In possibly the most emotionally dramatic season of the design reality show, the Portland, Oregon native scored a major upset on the Thursday, Oct. 28 finale over fan favorite Mondo Guerra and fellow finalist Andy South.
Although everyone agrees that Jones has excellent construction skills, the judges and other contestants are split on her design aesthetic. Some say it’s fashion forward and beautiful, whereas others find it older-skewing and unexciting. Jones is philosophical about her detractors.
“I understand. I can’t please everyone and that’s okay with me,” she tells Zap2it. “I know that I represented not only myself, but to me where the modern movement to where fashion is going. I think when you’re an accessible designer but maybe challenging certain things, it comes with a very critical eye. I feel I was a very strong competitor. I feel like I’m a modern woman with a really strong idea of what fashion is.
“All I need is to reach the people I should be reaching and what’s beautiful is that Mondo was able to do that, Andy was able to do that, Michael [Costello] was able to do that. As long as we all reach people who then will vote for us with their dollars, we’ll all be okay. That makes me happy.”
Even though Guerra has an overwhelming fan base that may be upset with her for winning, Jones believes that part of that is just the nature of reality shows.
“Memory can be very short term,” she observes. “The reality of the situation is that he was the nice guy and he won at the end three times in a row. I think he was very strong in the end, but I think people forgot how strong I was at the beginning. Yes I had a weak moment in the end, but I think also have always been that strong of a designer and the judges saw that.
“There was a reason why I was there. I think that I should have won. My collection deserved it. My customer is not necessarily Mondo’s. I would wear some of Mondo’s stuff, but I think I play chameleon but not everybody does.”
In the interview, Jones also discusses what was up with all the drama this season, how she relied on Tim’s support and what plans she has coming up, including attending Heidi Klum’s Halloween party.
How hard was it to keep the secret that you had won?
Jones: I’m not a good secret keeper in general, but this one was like — it’s along the same lines of “Do you find out the sex of your baby or not?” when you’re pregnant. That’s the best secret if you can keep it. So I feel like I had to keep telling myself, “Don’t ruin it.” It ended up making that moment when I did get called the winner so much richer because I got to see an authentic reaction from all of my support system.
How was it to watch and hear Michael Kors and Nina Garcia defend your design point of view?
Jones: Those were the two that I knew were very important on a personal level to reach. I think any designer’s dream outside of showing at Fashion Week is really to be able to reach press like I was able to reach with Nina. The fact that she not only knows who I am but believes in me to the point where she wanted me to win was huge. And to know somebody like Michael Kors who’s a designer that I admire to the point that I want to aspire to be like, to know that he saw the potential in me and really believed in what I can do and did do is really far superior to winning. I know that that means I have a rich and healthy career ahead of me.
What do you think of Nina saying in a previous interview that you could be as successful post-“Runway” as previous winner Christian Siriano?
Jones: I think that’s an extreme compliment and true to how I’d feel about myself. I think you have to have tenacity to really compete in the fashion industry. Fashion in general is a competitive world and I believe that I have not only the potential to create seasons’ worth of clothes with an interest, but I also think that they’re clothes that women really want to wear. My goal is to dress women and make them feel beautiful. I think this is just that beginning of that being able to happen and it’s just a matter of finding the resources in order to do that.
Which of your final runway designs did you like best?
Jones: Yeah, I always have at least one that I secretly love. I’m kind of torn. I really loved the high-waist trouser look, the rows with the chevrons. That look for me I think was very on point with where fashion is going right now. And to see how many other designers played off of that trend made me feel like I am relevant as a designer. And the piece I wish I could put on right now and dance around in certainly would be the zig zag dress. That was my second look. I really love that. I think it’s really wearable and representative of the direction I’m going as a designer, how I can be bohemian without the lady of the canyon involved. I will always be the designer I am but I think that those two pieces represented I how I am evolving as a young woman and as a designer.
Will the jewelry from your final runway show be available?
Jones: I very much intend on putting jewelry into production. As I’m sure you know, fashion is extremely expensive. The overhead is just insane and $100,000 really isn’t that much money. What I really need to focus on before launching is making sure I have the funding to do so. I absolutely intend to pursue jewelry. I have more sketches of jewelry right now. I really intend on doing a real design house and I’d like to encompass not only jewelry but other accessories and someday shoes.
You really fell on some hard times on the show, so this must be gratifying to turn that around.
Jones: I know. I feel like very few people in life get the opportunity to have truly “phoenix rising from the ashes” experiences in their lives and in order to have that experience you really have to lose everything in order to gain and come back brighter. I literally was at a point where I had to go back home and live with my family. To know the amount of sacrifice I went through truly enabled me to gain the resources to get me out of trouble really is rewarding. I knew that this experience would be beneficial for my career, but on a personal level, it’s really helping me get back on my feet so I can take advantage of this experience.
