This week’s episode of Project Runway All-Stars, featured a design challenge filmed at MILLY headquarters. Using MILLY fabrics, the designers were challenged to create a look that both exuded the MILLY feminine-with-an-edge aesthetic, and could retail for under $400 being manufactured in New York City. 

With MILLY’s founder and designer, Michelle Smith as a guest judge, Seth Aaron, a Portland-based fashion designer, was chosen the winner of this week’s episode, creating a dress that is now being sold at MILLY, online and in-store, with 100% of the profits going toward Save the Garment Center.

Aaron took a moment to speak with us about the experience:

You’re no stranger to the Project Runway catwalk: as winner of Season 7, you’ve also filled in for Tim Gunn as head casting judge on Season 9. How is Project Runway All Stars different from the first time you competed?

In the regular season, you can tell who the 3 or 4 people you need to watch out for are after filming the first episode, whereas this time around, you have to watch out for everyone. You go and do what you do – I went in there confident in doing my thing and it wasn’t about outdoing someone else – you just have to do your thing and either it works or it doesn’t.

How do you stay cool under pressure? You didn’t have a lot of time to pull the dress together!

My process was to make a list of materials and put that down instead of doing a sketch.  I can sketch, but by the time they give us the challenge I already know what it will look like before I make it - I have it in my head. You have very little time- we have 11 hours compared to 18 in the regular season of Project Runway. It’s easier in that you’ve done it before and you know the program, but much harder because you’re given much harder tasks in about half the time. 

Tell us about the episode surrounding MILLY. What were the highlights?

The office was amazing. It was such a great experience. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the label - I know all about it – when it was announced we’d be working with MILLY, I was really excited. I’m really into the business end of it and it was a great experience to see the internal workings. When it comes to budgeting down to the penny – I am good at that. 

What inspired you to make the dress that ultimately won the prize?

Coming into the MILLY office, seeing the current MILLY collection and the theme—it was the perfect challenge for me to a T.  Feminine with an edge is what MILLY is, and that’s what I’m about. I’m very structured. My girls are very confident, strong individuals, but they’re still girls.  

You seem to have a business head for fashion – how did that come about?

Being an independent designer, I need to know how to put the cost and materials together. It’s something I’ve worked on. It’s still puzzling, with factories and retailers, how it all works, but it’s interesting to me so it’s fun. In a way, it’s natural. Just like design, it’s something I can always do. I wasn’t taught – I taught myself. 

What has the response been from friends & family after seeing the episode?

This time around, not much! I’ve been on TV for awhile, so now it’s fun. And my kids watch it with me every night. They’re teenagers. They get behind it and they travel with me too.

In the past, you’ve been really into sustainable fashion – what’s next for you?

Right now, I need to work on capital. Then I can venture off and explore and do these things. I believe if you keep manufacturing in the United States, then it’s sustainable right there. That really interests me.

I want my label to be like MILLY -  I want to support the local Garment District. To be part of saving that is a huge thing for me. I’m honored to say the dress I made on Project Runway All Stars is being sold at MILLY and I contributed to that.

Missed the episode? No problem: here you can catch the MILLY Project Runway All Stars challenge. Love Aaron’s design? Get your very own MILLY Project Runway All Stars dress, read Michelle’s take on the challenge and shop Michelle’s curated All Star picks

Shop MILLY dressesMILLY handbags and MILLY Cabana swimwear for your next vacation!

9 months ago

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