Christian Siriano has come a long way since his Project Runway days. He is arguably the most successful designer in the show's history, with collections showing each year at New York Fashion Week and a list of clients that includes Heidi Klum, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
When I showed up at the Payless at the Galleria yesterday, the press was already buzzing around Siriano and the display table of his Payless collections: Christian Siriano for Payless, and the new runway-inspired Christian Siriano Gold for Payless. In a sea of camera flashes and covered platform stilettos, I was able to catch up with Christian for four minutes of bliss, chatting with one of my favorite young designers about why he was inspired to design for the "every woman."
So who is the woman that Siriano is designing for? You. Me. Anyone at all. Siriano's inspiration for his Payless collection was the "every woman." He explained, "I'm really thinking about if my mom and my sister are coming to this store together, can they both get something from this collection and would they wear it every day? That was my whole thinking." The idea is to create basic pieces that every woman needs in her wardrobe, but make them really special. He started by imagining what those basics were. "So then I started developing ideas: I need a great flat that someone can wear every day; I want a cool shoe that's maybe a more fashion statement shoe. Then I want a basic pump that someone can wear to work or going out, or put on with a cocktail dress that still looks fresh, and a cool boot for winter, because I think that's a statement piece that everybody should have!" The new Gold collection was designed to expand Siriano's existing Payless collection with something a little more up-scale. "It's very runway-inspired, and all about the real woman."
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So how does Christian advise "real women" take runway fashions and translate them into our everyday street wear? He has a lot to say on the subject: "I think what's great about fashion is that it's becoming more accessible, and more available -- you can see a show image right away. You can see a look in a collection from a favorite designer and think, "How can I emulate that" right away." In terms of how to specifically emulate the looks, Siriano naturally invites women to think about shoes and accessories. "I think accessories are an easy way to do that because they are usually a little bit more affordable, and you don't break the bank buying a couple of pairs of shoes and a bag to change your look, rather than buying a whole new wardrobe. I think that's why this really works."
But it's about more than just a new pair of shoes, it's about the right pair of shoes. Christian explains, "I also think you need to pick pieces that are really special: A statement shoe is always helpful. Or if you're buying a piece of clothing and you see that jacket on the runway that's studded, or has sequins all over it -- that's your piece, your statement piece. You don't need the maxi-dress that's underneath, and the shoes and the belt and the bag -- buy your one piece. I think that's the best way to emulate that (runway look)." Christian told us shoes are one of the first things he notices when he meets someone. "When I first meet someone, I look at their shoes! Maybe it's a nervous thing, I just look down."
Ultimately, when it comes to getting dressed, Siriano thinks we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously. "I just think shoes and accessories are something that are meant to be fun, meant to be lighthearted, there is never anything serious about them. You should never be like, "Oh my God, I have to wear this shoe tonight!" I think shoes and bags should make you feel good -- they are pretty things, constructed using interesting materials. They are kind of like jewelry, and people have been wearing jewelry for thousands of years!"