Tim Gunn commiserated with experiencing a low before rebuilding. How important was his support during the competition?
Jones: Tim was one of the reasons why I came on the show. I’ve said that on the show. My friends and family are a great support system but I need mentors in order to reach my ambitious goals. What Tim really showed me, especially in that moment when I got to show him how vulnerable I had really become, reminded me that we all go through struggles and that none of us can w
in big if we don’t risk big. It’s not failure if you’re trying and you’re being honest with yourself and with the people around you. Yes I lost a lot but I also gained so much. I gained the opportunity to have Tim in my life. He’s a really wonderful person and he really wants to see us succeed. Without his support I wouldn’t be the designer I am today.
Are you still in touch with Tim?
Jones: I’m not right now, but mostly because he’s been on his book tour, and we’ve been doing all this crazy stuff for “Project Runway.” But I very much intend on staying in touch and I’m eager to move closer to him so hopefully I can see him.
So you are making the big move to New York?
Jones: I am. I feel like I have to at this point. It would be silly not to take advantage of this experience. I feel like I know where my ambitions lie, and the next steps in order for me to really attain them are going to be about learning and education. I need to gain access to the tools and the people who can help me to become the best version of myself as a designer and personally. I think all signs are moving to New York City.
Despite the drama from the reunion, it was nice to see Michael C. and Mondo support you. Are you guys still in touch?
Jones: Absolutely, I walked away with more friends than enemies, and really, I don’t feel like I have any enemies. This is 17 people’s dreams, and we all feel very strongly about that and I think it’s important to remember that when you feel strongly, you can be blinded. I understand that a part of this experience was the risk of being looked at in a manner that was maybe very critical. That’s what fashion is. But to walk away with finalists, including Michael C., it took six weeks to really get the opportunity to get to know them. It’s unfair to think that we are supposed to have human strength emotionally and be able to be best friends with everyone right away. Because I was open and impressionable and vulnerable, and we all were, I think that’s what made this season so special. We open ourselves to each other outside of the competition. I’m a better person for knowing each and every one of them.
Do you think this openness is what made this season such a heightened, dramatic experience? Everyone was always crying.
Jones: (laughs) I think that fashion, out of all the arts, is one of the toughest. It’s product-based, so people have huge opinions. It’s not art for you. It’s a major deal. You’re basically putting your heart on your sleeve at all times. And then to put that into a competitive range that far exceeds the competitiveness that you feel on a daily basis, and then to have that amplified by living with people that you’ve never lived with and filming yourself and all those things that truly created a level of vulnerability that none of us intended on dealing with. More than that, I think we all somehow came together in a very serendipitous way and we’re not afraid to be open and verbal and cry. We weren’t afraid to show you what you really were. I think that really is going to benefit us in the end. We all have huge fan bases and people who not only believe in our work, but us. I think there’s a difference between who we are and what we create. How we feel about what we create is a totally different product when you’re laying everything out on the line, it’s going to come with tears at times.
What was the most difficult challenge for you?
Jones: I think the most challenging one on a creative level was the party store just because it was so outside of what I normally do, especially because of how organic I tend to work. What I was able to create in that world really surprised me and reminded me that as an artist you need to take risks and you’ll be surprised at what you create. Then on an emotional level the New York City challenge I truly was exhausted as I said I was. I knew I had more in me, but I was also entering this competition with loss and struggle and it was just a lot by that time. I knew that I needed that to time sleep.
What have you been doing since the finale?
Jones: Trying to sleep (laughs), but also because of the state of my affairs beforehand, this has been a regenerative state where I haven’t been pushing myself to do anything other than take care of myself. I knew that last night was the beginning the rest of my life. It’s really important to me to be really diligent and thoughtful about my next move and not rush into anything because in order to be successful in this industry, you have to be. My goal is to show you all why I won and prove to you that I can make us all proud and America proud and that I could be another worthy American designer that can be admired and supported.
So what is your next step?
Jones: The earliest move is getting to New York City. My goal is to move there by the beginning of the year. I can really take advantage of the opportunities there, and then outside of that I’m really working on my business plan, trying to create a collection of the same vein of Michael Kors, a 30-piece collection. That takes millions of dollars, not $100,000 and I’m going to need that type of funding and support. If I can get my goals in line and do what I can on a business plan level I know it will help me get what I need in order to be a designer. I think it’s more important to find mentorship and financial support and do it right and wait and learn and grow.
What are your Halloween plans? Do you have a costume?
Jones: I’m going to be spending it with Heidi at her infamous Halloween party. I’m going to be Amelia Earhart. This last week I just realized I’d be celebrating more than I have been so this is really a pulled-together mish-mash. It will look cute and I think it was representative of the women in history that take risks and chase their dreams. So I felt it was an appropriate costume.
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Photo credit: Lifetime