and Chloe Dao interview

March 20, 2007

fashionforward_dao_320x240.jpg First of all, how are you?
I’m great, working hard. Things have changed for you since Project Runway. What’s the biggest change for the better?
Honestly, I keep saying it because it’s true — it’s the opportunity that it’s given me. The opportunity to do some charity work, the opportunity to make some changes. For other people too, besides me. The biggest thing is that I have meetings with bigger people, bigger job opportunities. My name actually means something to people. That’s the biggest thing. What? Chloe Dao means something? What’s changed for the worse?
It’s just a lot of work, I think, more than anything. The workload and the expectations that people have of you. To have a thousand stores. To have your clothes everywhere. It’s only been seven months! We hear that a lot, actually. It’s common for a lot of Project Runway alums, that there’s expectation that they’ll have a line everywhere.
Definitely. We were all small designers when we got on the show. And even for season 2, we didn’t think that we’d be that popular. And so now, to be getting thousands of emails. I think that’s the biggest thing — is that people think we’re these millionaires. That we’re rich, and work is easy. Especially being the winner. I still live at home, people. I work in my living room. Did you watch Season 3?
Definitely. I’m a big fan of the show, period. Even if I’m not in it, I’m watching it. Do you have a favorite?
Definitely Michael Knight. I mean, it’s like what I said on the reunion show at the end. I feel like he’s the most diverse, he’s the most creative, based on the challenges. And he’s a great, nice guy. He’s humble. And he’s arrogant when he has to be. I think if you’re a designer, you have to be a little arrogant, you have to believe in yourself. But to me, he shows the most diversity. And the most wearability. And for me, that’s the personal style that I favor. Were there any challenges from Season 3 that you would have like to participate in?
I wouldn’t mind doing the apartment challenge. I like things that are not so predictable and that’s definitely unpredictable. Umm, the rest, the trash, I’d done that before. The one I’m so glad I didn’t have to do is the Black and White Challenge. Using all the fabric! No way! That would be so difficult. I looked at that and thought: Holy crap — thank God I wasn’t on Season 3. You were here in New York for all of fashion week, who did you see?
I went to Milly. I went to Alexander Terekhov, Max Azria. I went to seven or eight shows. I was there for ten days. It was great, I felt like a fashionista. Who did you like the best?
I have to say Milly. The clothes were adorable. I like clothes that girls would see on the rack and say, “Oh, it’s so cute. Can I wear it now?” That’s what I go for. OK, if you were stranded on a desert island, which contestant, from any season, would you want with you?
Oh wow. Definitely Kara Janx. Because she’s hilarious. I think she would, in the midst of the horror and the drama of trying to survive being trapped on the island — she would crack me up. And put things in perspective. We’d laugh. We’d die at the same time. But at least we’d be laughing! Are you still in touch with Kara?
Oh yes, she and I are good friends. I’m still in touch with all of the people from Project Runway, except for two people. You don’t have to say who if you don’t want to.
Oh, I don’t care. Santino and Zulema. OK. So, you famously decided to stay in Texas after you won. What went in to that decision?
You know, I’m from Texas. I’d lived in New York, and to me, if I hadn’t lived there for eight years, and not experienced fashion there, the life and the energy of New York, then I honestly think I would have moved there. But I think being older — my family is here, my store is here, my boyfriend is here.

You know, I understand the instinct well, but I have enough experience to do it well and do it in Texas. I think without my experience — I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to do it. And I’m still struggling. I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to do production. How to ship everything. And, you know, do everything down here. But I think it’ll be nice to give Houston a boost. I’m in the spotlight right now, I can say, “Hey, we’re as cool as Dallas.”

We’re always competing against Dallas. Even New York. But fashion is so global right now. So what if I’m in Houston? Todd Oldham came from Dallas, I think, and he’s a great designer. There are a lot of people who are well-known designers who didn’t come or weren’t born in New York City. Have you expanded your operation?
My store doubled in size. Before, I had my little design studio, which was the garage. I’m now in the living room. I’ve really moved up. That’s how fabulous it’s been. Have you hired more people?
I have a cutter. I have someone to help me sew and I have a design assistant. So that’s three people I’ve hired just for myself. And the store, we’ve hired more sales people, we have a store manager. There’s an additional six people that we’ve hired. Just in the last six months. Your store in Houston has to have become a tourist destination.
It sure is. I never thought about it. It’s bizarre, But it’s actually really cool. My sister just called me and today a family from New York came down, because one of the relatives is moving down here, and all they wanted to buy was Lot 8 Chloe Dao. Which is awesome. They spent like, two grand. So we love them. What are excited about designing next?
I’m excited about designing something that nobody’s ever seen from me. And that’s a lot to do. Sometimes you’re so swamped, you just want to whip up the same thing. So when I make something that’s completely new, that I haven’t done — that, to me, is exciting. Do you ever sit down and create anything just for fun, just for you?
I don’t have time. Isn’t that pathetic? Designers are the worst dressers, because all we do is create for other people. It’s like hair stylists with bad hair. Is there anything that’s become more inspiring lately?
I think I’ve always designed just in figures. It’s all about the seam, and the combination of the seam. One piece that I’m really excited about is this halter top I made. It’s very different in that the front is silk chemise, and the back is silk chiffon. So it’s very asymmetrical in every way. It’s actually done. I’m always enjoying designing, especially when it turns out right. I hate it when it doesn’t. What do you see as the biggest fashion mistake in Houston?
There is none! I’m kidding, of course there is. Honestly, I think fashion right now is so damn confused. Even with the big name designers I think they’re unregarded or too crazy or otherwise too boring. Right now in fashion there’s no right or wrong in anything. So I have to say there’s no wrong, as long as you wear it in confidence. If you could choose another career besides design, what would it be?
I would definitely be a dancer. A hip-hop dancer or a ballroom dancer. Really, it’s my next true love. I take dance classes all the time. You should take them. You have to make the time, I literally have to make the time. I work seven days a week. Sometimes I worry that I work so much, but you have to make the time. should the world know about Chloe Dao that they don’t already know?
Oh God, that I am really a gay guy at heart. I really am. If you just saw me on TV, you wouldn’t know it, but I can channel my inner gay guy. Hey, how’s your Saturn Roadster holding up?
It’s in the garage. I’ve probably driven it four times since I’ve gotten it. It’s so sad, but it doesn’t carry enough fabric for me, so I have to load everything into my Corolla. The Roadster is two seats and if you’re taller than six feet, forget it. We assumed it’d be a good car to make out in…
I haven’t made out in it with my boyfriend. Isn’t that what a Roadster is for?
We should try that out. What trends do you see for 2007?
Honestly, we’re still heading for more big volume, humongous fricking garments. We’re still going there. But it’s still also balancing off. It’s going to be seriously big enormous tops, really long, and skinny bottoms. We’re going to do that for another, in my opinion, two years. How about for you, personally? What’s next for Chloe Dao?
I’m actually going to buy a house. My first real house ever, so that I don’t have to live and work with my mommy and ruin her house any more. I already picked it out. My boyfriend is going to go and look at it this weekend, because he has to see it too. We’re actually moving in together. That’s big news.
It’s a really big step. No other family members. Yeah, it is a big step. Moving in with my boyfriend. I’m buying a house. Have the business downstairs. Live upstairs. Do the whole New York, upstairs/downstairs thing. But in Houston. Well, we wish you luck with all of it. You’re a joy to talk to, Chloe.
I’m glad. Call me any time.

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