Seth Aaron Henderson‘s “Project Runway” finale collection was bold, but he didn’t really expect it to cause controversy, much less make people think he sympathized with Nazis.
The designer’s final collection was inspired by Russian and German military uniforms of the 1940s, which many Zap2it readers found offensive, identifying those uniforms with the horrifying historical events that occurred in Europe at the time.
“I have absolutely no love for that party whatsoever,” he reassured Zap2it Friday (April 23). “But through my life here, I’ve met tons of people, Germans that lived through it and they’ve shared their stories. They said it was horrible times. The point is a statement is what I drew from it. So their points were they were terrible people, but you knew when they were there. Even though they’re gone and it’s over, they’re still there.”
“That was the inspiration, coming to New York, making a statement,” he continued. “And after I’m gone, you’re still going to remember it. That was the inspiration. And a lot of people may misunderstand what the inspiration was. And then I’m a big fan of James Bond and back then they always had the KGB spies and that kind of stuff, not necessarily the actual party.”
Henderson also shared what came of the two dogs his family named Heidi and Tim, how he began sewing only five years ago and which celebrity he’d love to see wear his designs.
The interview highlights:
How did you celebrate your win with your family?
Seth Aaron Henderson: Last night we went to [Season 3 contestant] Laura Bennett’s loft. Bluefly.com put on a huge viewing party there, and she hosted it. Myself and our entire family went as well as a lot of alumni from previous seasons and a lot of different guest. It was a really fun time.
Would we see a kids’ line or men’s line coming soon?
Henderson: Yeah, I do men’s clothes. I’ve done a few kids clothes, but I don’t know how soon. First I have to establish a manufacturer for my women’s line. But definitely men’s is in the future and I wouldn’t rule out children’s either.
Do you think you’ll try and design an affordable line of clothes?
Henderson: Definitely that is another goal. I would love to have a department store line, but I need the manufacturer to do that. So that’s why I need to find a manufacturer. I sew everything myself. I can’t work full time as a stylist and sew full time for stores too. I’d love to have one let’s say for Target. That would be fantastic. And then also continue to do couture stuff, more exclusive high-end stuff for the smaller boutiques. I’d love to have Macy’s, Nordstrom or whatever that fits into that department store area. Just because it’s a $40 jacket doesn’t mean it can’t be a fantastic $40 jacket.
How did you get Tim Gunn on the trampoline? Was this payback for his critique he gave you earlier?
Henderson: Was that not fantastic or what? “I have never been on a trampoline,” he told me that. He noticed it in the backyard and he told me that. I was like, “Guess what? You’re going on one now.” It was awesome to have him at my house. He spent the whole day there, so he feels like family now. His critique was expected. I expected that from him. I stuck with my plan originally still. The first stuff, the pre-collection I had done was totally expected of me, and then I had my second part still to complete, which is what you saw on the runway. So I didn’t change plans. I guess he confirmed what I already knew.
How old are your dogs Chopper, Heidi and Tim?
Henderson: Heidi, we re-homed her. She was a puppy, a lab. With all this traveling around it was difficult, so we didn’t have her that long. Basically there’s about two dogs a year that we’ll rescue. People will call us and say, “We can’t take care of this dog.” We find them quality homes. Tim was a little wiener dog that I only had for two weeks. He was just in a situation where — we are the halfway house — so he was at my house when I found him a home. Chopper is our dog, and we’ve had him for 10 years. When we get them they’re nameless, and my kids name them. We happened to be in the middle of [“Project Runway] time, so they said, “This is Heidi and this is Tim.”
The judges, especially Heidi Klum, didn’t seem to understand the last purple outfit in the collection. Can you explain where you were going with that?
Henderson: There was that one and there was one that looked like an explosion in the middle. Those were intentional. If it wasn’t right for what I was doing, then they wouldn’t have been there. I had time, I had 14 other outfits I could have replaced them with. The point was I wanted to make it a show. Those are borderline costumes, those are out there, like, “What is it?” … But then I’ve had other people I’ve met who say, “Oh, you know my favorite thing in the show?” I’m all, “The coat?” And they’re all, “No, the purple dress at the end.” I’ve had four people say that in the last week. So it was about drama, exaggeration, fun. The point is, it’s only a 10-piece collection, you got to grab their attention from the first one and carry it all the way to the end.
What was your favorite challenge? The hardest one?
Henderson: My favorite one was probably the kid/adult and the create your own fabric challenge. I don’t think any of them were hard, but probably the most difficult one would be the red carpet Heidi challenge simply because I had already — the bottom of my dress was all I had left. What you ended up seeing was not what it was going to look like, but because of the model change it had to go that direction. It was perfectly fitted to Valeria and then they replaced her with four hours left on the clock. I had to in Tim’s words, “Make it work.” So that was probably the most frustrating to have to do. Ceri was a great model, but at the beginning of the challenge if I had to design it for her, it wouldn’t have been that dress. It would have been a different one
You got your first sewing machine only five years ago? How did you learn to sew?
Henderson: I got my first machine five years ago as a Christmas present from my wife. I just taught myself. I’ve been a fashion stylist for 10 years, so construction of garment and clothes all the time. So I put them on the models, I pin them, pull them, make them good, and they take their picture for the catalog or the billboard or whatever. So just being around them I learned construction. And I grew up with a family that drew and built things, so I just understood shape and construction. So to apply that to clothes is just practice, practice, learn, learn. Still today, I learn something new every week.
And what were you doing before that?
Henderson: Yeah, I was just a stylist. That’s all I did. I mean, I did stuff for myself, playing around, adding, cutting and changing my own
wardrobe, but working the industry for five years or so and all the photographers would say, “You know your personal style, the way you are, you should have a clothing line.” And the hair and makeup people. I just kept hearing it over and over, and I was like, “You know, I should do that one day.” I talked about and talked about it and then one day said, “Well, this is a good Christmas present.” She gave me a machine and that’s where it started.
What kind of woman do you see wearing your clothes?
Henderson: I’m very European-influenced as far as the kind of designers that I like. I just think it has to be someone who doesn’t want to blend into the crowd, who doesn’t mind that when you walk in a room, people are going to look at you. Someone who is confident in who they are. You’ve got to be badass, how about that?
Which celebrity would you love to see wear your designs?
Henderson: I’d probably start off with Gaga because it’s so out there. Yeah.
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Photo credits: Lifetime