FASHION’S EMERGING ENFANT TERRIBLE, FRONT AND CENTER
by William Gooch
published February 27, 2009
Interviewee Jay McCarroll is the subject of the documentary
now playing in select theaters.
Truth and reconciliation does not go hand in hand with an industry that celebrates glamour and illusion. But in Eleven Minutes, directors Michael Selditch and Robert Tate take the proverbial lid off the cookie in
their in-depth look at Project Runway’s first season winner, Jay McCarroll’s journey to present
his first New York Fashion Week collection. Never slow to show his honesty and irreverent sarcasm, McCarroll shines in this
behind-the-scenes look at the incredible amount of effort it takes to create eleven minutes of fabulousness.
Before the New York premiere of Eleven Minutes, Jay McCarroll talked with me about his
life, Project Runway, Eleven Minutes, and everything
William Gooch: In
addition to attending Philadelphia College of Textiles, you also studied at the London College of Fashion. Why that choice and was a
particular fashion aesthetic taught there?
McCarroll: I think it’s good for designers to see a world spectrum of things. How can you
live your whole life in one town and expect to be inspired? London College of Fashion was a part of a foreign exchange program with the
Philadelphia College of Textiles. My family is originally from London so I naturally gravitated there. Also, I love British Fashion, and all
the greats like Alexander McQueen, Galliano, and Vivian Westwood.
William Gooch: How did
studying in London influence your aesthetic?
London has this punk rock, balls-to-the-wall aesthetic that I really understand and appreciate. That look sometimes comes across in my
William Gooch: You later
Amsterdam. What was that experience like?
McCarroll: Amsterdam was the first time in my life that I was completely on my own. I had a
real bohemian lifestyle in Amsterdam; I lived in a garret and didn’t have much money. In addition to a lot of partying, I did sell some of my
designs in stores there.
William Gooch: Why did
you turn down Project Runway's management representation and the $100,000 cash prize?
Jay McCarroll: I
didn’t feel the representation was the right fit for me. They wanted me to make high-end clothing. I love Old Navy, and I wanted my clothing
to be affordable. I am anti-fur, and when I read that one of their designers got them a ten million dollar fur deal, I knew that the
management company was not for me. I wasn’t even living in New York City at the time. Project
Runway was like a six-month gig and after it was over, that was it. I had no infrastructure, no real business in place. I can’t legally
talk about why I turned down the $100,000 cash prize. [With a little web research, I discovered that
the $100,000 cash prize came with a contractual obligation that Project Runway’s production company receive a 10% stake in all professional
ventures in perpetuity.]
William Gooch: Why did
it take two years to present your first collection?
Jay McCarroll: After
Project Runway, I moved to New York City and I tried to set up shop, so to speak. I took advantage
of my new celebrity and made money doing personal appearances. [Other Project Runway designers have followed suit. Wendy Pepper from Season 1 has
appeared on Celebrity Poker, Christian Siriano from Season 5 is frequently seen in the New York
Daily New’s Page Six and Santino Rice from Season 2 is a judge on Logo’s Drag Race.] I had a great time, everyone wanted to get to know me, I went to a lot of parties; it was wonderful. But,
then reality set in. I realized I wasn’t doing my work.
William Gooch: Your
12-piece collection on Project Runway and your collection in the documentary appear to have the
same urban, hip, street aesthetic. Is that your aesthetic?
Jay McCarroll: I have always found it difficult
to define my fashion aesthetic. I feel fashion is a bit personal and it can change from day to day. What I am wearing today is what a
65-year-old art teacher might wear, not what 34-year-old gay man would wear. My fashion aesthetic is really just my fashion taste. It is not
marketed to a target audience.
William Gooch: You are so refreshingly honest and blunt in Eleven
Minutes. You just let it all hang out, so to speak. Where does this honesty come
Jay McCarroll: It
comes from your father who was very obnoxious. Unfortunately, he passed away last summer. My mom is also a big talker. I am the youngest of
six kids so I am a little bit of my brothers and sisters, as well. Everyone reflects family and community in some way.
William Gooch: In
Eleven Minutes you seemed to have this angst about the buzz around you from Project Runway and all the expectation that went with being the first winner. Do you think your first
collection established you as an emerging designer and less of a Project Runway
Jay McCarroll: I am
never going to be able to get away from Project Runway. Even after five years people still run up
to me and say, “it’s the Project Runway guy.” I did try to fight it for a while, but you can’t
avoid history. Anyway, I love the show and the idea of the show.
In Eleven Minutes you seemed frustrated about putting so
much energy into a production that lasts a short time. Was it worth all the effort, and do you still feel frustration about the grandiosity
that surrounds Fashion Week?
Jay McCarroll: Well,
it is just the name of the game. That is the way it is set up. Everybody has to go through a
process or procedure to get anything completed. And getting a collection together is another process, a long process, but a necessary process
none the less.
Gooch: In Eleven Minutes, Kelly Cutrone, the owner of
your PR firm, People’s Revolution, had issues with your choice in models. You wanted different ages and some quirkiness; Kelly wanted really
young girls. Did you manage to use any of the models that you wanted in the show, other than the tattooed model?
Jay McCarroll: I got
to use the models I wanted. She was showing off, not for the sake of the film, but she likes to give her opinion about everything. She might
say, “Oh, we used this brand of water last year at a particular show and this year we absolutely have to use this type of water.” She just
does that, crazy, right?!! Unfortunately, some people listen to her.
What is next for Jay McCarroll?
Jay McCarroll: I
have my new line on my website, jaymccarroll.com. I just launched a line of fabric this month through Western Survivors and I have gotten
great response about the line. The fabric is in stores so people can buy it. I am still designing clothes, but I am not presently trying to do
a collection for a major show. Those shows cost a lot of money. But who knows one day I may do another big New York Fashion Week show. Then
again, I might meet a rich guy and open an ice cream parlor. With me, you never
Eleven Minutes opened
in New York, San Francisco, West Hollywood, and Tempe Arizona on February 20, 2009. Opens in
Hollywood today and in Philadelphia on March 6.
williamgooch @ stageandcinema.com
read William Gooch's review of Eleven