It’s a collection inspired by old ruins of Buddhist and Hindu statues. What I describe it as, for people who don’t know, it’s like the Roman ruins, except Asian and Buddhist. The references are different, but it’s just as beautiful as any old ruin or old city. I mean, the stonework, that’s where I took the gray from, and the moss that grew on the stones, that’s where the green comes in. It’s like a garden and it’s so beautiful. I visited it when I was a child and it’s so beautiful to me.

We saw during Tim’s visit that you were still waiting for the fabrics. That’s crazy. Did the holdup hurt you in any way?

Oh, yeah [Laughs]. Tim visited me when I had two weeks to spare. A lot of people don’t know this, but I actually moved into my space during that month that we had to work on the collection. When Tim came to visit me, I had lost two weeks, I was in a new space, and my fabrics had come in the day before.

I knew I was going to have to wait, but I wanted to use fabrics that were from Laos. Also, I didn’t travel myself to pick them out to make sure I was getting exactly what I wanted; there were a lot of textiles that I actually ended up not using and I had to pick from what I had.

All these things ate up my time, but it was something that I absolutely needed to include in my collection.

Did you change some of your designs because of those issues?

Had I had more time and if I wasn’t so burned out, I would’ve loved to have done really extravagant avant-garde pieces and a lot of gowns, but the reality is that that was the time that we had. We only had a month to work on it and for me it was two weeks. So, I had to simplify a lot of my original concepts to produce something in time.

As soon as pictures of the collections came out there was a lot speculation about you using the Pattern Magic books in some of your looks. What do you have to say about that, Andy?

The way I work is, I want to know…I’m always looking for different things. I always want to learn different techniques and ways of doing things. Design to me is reference; it’s derivative of other things. I thought about it, because I read those comments, but it’s not something I intentionally did, I didn’t replicate anything. It was a subconscious reference, I think.

But people could argue that the woven top that Heidi praised during the judging, for example, is an exact copy of one of the patterns in one of the books.

I don’t agree. I know that that is a technique that I learned, to create those fringe pieces. It is what it is. And that’s the thing with people; they all have their opinions.

Were you surprised with the bathing suit reaction?

I removed the one that they hated obviously, I mean, they really hated it and I wasn’t going to send it out again, I wasn't going to be that stupid. They were part of the vision I originally had, I love the bathing suit that I kept in, it was more dramatic, and I’m glad I did because the judges liked it as well.

Honestly, we agree with the judges, we did not like the headpieces.

[Laughs]. There are a lot of things the viewers don’t know about my collection. Again, I went into this wanting to do a full collection, tell a whole story, I basically wanted to tell a novel, when I only had time to tell a short story.

There’s a reason why I did the headpieces, the women were supposed to be like deities; it was part of my original concept and I absolutely love them still.

We loved the music. What is it?

The music is by a Lao-American musician and her name is Ketsana. She’s a sweetheart. The moment I came up with the concept I knew what song I wanted to use and I contacted her right away to make sure I could use it. It’s a Laotian song and it incorporates a Buddhist prayer. For me, it really hit home, it’s kind of what I grew up around with. Just to feel the music and the progression, the beauty of the song, the serene feeling of fantasy, which I really love.

Your execution and sewing skills are amazing. Where did you learn how to sew?

I always did things here and there, like needlepoint and hand sewing, but I never really took a sewing class until I went to college. Other than that, you have to learn things on your own. That’s the kind of person I am. Like I said before, looking up different techniques or things I see in an image. I want to know where that came from, where it started.

To me, it’s part of being passionate about what you loving doing. A lot of people say you don’t have to know how to sew to be a designer, but for me, I have to be able to do things. For me, to understand that allows me to really understand my work, to put everything I can into it; knowledge at your fingertips if you choose to seek it and find it.

We were blown away by Tim’s visit to your place. What an incredible location and environment to grow up.

You know, it is home for me. I grew up on a farm and I lot of people are actually surprised when they find out, they say, “It’s so far away from who you are now.” Honestly, the glamor and the showy part of fashion in my life right now it’s just external. To me, growing up where I grew up, the way that I grew up built my character, my personality; the way that I carry myself and that I love people…that all comes from where I grew up.

For me, it was really important for Tim to see that and to be a part of that and the viewers as well. To come to my life and really understand who I am, because you can’t really understand people and really know someone by just watching them on TV. The best way that I could do that was to bring the viewers to my home. I didn’t have a normal childhood and that’s what has molded me into who I am today, which I’m really thankful for.

You said Project Runway was a crash course. How so?

I enjoyed the experience so much and it’s still going. I showed my audition tape during the viewing and while I was watching it, that person seemed like such a different person, but that was just April when I filmed it. So many things have happened…I’ve learned how much I can do and what I am capable of if I need to.

I learned what I can do in five hours, for example. I learned how far I can push myself and when I have reached my limit, because I think as a designer you have push yourself but you also have to know your limits, when to slow down.

Final question, what’s next for Andy?

I’ll be working on a women’s ready-to-wear collection for next year. I’m really excited about it and that goes back to things happening so quickly. I’m partnering with a friend and we’ll be collaborating in women’s wear initially and there’s a chance that we might be creating a men’s collection as well.

Fantastic! We wish you good luck. You’re a very talented designer.

Thank you so much, guys. Thank you for your support.

[Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke, myLifetime.com]

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